On Becoming a Cyclist - Pete Maiman
I used to be a mountain biker only. I didn’t know much about the other ways people used two wheeled machines to propel themselves through space and time. I only knew my way. Our way. Which was on knobby tires. In the woods. On the trails.
I am extremely fortunate to have grown up on the west side of Colorado Springs, right next to Cheyenne Canyon and its bounty of single track trails full of loose decomposed granite. I actually “found” mountain biking somewhere around 4th or 5th grade, riding around on my first mountain bike – a fully rigid Giant Iguana. Back then parents didn’t care if we disappeared for hours on end on our bikes with our buddies, as long as we showed back up for dinner. So, what first were rides over the course of a few blocks, soon became multi-mile adventures to check out new places. We quickly found a slew of old horse trails winding through the scrub oak and pines on the lower throws of Cheyenne Mountain.
We had mountain bikes, so we rode the trails. We became hooked immediately. We found the trails to be way better than the paved roads, and still much better than the dirt roads around the neighborhood. No one was on the trails. It was real adventure for our elementary school-selves. On days riding and exploring by myself, I would go to new trails I had just discovered, ride up them until I got too scared to proceed, and then bomb back home as if a mountain lion was nipping at my back tire. I would do this multiple times, each time going further than before, until finally, familiarity and a dash of bravery would get me through a whole section of trail. Then I would tell my buddies about it, and heroically lead them to through my new found treasure.
As they do, the years went by, but mountain biking continued to be a major fixation of my attention. Though it faded a bit after high school, I was again grabbed by it around 2003. Albeit, this time it grabbed me by the throat and never let go! I tried a buddies Kona full suspension bike and was again hooked. Full suspension bikes finally came to a point where they were really good, and affordable. And so deeper and deeper I went down the rabbit hole. I rode downhill, trail, raced XC and dirt jumped. But then something happened that gave me some perspective.
I moved from the mountains where I had lived after high school down to Denver. I was back in school with very little money . . . and broke the frame of the mountain bike I was riding at the time. Still needing a two-wheeled outlet, I took out my buddy’s old steel Italian road bike and discovered the joy of riding skinny tires. I went on to explore many of the bike paths in the city – which for the record, in any city, will provide a very interesting look at civilizations undergarments . . . you see the good, the bad, the beautiful, and the ugly on these paths. Looking back, this was my first real foray into becoming a “cyclist.”
Flash forward another hand-full of years, and now, still in living in the city, I took a job I like but which requires a shit commute. It didn’t take long sitting in rush hour traffic, windows up, air on recirculate, to start looking at new transportation options. Ah Ha – I will ride my bike to work – duh! Some quick Google route analysis later, and I am commuting by bike via long stretches of great bike paths. After another hand-full of years, two babies, and one house move later, and I am still at it with this whole “bike commuting” thing, and now, genuinely love it. Not nearly as much as mountain biking, but love it nonetheless. My route takes me 50 minutes to get to work, 30 minutes home, involves mostly bike paths, a few slices of roadway, and one stretch of parking lot. The visuals from the route usually entail streams and cottonwoods, bums sleeping under bridges spanning massive roadways, and huge open properties with mansions tucked behind horse barns. Overall, not a bad commute.
I still froth at the mouth to ride my mountain bike, but now-a-days I also find myself looking forward to a nice road bike spin on the weekend when the trails are snowed in. I see the beauty of riding a road with fresh asphalt, and know what it feels like to carve linked turns down a canyon road. The speed you get out of a road bike is the best part. Coming from mountain bikes, it feels really good to get that much speed from your own legs. You can feel super human with a tailwind.
I never would have thought those feelings could be induced by anything but a mountain bike. I suppose that the commuting has helped open my mind a bit to all genres of bikes. I now think of myself as a cyclist . . . one who happens to be completely infatuated with mountain biking, but one that also just really loves bikes.
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