It was two thirty and we’d organized an impromptu pedalfest. Windows rolled down to invite the rainsoaked fresh air into our fart-leaden truck, we observed the gas light’s sporadic appearances and searched the trees for our trailhead.
I found myself stressing- I had work in less than three hours- would we make it in time? Visions of a twilight pilgrammage to some godforsaken gas pump flitted through my head along with the usual boss-tapping-watch and disappointed-head-shaking regulars. “YOU’RE FIRED!” I melodramatically berated myself through clenched teeth.
Then I realized that the wheels were still turning. The dust cloud behind us was still billowing, and there was still a favorite trail to be ridden in the three hours that still stretched out, luxuriously, ahead of us. If we ran out of gas, we’d run out of gas. And deal.
As it happened, we managed to not only reach said trailhead but enjoy a delectable, dryish ride, yuk it up with various other folks, and roll back into town with both gas and time to spare. The experience got me thinking about life in the moment, but I still needed more proof.
On yesterday’s ride I reached a saddle with only slight blood-taste in my throat, and as I chugged water like the recreational rider I’m becoming, I happened to check my brakes. Uh oh. I’d known about the bubble for a while, but hadn’t bothered to bleed it, resorting instead to pumping frantically whenever it looked like I was about to start descending. What I discovered at that point, however, was an un-pumpable lever. Damn my lackluster bike maintenance! I would have no rear brake for the descent.
Some dude wearing full downhill gear and a shit eating grin passed by as I continued to halfheartedly pump at my lever. Boo hoo. I had a fleeting jealousy of his squishy, presumably well-maintained, big bike. And especially his knee pads.
Yet a few minutes later, with nothing else for it, I started down. At first I picked my way along gingerly, cringingly, picturing a horrendous endo over muddy roots, down the hillside, carbon and bones splintered against trees- but then I realized that the wheels were still turning. Mud was still flinging itself up into my teeth. I hadn’t crashed yet, so why behave like I was about to?
Thus came about Lesson 233 of Things I Learned On My Bike: ride it like you’re not going to crash, and you probably won’t crash. Probably.
With some misgivings I let go of my one brake. Instantly the trees blurred into star-wars proportions. Both wheels came to be airborne seemingly more often than dirtborne, rocks and mud flying. The trail was coming as fast as I could handle it, but surprisingly no faster- it’s amazing how far a little faith in yourself and your machine can take you. Fearing the crash only brings it along faster. Envisioning the worst only takes away from the best
And a few turns later I passed my downhiller pal with a wild cry of “NO BRAKES!” To which he responded “Oh Jesus, she’s on a hardtail.”
So my meditation for this week is to live in the moment. You can wait for the gas to run out or the brakes to fail or even for mundane things like an email to come or not come. You can wait forever for anything you want with a cringe in your heart, or you can embrace what you’ve got and ride like you’re not going to crash.