People often ask me why I am so obsessed with mountain biking, and I’m often lost for words. It’s not because I can’t think of a reason. It’s because my eyes glaze over as a tsunami of a thousand thoughts hit me all at once, and it’s impossible for me to single out one reason from the rest, especially one that would make sense to a non-biker! And that my bro’s, is why I’m sitting here writing this article now. Partly to prove that I’m not deranged, partly to give the uninformed quad-wheelers a glimpse of what they’re missing out on, and partly to inspire you to get out on your bike and ride for the reasons that you love to ride. So here goes…
by Paulo Conde & Gresham Enerson
I ride because it allows me to explore the beautiful world in which I live. From the quiet side streets in my neighbourhood that go unnoticed in the daily commute, to scenic mountain passes that take my breath away (in more ways than one), to trails that don’t even feature on maps; trails that take me to places that only a privileged few have been. Places as amazing as the mighty Umkomaas valley, or as peaceful as the serene waterfall that churns away unnoticed a few metres off the side of a busy highway. I ride because it engages all of my senses, immerses me in the moment and lets me intimately connect with the world.
I ride for that immense satisfaction that comes from a perfect run, nailing every single inch of my favourite trail with precision, my body working in perfect harmony with my bike while my mind focuses on nothing but the track a few metres ahead. I ride for that fleeting moment that my bike takes to the air. That moment that the world slows down and falls silent and I get a small glimpse of what it might feel like to take to the skies like a bird.
I ride for the friendly and welcoming people that share my passion. People that greet me warmly when we cross paths on the trails. People that stop to lend a hand when I’m in a bind. Influential people that that are happy to spend a few minutes having a chinwag with an average bro like me. People that believe in uplifting communities along the race route and making the world a better place. I ride because my friends ride, and many an issue has been resolved during a group therapy session out on route.
I ride because it continuously challenges me to push the boundaries, to go a little further, a little faster, a little steeper, a little more daring. I ride because it continuously reminds me that I am more capable than I give myself credit for, that I can dig that little bit deeper when my body is screaming at me to pack it up for the day. I ride for the euphoria that comes from finally smashing that seemingly insurmountable Strava KOM after weeks and weeks of narrow misses.
I ride because it keeps me in shape, burns off the calories, lowers my cholesterol, my blood pressure and my resting heart rate. I ride because it helps to clear my head and to relieve stress, to put burdens that seem so large into perspective in the grander scheme of things.
I ride for Burry. For our fallen heroes that have inspired generations, shown us that the impossible is possible. I ride in the hope that I might one day return the favour and be an inspiration for others to take up this wonderful sport.
I ride because it unleashes my inner child, that boy that ran riot on his BMX in the back garden, sputtering out motorbike sounds while pretending to be that guy in Street Hawk ramping off trucks and catching the ‘baddies’.
I ride because it’s one of life’s great educators. It brings me crashing back down to earth (literally) when I think I have it all worked out. It teaches me that we all have off days, but it’s how you learn from them and pick yourself up that counts. It teaches me that you get out what you put in, that the harder you work, the better you will be. It teaches me that there are no honourable shortcuts. It teaches me to respect the earth so that my kids can one day enjoy the same beauty that I have had the privilege to.
I ride for the beautiful bikes, the cool gadgets and the never ending flood of technological improvements that are revolutionizing the sport, allowing us to go faster, further and harder than ever before.
Oh, and I almost forgot. I ride because it’s fun. Blissful, innocent, pure fun. You know – the kind of fun that dogs have when you drive them around with the windows down.
I ride for all of these reasons, and yet I ride for more. Much like the whole is greater than the sum of the parts, these reasons are only small fragments of a much larger picture. What started out as a casual pastime all those years ago has become so ingrained in who I am that it has now become a way of life. A much richer, happier and more exciting life.
The Rookie Project, MTB for average bros comprises of Gresham Enerson and Paulo Conde, who share their average bro experiences as South African mountain bikers in this column and on twitter – @Rookie_Project
*Originally published in TREAD Issue 31 and can be found on Zinio – All rights reserved