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2021, bring it on..

 I've officially kicked off the '21 season. I dragged Brian to the top of The Grind, we flew down the traverse, then I led us on a clean run down Brown Town. I finally stepped up to the 'Double Tap' feature. This is a steep slab roll straight into a step-down log gap. It's a feature that I don't do when I'm by myself. But with him on my six, I sent it without hesitation.

We pulled off at the bottom of Brown Town for fist bumps. I contemplated hitting the big kicker, but that would be the first big air of the year. I really feel like I should renew my pilots license at Valmont or Erie before I go big at Left Hand. So we rode around the kicker and I told him to lead down Indiana Jones. He'd been eating my dust so it was only fair to switch up. Plus he'd made a few runs down it previously, and this was my first since the snow cleared. 

We dropped in and lined up for two minutes of mayhem, when suddenly I saw him wobbling right ahead of me, I think he was heavy on the front wheel and going down.

The timing was disastrous and he finally started to tumble right as he reached the second big step. So he ended up in a wad under a four foot drop. I grabbed brakes and skidded up behind him. My initial assessment was that it was a mid level crash, no bones, but a big 'ol hipper for sure. I helped get him untangled and looked over his bike. The bars were spun and the front brake line was pulled tight as a banjo string, so I straightened that out. This was only his second or third ride on a new bike. 
I'm glad he got the first crash over and done with. And it had been a while since I got front row seating for a dirt nap like that.

It's really fun to ride with friends again. 2020 was my season of solitude. I did most of my riding alone at dawn. Those long quiet rides helped me keep my sanity and my health. I got into climbing shape and I started to clear The Grind from bottom to top. Then when I descended, it wasn't the wild Banzai runs that I would do with a crew. Instead it was methodical calculated riding. Survival riding. My biggest close call was on David Lee Roth. I was way out there by myself early morning. About half way down I lodged the front wheel in a tank trap and the bike started a slow motion endo. I jumped over the bars and landed like a ninja. Just as I started to congratulate myself, the bike made it's full trajectory and smashed down on the back of my helmet. 

The bike and I got a few more dings, but I closed out 2020 as a solid riding year. Yep, 550,000 Americans died last year, but I got a solid mountain bike season. Is that messed up? absolutely!

As Covid raged across the country I had to work next to people who denied it as vehemently as climate change. The big biker who I work with all day went to Sturgis 2020. Each of my coworkers coughs and hacks and spits on the floor everyday. This is their baseline health. So it's impossible to tell if someone is getting sick. If I got winded and had coughing fits I would consider myself sick. But for everyone else that's just a Tuesday.

When covid was just starting the guy on the other side of me turned away from his work and let out huge billowing coughs in my direction. I said, "Hey man, can you cover that cough?"

He took an irritated tone and responded, "If I get sick I'll be dead, so you don't need to worry about me!"

And that was my year. For months I was the only one wearing a mask. Then it became corporate policy, so now there's a smattering of chin masks. I had a mid level manager in spring 2020 explain to me condescendingly that this whole thing is blown out of proportion and it's no worse that the regular flu. I've had lots of conversations like this, usually I'll take a step back to create a little distance and the other person will take a step closer and talk a little louder. 

I listened to blue collar workers who haven't read a book explain how pandemics work, and how all of them actually got covid in fall of 2019 and it wasn't that bad. I listened to their fears, fears of Black Lives Matter protesters coming to their town, burning and looting. On January 20th of this year a tool guy said to me, "...and now there's this 'inauguration.' He made air quotes.

And it's still not over, we just had a shop-wide safety meeting about covid. It culminated with the presenter explaining why she won't be getting vaccinated because , "You just don't know what it will do."

I said to the group, "You don't know the long term effects of covid either." She responded, "Exactly, so that's why it's a personal choice."

Then I got a huge gushing bloody nose. I finished the meeting with a wad of bloody tissues pressed to my nostril. I said it's probably the vaccine.

So what gives me strength? How do I get up and make my commute in a society that's gradually forgetting how to drive?

My family for one. My girls and my wife have been awesome.

My wife wore this while my coworkers refused to wear a simple mask

My wife picked up extra shifts to care for patients dying on ventilators while neighbors explained to us that hospitals inflate the covid numbers to make it sound worse than it is.

With skiing cancelled last winter both my girls tried ice hockey. Hockey was allowed with extra precautions because it's an outdoor rink. They both tried something completely new and intimidating and they loved it. They've both done well being at home and participating in school. We've started building bikes at the bike shop again. My nine year old installs the pedals on each build. My friends in bike shops tell me they regularly deal with right side pedals cross-threaded into left side cranks by adults. I took my eleven year old down Dead Ass, one of the signature trails at Left Hand.

So yeah, my family has been a rock steady foundation. I feel very sorry for all the families that have suffered through the past year.

But also I would like to thank the Bike.

The bike kept me sane and it kept me safe. I developed the idea that if covid wanted me, it would have to catch me. I tried to become a moving target. In a perfect week I can get three morning rides at Left Hand and then do a 30 minute lunch ride each day at work. Normally the lunch ride is just doing wheelies, but sometimes I ride 3.5 miles around a parking lot making the shape of a heart. Whatever I do, I try to spin the pedals at some point. 

2020 Bike Sales  indicate that the number of bikes in each neighborhood doubled in a year. Trek told my shop they won't be getting any full suspension mountain bikes this year because they are so behind on production. So that tells me a lot on new people have entered the world of cycling. Let me say, "Welcome Newbies!"

Does this mean less parking at the trailheads? More people going the wrong way, or walking around the simplest obstacles? Will I see some dude with an $8,000 rocket as his first mountain bike? Yes, yes and yes to all of it. These new riders will experience real life. They will learn that taking a digger feels much different than receiving hit points in a video game. They will feel the pride and exhilaration of reaching the top of a climb or clearing a downhill.

These new riders will bleed. They will cry out in rage and frustration at a flat tire. But if they stick with it they will learn. They will develop into cyclists. They will become members of the tribe. And they will become better people. The first step to becoming an environmentalist is actually getting out in the environment. The first step to a healthier life begins with,..I guess a first step, or a first pedal around the block. And in order to form connections with other human beings we need to meet them. And meeting someone on the trail is about the best place to do it. So, come on '21. Let's see what ya' got!


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