Vernon Felton  /  Bike Magazine
By Bike Magazine columnist
updated 6/24/2005 7:22:29 PM ET 2005-06-24T23:22:29

I found myself wondering not too long ago what happens to my cycling passion. I noticed that an otherwise irresistible urge to get out and ride whenever and wherever seems to ebb and flow. More so than a lot of other characters I know and ride with. I used to squeeze in rides between meetings – grab a quickie here – a night ride there. But more often than not I’ve had to haul my carcass onto my bike under duress. Ahh, but once the pedals start turning the joyous feeling returns and all is set straight again.

If I’m lucky and keep the momentum going I don’t have to overcome that dread ennui that threatens me with the demon sloth, effectively killing off what is left of my enthusiasm. I have come to find that my minimum threshold to overcome inertia is at least 2 rides within a 7 day period. Any less and the carcass-hauling syndrome set in. Necessitating threats, epithets and wily coercion from deep within to get my ass out and ride.

Looking back to my early halcyon days, when I was a newbie rider and every trail was new, I was adept at finding excuses to bail from work early to get home, grab my bike and go ride. Nothing was more important than getting in as many rides as I could, so much so that my wife felt acute abandonment on weekends when I would pretty much disappear for most of two days and then regale her with my tales of adventure and try to curry sympathy for some home treatment of new puncture wounds and rosy raspberries. She eventually demanded her own mountain bike and that I take her to these drop dead gorgeous places I would tell her about, and that was nice. Until she (sweet soul) pretty much got cooked and lost interest in going out on death marches with her psychotic husband, preferring to ride with more sane and tranquil types.

Jena M. Lopez  /  Bike Magazine
My passion for bikes a few years back was so intense that I chucked my high-paying job as an advertising geek and took a job in the bike industry with WTB. Never mind that my salary basically got savaged and my commute went from cozy right into the realm of the ridiculous – hey, I was IN! And my first big assignments were to get WTB on the Internet, AND get ready for Interbike, AND plan next year’s sponsorship deals – all while trying to convince all these crusty die-hard Marin bikers that I really knew what I was doing.

But hell yeah it was FUN! At least it was for the first year. As the head marketing honch I got to go on magazine boondoggles and meet cool new people. My first Interbike was way better than going to Disneyland, and I felt connected with the sport, the lifestyle and the people in general. The second year was a bit more routine and somewhat less exciting, but I had way too many roadblocks thrown my way to do anything resembling effective marketing. So I and the company parted ways. Looking back, though, the best part of the whole shebang was the riding – my skill-set went waay up. I discovered trails and rode in places I’d never have dreamed about and made some really great friends. The experience truly stoked my passion in many wonderful ways.

After my WTB adventures I fell back on my advertising roots and went on to develop a fairly solid freelance career as a writer, riding often and even doing stints at a friend’s bike shop as a wrench and sales slut. Then slowly my passion for dirt withered and my mountain bikes began to get less and less use, as I stepped up and rode the asphalt ribbons more and more. So I figured a break from the dirt would be good. But a short break turned into a year-long hiatus as I became pretty much a full-fledged roadsniffer. The miles piled on, my legs changed shape and yes, I even started shaving them!

This behavior continued for well over a year (including the leg shaving) until, due to me having absolutely no idea about the importance of stretching or range of motion maintenance; I herniated my L5 disk and experienced a complete stoppage of motion. Pain? I thought I’d felt pain before, but nothing had ever stopped me dead in my tracks like this. It laid me so low as to cause me to crumple on the floor and writhe in simpering agony, with shooting flashes of sheer pain coursing down my lower back and into my legs. I cried like a baby a couple of times – right through the Vicodin and tequila. Ice was nice, but even that didn’t hold the pain at bay. Riding? Shit – I couldn’t even walk!

This went on for a couple of weeks as I sought help from every front – unwilling, however, to go under the knife – though I thought about it. I finally got a cortisone shot which didn’t do anything at first, but took effect when coupled with a week on the beach in Kauai and many Mai Tai’s. I slowly crawled out from under my veil of pain and was able to move like a modern humanoid. And after about 4 months off my bikes completely, I began to ride again. Cautiously. Slowly. Miles weren’t important – what mattered was that I was riding again. I developed a new routine involving Rolfing, chiropractic, stretching, and more stretching. I bought an inversion table and dangled like a bat every day. I found my strength returning and along with it, that elusive passion that had been simmering below the surface, lying in wait for my recovery. And let me go on record as saying that there’s nothing like having a beloved activity taken from you to make you appreciate it like never before!

And so I rode more and more, and further and faster. Pretty soon I was back at full strength and tearing it up like I used to. I was back doing fast group rides and hauling my mountain bike to cool places to ride with cool people. And my back was holding tight! And then, inexplicably, the tide of passion slowed to a trickle again and my riding became more sporadic. I found myself dealing with less enthusiasm for the ride and having to goad my ass onto the saddle. But the transformation would occur within a nanosecond as the ride began and all would be hunky dory again.

So what is it? Why does it seem that I have these reoccurring waves of passion inconsistency when really there is so much incredible riding to be had everywhere I turn? Hell, it’s not like I live in Buffalo and its mid-January and 17 below with 12 foot high drifts piling up. No – I’ve come to realize it’s more like self-preservation, as I tend to push myself so hard that I teeter on the brink of total burnout. I’m not physiologically cut out to be a racer, and I hate mediocrity. So racing to beat a handful of other wankers and finish mid-pack at best doesn’t float my boat. But strangely, I’m competitive and will do what it takes to stay with faster folks than I, even risking more puncture wounds or a merciless thrashing.

So I’ve come to accept that these breaks in my stream of biking passion seem to bring me into balance. I have found that if I try to dominate them, they get unruly and riding completely loses its fun – which is one of the main reasons I ride. But if I just let them roll (yes Marge, it’s a pun) I find myself renewing a deep bond with my bicycles after my short absence. And that for me beats a steady slog and merciless training routine, bowing down before a training log and watching over everything I do, trying to eke out a few more grams of average ability. No offense to you racer-types out there – you have my undying admiration. But for me, well I’m all about the ride, and letting my passion rise and fall is like being on an epic trail that just flows. And keeps on going.

A resident of the internationally acclaimed town of Concord, California, Mel Bearns enjoys a healthy bi-polar relationship with his numerous bicycles and 1 motorbike. He can be frequently found practicing work avoidance by indulging in serious play with his cats or thinking about riding in far away places. A scrivener by trade, he creates words for blue chip companies who are easily bamboozled into paying him for his work. His current motto describes his state of mind about life in the US these days: "If you're not outraged, you're not paying attention."

Bike captures the moments, personalities, trends and issues that define the sport of mountain biking. Regardless of the bike you own, your skill level or the clothes you wear, Bike captures the one thing universal to us all: The inspiration to ride.


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