Here we are still in the midst of one of the best ski seasons Colorado has seen in a long time, yet, this week I found myself atop my bike cranking away and dreaming about the warm summer months. I’ve by no means hung up the ski gear, far from it, but this week I sort of needed my go-to session for clearing my mind. Some people would say I’m in an enviable position, some I’ve heard call it the scariest time of their lives. The position I’m in is trying to decide what to do with the rest of my life.
It seems as though I’ve been doing that for a long time really and always sort of suffered from a little “Life A-D-D”. From early on I remember daydreaming with childhood friends about one day being doctors, lawyers, policemen, architects and various things. Those early career ideas were indeed the seeds many of my friends wound up sewing.
I remember my personal choices were either to be a rubbish collector or a world adventurer — or both. I was always fascinated by the fact the rubbish collectors got to ride around all day, every day on the back of that truck and actually got paid for it! And to be an adventurer. traveling the world, discovering new things, eating strange foods, speaking different languages, well, yeah, that speaks for itself.
As it turns out, I never found myself on the back of a garbage truck (not legally anyhow), though I still think about it when I see the guys come through the neighbourhood each Tuesday. Rather, after a circuitous route through several study/career choices during university, I landed in the financial and mathematical world. Now, since graduating university, every aptitude or career development “test” I’ve taken has revealed that finance and math are the careers I am least suited for based on my personality traits. So much for those guidance counselors. Oh, and just in case you’re curious, Myers-Briggs has me pegged as ENFP with the “E” occurring equal times with “I”. I’ve taken this hundreds of times over the years and it’s always the same.
Regardless, I’ve been fortunate enough to have a long and mostly enjoyable career with the same company. Because of that longevity and corresponding build up of holiday time off, I’ve also managed to regularly go cavorting about the globe, sometimes for very long stretches of time. I think they’d balk at calling it sabbaticals, but it’s sort of what I call them. I think two months away from my office at a given time qualifies? So at least that part of my early career dreams came to fruition.
I’ve ridden bikes for, well, forever. My first love was an orange Huffy Dragster, complete with sissy bar and ape hanger handlebars — a true muscle bike of it’s time. Not caring that it wasn’t really an offroad designed machine, I still jumped every earthen undulation, curb or homemade ramp in the greater Desert Southwest. It was my ticket to freedom and I was 100% ready to “buy the ticket and take the ride” (that’s a Hunter S. Thompson quote by the way). Over the years I would graduate to more sophisticated bikes such as triathlon bikes, touring bikes, racing bikes, etc and eventually I found my true love when mountain bikes came into fashion. A bike was so simple yet was the perfect foundation for countless adventures in my life.
A few years ago I decided that instead of buying another bike, I was going to build one from the frame up. I think I basically realized that I’d ridden bikes for a long time and knew quite a bit about them, but I’d never really gotten to know one from the ground up. So, I bought a frame based on what I wanted and set about researching each and every piece, part, nut and bolt.
Though I had a huge resource of friends who race professionally or have built bikes before and I could have easily tapped them for knowledge, I wanted to learn this stuff on my own. I wanted to know why some things worked and why others didn’t. I’ve always believed experience is the absolute best path to knowledge. It’s not always the easiest, but it’s the best. That said, I scoured the internet researching every single component, looking for the best deal and practicing patience until I could find exactly the right combination of performance and price. I wanted even the tiniest of pieces to mean something and have my time invested in it. Eventually I had all the parts neatly laid out in our basement and was ready to start assembling.
Some things wound up being easy, as expected, and some things wound up challenging me a little more than expected. Undeterred by the challenging bits, I patiently went through the trials and errors until I figured out why things weren’t working and more importantly, why they did. I think what surprised me in this process was the sheer number of components and considerations I’d never really contemplated before. Building my bike from the ground up helped me understand the relationships of ALL the components.
Eventually, I rolled the bike out of my basement, clipped into my pedals and took her out on her maiden voyage and I’m happy to report it worked flawlessly. And best of all, when something breaks now, I know I can fix it myself without having to rely on anyone else.
I’ve since ridden thousands of miles on that bike. And while those miles are only a fraction of the total miles I’ve ridden in my lifetime, they are by far the very best miles. I’m invested in every pedal stroke now. Every time I grind my way up some long singletrack trail to a ridge high here in the Rockies and am rewarded with a mind blowing view, I know it was a result of my time, patience and desire to be 100% invested in the things I want in my life AND the life I want to live. There is nothing more rewarding.
Now that I’m starting to consider where my next chapter in life will take me, I sort of feel like I did when I brought my bike up from the basement the first time. I knew I’d done things to the best of my ability but there’s always that question of whether it was good enough. Will I take one pedal stroke and the crank fall off? If it does I’ll get out my wrenches and tighten it up. Will the gears shift properly? If they don’t, I’ll adjust them. Will the tubeless tires hold air? If not, I’ll put some more sealant in them and be on my way. The bike I built has taken me places I never imagined, no reason I can’t trust that the life I’ve built won’t do the same.
I suppose the only way to know is to get in the saddle, start cranking and see where it takes me.