I had been in Seattle for 3 or 4 days, running around from bike shop to bike shop, down to Portland and back up. I hosted an event at the Rapha space. I took some people out to dinner up in Bellingham. I was working. But after those 3 or 4 days, and feeling pretty exhausted, Terry said, “Hey, we should ride bikes.”
I mean, yes.
Terry is one of those guys. He deals in brutal honesty and hard work, and some folks he rubs the wrong way. I like him. He’s the kind of guy who would do anything for you, and when he offers a kindness he means it. He picked me up, toting a ragged bag of travel kit, and shuttled me to his house, where we loaded up some bikes. He had a hardtail for me that just about fit, and he locked a full-suspension rig onto the rack for himself.
Off we went to Issaquah. I did not know what this meant, at the time.
Terry is, baldly stated, a better bike rider than I am. He’s got skills and a big engine. We pedaled off onto sections of the Tiger Mountain Loop and soon we were grinding up technical climbs and rocketing down twisty descents. I was mostly off the back, with him waiting for me at turns. The riding was all the adjectives: demanding, gnarly, tech, sublime, rad, loamy, rocky, and perfect. Big, pre-historic ferns burst out of the soil everywhere. The whole place seemed more green than green, the greenest, lushest place I’d been in a long time.
And I was crushed. Doing everything I could to stay close. A lot of days that would have seemed miserable, but it was transcendent that day. It was an ass-kicking I was deeply, deeply grateful for.
Not all ass-kickings are made this way. In my life as a rep I came to understand a popular game for shop employees. Crush the rep. Universally, people are proud of their local riding, and they want to show it to you. They know the way. They know the terrain, and part of their pride also comes from demonstrating how much better at it they are than you. It’s ok. It’s a game I came to love/hate, because it allowed me to ride in a lot of places I never would have seen on my own, and with locals as guides I always saw the best of it.
California, Washington, Colorado, etc., etc.
There is also the added benefit of ego-deflation. If I ever thought I was good at bikes, my life on the road quickly disabused me of that notion. It’s possible that I’ve only ever been in over my head in this bike business. That’s ok. It’s not the worst place to be.
This week’s TCI Friday asks, when have you been in over your head, and how did you cope?