The constant murmur of my trainer rattles PBR cans peppered across the common room floor. Last night’s chaos lingers with the smell of stale beer and empty tobacco tins. The ground that my floating bike rests on remains sticky from spilt beverages, and the sweat dripping from my forehead doesn’t help.
College is a weird place, maybe one of the worst chunks of time one can put their body through. And it only seems to get worse the older you get in college, drinking a few nights a week flips to only NOT drinking a few nights a week. Friends frequent your room on weeknights. When you hear footsteps in the hall it is all you can do to close the door before the daunting question arises, “Hey its senior blues, we should go to the bar and split a bucket of Labatt Blues.”
I live in a coed house of 25 individuals who all lead outdoor trips for our student body. While we are all invested in getting outside as much as our lives can allow, we also find pleasure in having a good time at night. As a freshman I understood the energy exercise gave me, which was put aside as I got caught up in distractions. Now, as a senior, I appreciate the tingle from blood flow.
The gym is fullest early in the week. Students from all demographics guiltily mount treadmills and heave weights to compensate for the excessive amount of Bud Light curls they crushed over the weekend. I am just as at fault, but have begun to see the trade offs again in pounding the pedals.
With every sip, every puff, grins widen stretching young skin, and the same occurs as sweat drips like a melting icicle. Taking a break from an exercise induced trance I peer out the window. Thick blankets of snow disguise the intestinal path of my house’s pump track. Although the stimulating effects of riding in the summer can’t directly be achieved in the winter, the trainer suffices for the day.
These days it seems like every aspect of trail riding is impregnated with that feeling of stimulation. Occasionally its hard to get yourself off the couch knowing it will take time to drive to the trailhead, but once you are there its hard to stop riding. Obviously the most stimulating part is the decent, but there is also the climb.
Any worthwhile ride has a climb that starts as a dread, but ends like a night’s rest in clean sheets. It feels good. Climbs like this are what make us come back for more. They are what make us set up our trainers on sticky floors as the rest of our companions sleep off those last remaining drops of alcohol. We all have that climb on our local network that just has to be gored. Every switchback ingrained in our DNA so that we can ride them hard each time.
While the feeling can be prolonged on a climb that we do know, it is even more attainable on one we aren’t as familiar with. Looking at a steep incline is grueling, especially when the horizon line isn’t present as we peer through the trees. While charging into the hill we are met with resistance, but the idea that we don’t know where the top of the hill is creates a game. Push until you can’t or until collapsing at the top is achieved. Every pedal stroke revolving the chain simultaneously while our bodies’ blood churns.
After gathering our mangled pieces at the top of the hill it is time to gear up for the other half of intoxicating fun. At first trees slowly walk by as our wheels gain momentum. The trip changes from a speed where our imagination recognizes sticks as snakes and rocks as hobbits to one where our mind begins working two steps ahead of itself.
Without muddled thoughts, our bodies operate robotically allowing our mind to go along for a ride. Obstacles are maneuvered with body movement we could never imagine. In a trance like state, ducking a branch makes time stand still. Instantly we’re back on it. Railing turns inebriated by the trails features.
We ride past a large rock with a buffed landing and pause for inspection. After one speed check we’re ready and our hair is ruffled from the quick defying of gravity. Riding abilities don’t matter because the same amounts of stimulation are achieved from beating yourself up a hill and hitting whatever trailside feature arouses those stomach butterflies.
It isn’t bad to attain that feeling from other sources, I bet the majority of us have a cold six pack anticipating our arrival from the trail, but we have to keep in mind what riding does to fuel that endorphin rush.