I’m typing this while laying on the floor, my feet propped up on the end of the couch in a futile effort to drain the cramp juice from my twitching quads and hamstrings. There’ll probably be a Levy-shaped salt stain on the floor if and when I ever decide to get up, but I’m not going to start thinking about that for at least a couple more hours. I’d like to tell you about how I just rolled in from some massive epic into the alpine and had the best descent of my life on rowdy singletrack…
But that’s not what happened.
The truth is far less glamorous. I was pedaling back to the house on the road when I spotted two other riders ahead of me. Without realizing it, I suddenly found myself four gears higher while my eyes locked onto their backs like a wheezing, sweaty guided missile closing in on its target. My pace rose from a leisurely spin to “I can sustain this for another two minutes,” and the gap closed from three hundred feet to two hundred to twenty while I pictured myself looking like Nino hunting down another last-lap World Cup win. Which is when I looked through the red mist and noticed my prey’s Chariot trailer, complete with two kids inside, and that the riders I presumed were racing me were actually two grandparents out for a spin on their townie bikes with the grandkids in tow.
I rolled by them sheepishly just as we crested the climb; “Beautiful day for a ride!” they both said to me happily, but I was too smashed to reply with anything more than a cursory nod while hoping they couldn’t hear me breathing through my eyeballs.
I have a couple of good habits, like looking after my drivetrain, making sure nothing is about to rattle off of my bike, and I do love a good stretch session. But I also have many bad habits, such as resorting to complete meat-head mode anytime there’s someone in front of me or behind me. It’s good to be competitive and driven, sure, but Rick, Nancy, and their two grandkids all think I’m an idiot. That in itself is fine, but I often make a bad habit worse by letting the outcome of those efforts dictate my attitude during and afterward. So, if I manage to reel in ‘ol Rick and Nancy, it’ll likely be a good ride and I’ll feel just enough self-worth as a human to try bikes again tomorrow. And what about if I can’t close the gap to that Chariot trailer? Then I’m a piece of shit who should have stayed at home, and I’ll spend $20 on dollar-store candy that I don’t want to eat in one sitting but will definitely eat in one sitting.
Anyway, to keep this from turning into a solo therapy session disguised as me meeting my article quota for the month, I thought I should ask the PB editorial team about their bad habits…
“Not lubing the chain, not putting air in my tires every single ride, and not changing my tires often enough,” Sarah told me sheepishly, possibly because I’ve been known to yell derogatory comments at anyone who goes for a ride without checking their tire pressure. “And maybe a habit of riding the same trails all the time,” she quickly followed up with, something that I’m also guilty of. We all seem to click with certain trails, be it because they’re close to our house and the access is easy or because it has that one section, or even just one corner or jump, that resonates with how you like to ride a bike. I bet you have that trail you’ve basically memorized and know where to absorb and when to pop, the fast way through those rocks, and that inside line that puts you in the perfect spot for the next section. Riding blind is fun, but riding committed down a trail you know by heart is even better.
Still, it’s all too easy to choose what you know rather than risking your limited free time to ride something farther away or that you’re not as comfortable on.
You might have read about how Henry really hates group rides and other people in general, a feeling he says comes from his dislike of having to wait for other people to sort their shit out. “My worst bike habit is impatience. People needing to stop to tie their shoelaces and I’m there telling them to go f*ck themselves and I hope them and their family rots in hell,” he told me with a straight face. “When I first started mountain biking I considered group riding to be the be-all-and-end-all, and it’s something I carried through for many years. You simply have to enjoy it, right? Friends, nature, complicated coffee orders, and things taking five times as long as they should. Ah, perfect.“
I’m on the same page as Henry – roughly 80 or 90 percent of my rides involve having Bob Seger in my headphones as my only companion, often while riding a bike with not enough travel and not enough tire. Which is another of my questionable habits that’s bitten me in the ass more than once. I love being under-biked for all sorts of reasons, ranging from misplaced pride to “I better not try that move on this downcountry bike,” but there’s far less room for mistakes on a bike that’s got too much head angle and not enough suspension. That’s precisely why they’re fun, of course, but it’s also why I’m looking into double ankle transplant surgery while wanting to inject acetaminophen directly into my back. But hey, downcountry is fun, right?
Something else that’s high on fun and low on being responsible is skidding. I’ll just say it: A big unnecessary skid can feel damn good, and even more so when you’re using it as a legit technique instead of just leaving trenches down the middle of your local singletrack. Ride don’t slide and all that, of course, and there are many locations, trails, and situations where locking your rear brake is wrong and you’ll be a terrible, terrible person who’ll then need to follow up with a virtuous social media post to re-balance your chakra. With great braking power comes great responsibility, so try to only be a dumbass when you know that your skid marks won’t be there for twenty years or need to be filled in by an overworked trail builder who’s tired of your shit. Don’t skid, okay? But if you do skid, skid responsibly and skid long.
While I could easily write a 10,000-word dissertation covering only half of my bad habits, it’s sunny and I’m sure there are some complete strangers on the trail that I need to chase down before cramping terribly and stopping at the dollar store for candy on the way home.
What are some of your bad habits?