I bought a shirt a while ago that read: conservatives, hippies, liberals, farmers, cow tippers, hunters, potheads, sugarers, rednecks, skiers. Reading vertically down the center of the text read VERMONTERS. The majority of the audience reading this column could probably sit comfortably on three—at least one of these pedestals. However, the one pedestal of most comfort, not in this list, would be the one-labeled mountain biker.
With free time in the fall at my college in northern New York I enjoyed volunteering at a local farm because of its strong ties to community and provocative health. Pulling into Birdsfoot Farm I was greeted by a fluffy dog whose tail batted the flies as he stood smirking. Dulli, the owner of Birdsfoot, emerged from the barn, standing proud she greeted me. Her thick German accent complemented her wrinkled face formed from constant smiling. Dulli handed me a pitchfork as she turned towards the gate. From the barn we walked through a low wooded section that cast shadows across the path. As we walked deeper into stretching rows of green and gold, rejuvenating energy calmed the emotions of school born stress. I put my hands in the dirt searching for carrots; the soil felt soft like applied lotion. Every fork stabbed the ground turning earth that breathed life through my hands.
Rolling into the Kingdom Enduro’s venue in East Burke, VT, I was met with a sea of smiling faces nervously excited for the day’s race. The rider meeting was held early, there were upwards of 150-200 riders that showed for the event. Preceding the meeting, I went over to some friends before rolling up to the start. The race would start at the top of the chairlift that day. We had the option to take the lift, but many of us took the pedal route to discuss tactics and joke around. Half the people in the group I didn’t know; by the time we had meandered up the gravel road to the start, we all were friends discussing which sections we were most psyched about.
I stood in line waiting; first for five, then only one person before diving into the race. Within minutes I was en route to the finish line sliding through the freshly tamped soil. Leaves stood still like chess pieces before being disrupted with gravity fed adrenaline. Every turn, every roll, adding a couple more goose bumps to my white arms. I sprinted to the finish of the first stage gasping. The thought of botched turns or neglected pedal strokes masked by tired legs vanished as the energy to remember the good parts was shared. We were on the first climbing stage when I looked up seeing a string of colorful jerseys slithering up the field like a kite reaching for clouds. The enthusiasm circulated the event like electricity dancing through power lines.
One day at the farm I began telling Dulli about the enduro event. The event is meant to go against the grain of typical competition. It is set up so athletes can communicate with one another between racing stages. There are usually three to five stages broken up by transfer stages. These times are intended for recovery while discussing tactics for the following stages. Dulli looked at me with curiosity. After pondering my description, her eyes lit up. That sounds like the market—like the farmers market. It becomes a place where we, the community of food producers, can talk and discuss what is and isn’t growing well. I was aware of the bike community that I was a part of, but hadn’t ever looked at it from the utilitarian perspective that Dulli had brought to my attention. A community that provided each other with information and advice on riding faster lines, or events and group rides that progress the sport while building community.
By pulling ourselves outside of an activity we have the ability to look in through a different lens. It is important to stay situated on the pedestal we are most comfortable with, but beneficial to observe the communities around us, and how we can draw from their productive aspects. By surrounding ourselves with the color of other communities we can move forward with positive ideas and energy. Diversity in activity opens the mind to healthy lifestyles shared with peers thrilled both by adrenaline, and passion. The ability to share experiences like these two activities is contagious to the people that surround us. Next time you go out, bring a friend; introduce them to the brilliant color that healthily floods your lifestyle.
Keep an eye out for next week’s installment as we look into another winter community. While many of us like riding hard packed single track in the summer we occasionally transition to sliding down mountains in the winter months. We will look at the comparisons of single track arcing and corduroy cruising.