I wish there could be a worldwide poll that asks, “Why do you ride a bike?” I bet the results would be fascinating.
I started riding a bike for rehabilitation. It was 2008 and I was recovering from an ACL surgery. After relocating a chunk of my patella tendon to the site of the missing ACL, road biking was the first outdoor activity I was granted permission to participate in. On my mom’s 1978 silvery-steel Motobecane that was equipped with downtube shifters, I pedaled the rolling country roads of Vermont. It was liberating.
Bikes went on the back burner once my climber, skier, outdoor educator lifestyle resumed until the next surgery rehabilitation. This time, I found myself on a mountain bike and I haven’t looked back since that spring in 2010. In the last six years I’ve discovered countless other reasons to ride my bike.
First I rode to rehabilitate injuries. Now I ride to breathe, sweat, think. I ride to get lost in my head and learn about places. I ride to explore my home, and the world. I ride to get stronger, and feel strong. I ride to keep up with the boys. I ride to go fast, and sometimes, race. I ride to push myself. I ride to learn. I ride to feel gravity, and find flow. I ride to feel connected, to my bike, my community, and landscape. I ride to go places. I ride to be challenged, and work toward goals. I ride to simplify. I ride to travel in an unimposing way. Sometimes, I ride to commute. I ride to smile big, and laugh a lot. I ride to socialize, and to be alone. I ride to tune into myself, seek clarity, and feel sane. And, above all, I ride for my soul.
The other day I found myself feeling lost and disappointed by bikes. My riding this year has been primarily focused on racing. But I’ve been falling short of reaching those goals from first breathing problems, then work-life-energy-balancing problems, and just recently, crashing hard on that knee that started the whole bike journey in the first place.
After a few days of icing, resting, and feeling dejected, I was still in Colorado but I was in no place to restart the Colorado Trail. And yet, my heart ached to ride. I needed a soul ride. The sort of ride the pulls you out of a slump, lifts your chin, fills your heart, and brings a big grin to your face. One that makes you feel lucky to get to ride a bike in the first place. And so, I added some warm layers to my already packed bags, and headed into the mountains.
For me, the perfect soul ride has some specific criteria.
One, is the route has to be pretty awesome. I want a route that brings me to the present, and highlights the fun and awesomeness of biking. Kurt and I chose the Cataract segment of the Colorado Trail, then diverting down Pole Creek and back up Stony Pass to our truck. This is Kurt’s most favorite place on the entire CT, and it is a section I had never ridden. I was game. And boy, did it reward. It felt like traversing the skyline of the Earth.
While our 24-mile route could easily be a nice day ride, we opted to start in the late afternoon and end late morning the following day. This timeframe ensured high energy for the demanding climbs, and more importantly, let us take our bikes camping.
Amazing route, and amazing views. Check.
Leap-frogging our way along the CT, taking photos of each other negotiating spectacular singletrack as the sun got lower in the sky kept our pace leisurely and provided ample time for looking around and admiring the sweeping alpine vistas.
We arrived in camp at Cataract Lake with plenty of time to watch the alpenglow fade while cooking a warm dinner.
In the morning, we rose to frosty wildflowers and enjoyed coffee in our sleeping bags.
Camping with bikes, in a spectacular place with hot coffee over mountain sunrise makes my soul sing.
And then we descended. Our descent down Pole Creek was new territory to us both, and while the trail was once the route of the Colorado Trail and Continental Divide Trail, it now seems to see just enough moto and foot traffic to keep the trail clear. Our only company in the 9-mile descent was a moose that seemed taken aback by the presence of humans in her high mountain wetlands.
By the time we reached the truck the ingredients for a soul ride had been gathered. We traversed eleven miles above treeline. We breathed hard. We sat among wildflowers. We ate delicious snacks. We camped by an alpine lake and witnessed the sun set and rise over towering peaks. We drank snowmelt water, and boiled it into hot coffee. We descended several thousand feet on fun singletrack swooping through meadows and mixed conifer forests. We marveled over wildlife, wildflowers, rocks, and water. We laughed a lot, and smiled even more. I felt blessed to be on my bike and share the ride with my best friend.
Had I not crashed out of the Colorado Trail I’m sure I would be satisfied and fulfilled from completing such a demanding endeavor. Goals are important; they help us turn dreams into reality. But sometimes, we have to just live in the present reality and be completely and one hundred percent fulfilled by it. Our souls need that.
Share this post: Tweet
I have shaped my life around exploring remote and wild places by foot, rope, raft, ski and mountain bike. I would rather be sweating than sitting, surrounded by trees than walls, and lost in a canyon than navigating a freeway. As I spend more than half the year sleeping outside, I’ve come to believe that life's full potential can be realized through seeking, enduring and relishing adventure.