I love autumn. LOVE. IT. And right now is arguably the best mountain biking of the year because the weather here in Colorado is about perfect. Not only that, it seems our entire state is blanketed in an ocean of gold leaves providing us a backdrop to trails that will take your very breath away. Because of that, the trails we’ve been riding all summer have suddenly taken on a different feel and it’s sometimes like we’re riding them for the first time instead of the 20th time. Even better, instead of dropping the hammer every time we clip into our pedals, our pace seems to slow and we tend to spend more time absorbing the views, our friendships and our good fortune of living in such an amazing place.
This week I’ve been making a point of riding after work just about every day simply because next weekend the time will change and our midweek afternoon rides will all but dry up with the lack of afternoon sun. Sure, we’ll still take a full afternoon off from to time to ride, but our staple afternoon routine of starting at 3:30 and riding until 5:30-6:00 (and many times later) won’t be so convenient as with the long daylight hours of summer. There is definitely some fun to be had night riding in the evenings, but again, not quite as relaxing as a summer ride if you have to wear a headlamp and bundle up against the cold.
As I mentioned above, I love the slower pace that seems to accompany this time of year. On Tuesday I rode with Adam and right from the start we set a nice leisurely pace, enjoyed the views, chatted aimlessly and caught up on life (like we don’t do that about every day) while riding familiar singletack we hadn’t been able to ride until recently because of the flooding. We’ve literally ridden hundreds and thousands of miles together since spring but I liked Tuesday;s ride as much as any other we’d done. We’ve definitely had epic days where we both were gasping for air on long climbs at high altitude and been gripped out of our minds on some pretty spicy descents, which aren’t really all that conducive to idle chit chat. That’s not to say we never talk when we ride, we do, but it always seems a little quicker pace of riding during the height of the season.
Same with my friend Carin, we’ve ridden hundreds of miles since spring and most of the time we’d just leave the trailhead and simply take care of business for mile after mile of singletrack. Yet, last night we left the trailhead to do one of our staple afternoon rides and right from the start, the pace was subdued. Unlike mid season, in a sixteen mile loop we probably stopped no less than half a dozen times to take in the view, talk about life, our future travel projects and take a few photos along the way.
To give you an idea of our pace, we can normally complete this sixteen mile loop, even with the climbing and couple of technical sections, in about an hour, maybe a few minutes more. This week when I rode it with Adam and again with Carin yesterday, it took us closer to two hours. Carin even commented at one point that she couldn’t remember a time when we rode so slow.
Sometimes during the season we’d get back to the car after a big day out and we’d feel mentally and physically exhausted, though fulfilled, with pushing our respective envelopes, which is always fun. But in direct contrast to that, I’ve felt that our rides this week have been even more fulfilling because it was more about slowing down and simply spending time with each other while we do what we love.
Same thing when I ski. Yeah, there are days when it’s fun to come out of the parking lot with our guns a’ blazin’ and just rip up thousands of vertical feet in a matter of hours on the piste — and those days definitely have their place in the mix. But the days I love most are the early mornings when we get up (and I’m talking about 04:00 a.m.) and skin up a resort long before the crowds ever wake. Just me and a friend trudging up some steep trail to a ridge where we’ll sit, talk and wait until right before the lifts open to the crowds whereupon we strap on our skis and helmet and let it fly in complete solitude. Same with the backcountry. I love getting away from the crowds, setting a climbing pace where we can talk, catch up, philosophise and exactly like I said about about mountain biking, do the things I love with the people I love.
I’m so fortunate to have such amazing family and friends who truly appreciate the fortune of good health and the fact that we live in such an amazing place and can do the things we do. But I’m even more fortunate that these same people appreciate what livin’ the dream is truly all about — sharing the things we love with the people we love. That’s the only stuff that counts when it gets down to it.
Travel light, climb high, ski hard, pedal far, live simply.