Yesterday, I was mindless scrolling through my Facebook timeline taking a lot at everyone’s lunch for the day and random pictures of random events that I probably would have zero interest in if it weren’t for the now famous blue logo when a link to an article from a friend caught my eye.
This article, published on blueridgeoutdoors.com and written by Graham Averill, was about the mountain bike group ride (you can read it here: “Getting the Band Back Together”). After reading through the thoughts and emotions that Graham was illustrating in the article, I realized that my close group of riding friends is going through a very similar phenomenon that has disrupted the natural order of our riding patterns…and a big group ride is much needed.
Over the past couple of months, we have seen babies born, wives getting pregnant, injuries serious enough to equal months off the bike and work getting in the way of the natural order of things. What used to be a guaranteed 15+ of your closest friends hitting the trail every weekend has dwindled down to 5 or 6 at the most and the consistency is fleeting. Now…just getting in rides when and where we can has become the norm instead of just having to decide where we are all going to meetup that weekend.
This happens. Life changes and without a moments notice, we are sitting in a much different situation that previous months or years. However, the foundation of the mountain bike group ride creates happiness and community within the mountain bike community. It is our common ground that brings people together from different backgrounds, ages and preferences. When everything gets in the way…there is something missing.
The Anatomy of a Mountain Bike Group Ride
What is it about a group ride that is so much different than just hitting the trail? Group rides are where connections are made. Long term friendships are started and maintained through this weekend event where you get to share in the experiences of others. It is more than just turning pedals over dirt…it is helping each other get better…watching riders stretch the limits of “normal”…sharing life experiences…creating memories that you will remember for forever…spawning inside jokes that will confuse the hell out of everyone that wasn’t there…it is about sharing life.
For mountain bikers, the group ride is our social club, our support group and our way of making friends all at once. It just happens that all of these things get to be centered around our obsessive hobby that is good for the soul. For many, it has been the source of finding who they wanted to spend the rest of their life with or a way to turn their life around to finally be healthy and happy. The encouragement and community has changed lives for the better.
Mountain biking without the group ride can feel empty. One key element of the equation is missing. Yes…solo rides are great for relieving stress and overall well being, but mountain biking without the community aspect (online doesn’t count on this one) is not what the sport is really about.
I miss the the competitions to be the biggest sandbagger and listening to how everyone is out of shape and can’t ride as they completely ride away from you. I miss the constant “thumbs down” (see…more inside jokes that make zero sense unless you were there) for majestic experiences. I miss the feeling of community within some of the most diverse groups of people. I miss watching riders tackle life and the trail in the same day. I miss all of the random pictures that create memories and finding any excuse to get to a trail (it has to be someone’s birthday right?).
The mountain bike group ride…for me…is the foundation of mountain biking. It is how the sport started and it is how it keeps rolling through the years. All of the bikes, the gear, the massive amount of money spent on parts we don’t really need…these change over the years. The material aspects of riding come and go but the experience is what we are really riding for.
The long days on the trail, the quick “let’s get in a weekday ride” sprints, the irritating restaurant waiters and waitresses as they have to put together multiple tables at the Mexican restaurant only to realize that you are all going to want separate checks, the friendly ripping that you give friends, the look between riders that is the clue that the hammer is about to get dropped, the nicknames that get passed around and stick even when you don’t want them to…
All of these are bred out of simple days on the trail. For this rider…I am in much need of a big group ride of old. It is time to get the group of misfits back together.