We’ve had a steady stream of visitors here in our little desert paradise over the past few weeks, which has been great on multiple different levels. Firstly, it’s a great excuse not to work quite as much (not that I really can ever claim long work days, but it’s a great break from routine) and secondly, each visitor has brought fresh perspective on life, on bikes, and different ways to indulge in bike-love.
I’ve been enjoying the micro-adjustments that all these perspectives bring to my view of the world. I’ve been enjoying seeing how everyone takes their unique spin on the Dream Life and makes it work in a way that is sustainable and enjoyable for them. I’ve been enjoying having my perception of what is possible stretched, both on a bike and in life.
The Gypsies brought in an element of simplicity: Work for six months, travel for six months. One bike per person. Only enough belongings to exist comfortably. Eat fresh fruits and veggies from local producers whenever possible. Visit friends. Make new ones. See amazing places and truly go where the wind takes you.
Sometimes I wish I could strive for that simplicity. To have one bike that does it all. To be able to say that I’m done with skiing for good and get rid of all my ski gear that is languishing in my parents’ garage. To being okay with giving up my crockpot and food processor. I don’t have much, but compared to their simplicity…sometimes I feel like I want too much.
On Monday evening, Reilly and Kimberly from Salida showed up en route to Texas. Living out of a Sprinter van, they were escaping the onset of winter in Colorado and spending a week making their way south before heading to their winter quarters in Terlingua. They showed up to an amazing sunset and we immediately headed out for a night ride on Starr Pass. Single jerseys and arm warmers caused a sweat in the warm night and the full moon made lights seem excessive.
They also had been working and saving for the past eight months in order to spend the winter riding in the south and enjoying the finer points of life. Their Sprinter was outfitted for everything needed for living. Room for four bikes, a big bed, electricity, water, a fridge. Room for books, packs, yoga mats, and still getting 25 miles to the gallon.
Kurt and Kaitlyn showed up by the time we’d returned, on a mission to spend a week riding around the Tucson desert. A plan for big rides getting ready for big adventures and races in the spring. To start everyone off on the right foot, we took them on our semi-big TMP loop out the front door the next morning.
It was nothing short of amazing that over the course of six hours, the only hiccup we had with six people was Riley’s encounter with a cholla. It’s rare to find a group ride that works so well, rolls so smoothly.
That night, my Spearfish got an upgrade. As a Christmas present, Scott had got me a 130 mm fork, a significant upgrade from my 100 mm. While we figured that I’d enjoy the extra cush on descents, I was more excited about being able to raise my bottom bracket by a significant margin to try to reduce the number of pedal strikes I’d suffer riding Tucson chunk. Lower bottom brackets in Colorado are fantastic for stability on Colorado trails but aren’t quite ideal for rock-crawling.
We headed to Lemmon the next day to test it out on Bugs and Prison, all while ticking off one of the three recommended workouts for the week to keep me progressing forward in the fitness arena. I’m pretty sure I giggled the whole way down.
Convinced that the new fork was set up well enough for group riding with minimal futzing, Scott and I joined Krista the next day to shuttle a car to the top of Bugs for a friend who was running up the trail from the bottom of Lemmon. After you drive a car to the top of Bugs, the best way to come down is Bugs/Prison/Millie. And so we did.
I first met Krista at the Teva Mountain Games in 2008 (?). She’d passed me on the last descent and some interviewer doing a film on something (Hey, it was a long time ago) randomly grabber her and I. When answering the question of ‘Where do you live?’, she answered, ‘Everywhere. We have an RV that we drive around to different races and live out of.’
It was immediate love/lust/envy.
After becoming a wicked good XC racer domestically, she started racing XC World Cups, and after getting over wanting to do intervals and living the lifestyle that you really need to in order to compete at the highest level of XC, she made a full-time switch to enduro racing and promptly established herself at the top of that field in the US this past summer. And now I was going to follow her and Scott down some honest-to-goodness chunky trail. It was time to put my big-girl chamois on.
It was fun to see a different riding style. Slow on the ups, fast on the downs. And by fast, I mean warp speed. The few seconds that I’d watch before she’d descent out of sight were amazing, and even in short bursts, educational. We talked a ton about suspension set up, riding styles, and how she doesn’t miss intervals one bit. Aerobic fitness is secondary, skills and speed are king. I haven’t thought like that in a long time, if ever.
We followed her back to her house after the ride to get a tour of the RV that I’d been secretly envying for the better part of five years. Just another way to live a life while following dreams and riding bikes.
The new fork shifted my perspective on riding in just two rides. While initially I was hesitant putting it on the bike because the endurance weenie in me is used to people racing on rigid forks, or minimal suspension, I quickly started to see the appeal. Not only was I able to ride a lot more than I could just a few days prior, the stuff that I was riding on the old fork and feeling slightly queasy about felt smooth an in control with the added travel. With a minimal weight difference (I guessed wrong on which fork was which based on weight during a blind test), one has got to wonder if there are any disadvantages to having a bigger fork, especially on long rides. More suspension = less wear on the body = more energy. Or maybe more importantly, more suspension = more fun = go zoom.
Either way, I don’t see myself taking that fork off the bike for a while. And while I don’t see myself springing for a Sprinter Van to live out of for the summer, or living completely off the bike with no other belongings, I’d like to think I can carve out my own little definition of my Dream Life.