It’s a Thursday evening. All the usual suspects have assembled at the trailhead. My favorite kind of ride awaits, I can feel it. The kind that starts out innocently enough, with a mellow pedal up the same old boring hill, but ends with a rowdy, raucous pursuit and dirt on my teeth.
I go high, while someone else goes low. Each rider selects their favorite lines as we charge down the trail, faster than is normally deemed acceptable. We criss-cross each others paths, breaking apart and melding back together seamlessly. Yips and whoops escape from our lips as we soar over the same jump in succession. The person in front of me zigs as I zag. There is an unspoken trust between us all. We’ve ridden together as a pack for so long we can predict each others movements. Until we can’t, and someone’s tire is buzzed, someone nearly crashes in spectacular fashion, we skid to a halt. Laughter. Someone new takes the lead. Our speed and bravery are dictated by the rider at the front. If they turn on the gas, we all follow suit. A plume of dust billows behind us as we drift and slide around the turns. The person at the back of the cloud blindly follows, barely able to see the terrain in front of their tires. Someone goes for the pass, more laughter.
These are the rides where I’m more out of breath after the downhill than I was after the climb. They end with immense, dust covered smiles and lengthy parking lot banter about that close call on the trail and whose bikes need which new parts. They are rides that remind me of skidding contests in my grandmothers driveway, and of racing friends around my neighborhood on every sort of second hand bicycle known to mankind. And I can’t help but feel supremely happy, knowing that even now, as an adult, thanks to my mountain bike, I can still have fun chasing my friends down a hill.