Why do you ride?

My colleagues often ask that very question. It always surprises me.

At my day job we spend our time with our heads deep in the bowels of computers, servers and telecommunications networks. It can be bloody busy, and gets very stressful, busting a gut trying to fix bizarre problems, eventually succeeding, then rolling into work the next day to discover a fresh batch of job tickets in the queue and the boss breathing down your neck. Day in day out.

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There’s a lot of burnout in the organisation. Divorces, breakdowns, drug abuse (both legal and illegal), and poor health follow on from the system of ongoing restructures and cutbacks management have introduced in recent years. Yup, same as lots of places these days.

Yet they ask why I ride?

Sheesh! Have a look at yourselves people. You’re working long hours, stressed to the max, aging 2 years for every year that passes, and you wonder why I ride? I ride to escape, to forget the stresses of work and those that cause them. There’s many reasons, but the main reason is it’s fun! Remember FUN???

Fun, sometimes it’s speed, sometimes it’s air, sometimes it’s cleaning that track you’ve never cleaned before, sometimes discovery, sometimes peace, sometimes flora and fauna, but always it’s fun.

Many of us start out riding for our health – just a bit of exercise for fitness, but what keeps us going is the fun factor. My riding started as a fitness thing, with fun as a pleasant side effect, but now the fun of riding is the main activity, and fitness the bonus side effect.

My old schmoadie was no fun. Well, hardly any. Damn thing didn’t fit, was life-threateningly uncomfortable – to quote Dr Smith “oh the pain, the unbearable pain”, downtube mounted friction shifters sucked big time, and the brakes were next to useless – also life-threatening! I just didn’t get riding anymore. Sure racing down a winding pass was fun, but where was the real fun I remembered as a kid? It certainly wasn’t there with that bike.

I was ready to pack it all in again when a mate discovered mountain bikes. Aha! Suddenly I discovered where the fun went! Weeeeeee!!

The seating position on the first genuine mtb I owned was almost as comfy as an old banana seat dragster, canti brakes were a revelation, and what’s this? Shimano index gears? Huzzah! With comfort and control taken care of, the fun of riding soon returned. It wasn’t long before I rediscovered the bush.

As kids, we’d often ridden our skinny tyred bikes around the local trails. Sure, we’d have to get off and walk any sandy bits and most hills, but the rides were always a voyage of discovery. Caves, cliffs, coloured ponds, creeks, swimming holes – hours of fun for any youngster. But as an adult, I’d forgotten the innocent joy of exploration and discovery – mountain biking restored that joy. That original clunker carried me across many kilometres of nearby National Park and ensured I’d be thoroughly hooked for years to come.

Although the old beast has been long retired, my bikes steadily increasing in quality and cost over the years, and my riding has become more challenging, I’ve never since lost that feeling of enjoyment I get from riding.

I still love to explore new trails just to see where they lead, and have discovered many beautiful places I never knew existed, some almost in my own backyard. Sure, some of those trails have gone nowhere, but that’s half the fun – not knowing what you’ll find.

I also ride for privacy and solitude – to get away from the rat race that is humankind. Out in the bush on the bike, I can ride for hours and not see another soul. My thoughts remain my own, I can solve the problems of the world at my own pace. Just as many bushwalkers like to “get away from it all”, on their own in the bush, communing with nature, many mountain bikers get the same feelings from riding.

There’s also the real sense of pride and confidence that comes from developing new skills – over the years, my technical riding ability has improved immensely – I’m still no champion, but I’m not totally crap.

I’ve seen far more of the bush than I ever would have had I not started riding, and have grown to deeply love and care for the environment I’m enjoying. Where else could you find fields of sweetly scented boronias, acres of flannel flowers, and nectar dripping banksias? Nature presents at its very best when you’re off the beaten track.

On my own, and as far from suburbia as I can get, the odds of observing wildlife go up immensely. The ever present buzz of cicadas throughout summer, thousands of butterflies performing a bouncy ballet …errr, we’ll just forget to mention bush flies buzzing…

Sit quietly and you may chance upon a lyrebird strutting his stuff, mimicking flocks of birds above, or on popular tracks, mimicking bikes rattling downhill. All manner of reptiles can be seen, from sleepy blue tongues to deadly brown snakes – best observed, and not touched!

Yup, nature at it’s best – how many of my colleagues have ever whooped and hollered while racing wombats down singletrack? Have any colleagues kept pace beside hopping kangaroos and wallabies? Surprised an albino possum late one night? I have.

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Riding’s not a lifestyle for me, mountain bikes aren’t the only thing in my life, but mountain biking is certainly one of the very few things that make it all worthwhile. Mountain biking has given me fun, achievement, relaxation, fitness, and strengthened a love of the bush. What more could I ask? And they ask why I ride. pffft…Some people will never get it.

Max Power Of course it’s a pseudonym. “I got it off a hairdryer”. Max has been riding mountain bikes for over 10 years, starting on cheap and nasty rigids, upgrading to a mighty 25 (count them) mm front travel on his much loved and abused hardtail (everything bar frame and bars replaced at some stage), before progressing to his current XC duallie. Max has been writing articles and product reviews for a variety of Australian magazines and Australian mtb web sites for over six years. He occasionally races, badly. Normally he rides for fun. He doesn’t like falling off, but still does. Max is committed to looking after the environment we ride in, peace, and free love.

Ed Note: This was written for the original 26inches.com and has been lost until now in the great caverns of the Digital Vault located on the great disc of the past.