Cycling for me now, is a very clean affair. My bike not only doesn’t get dirty, it doesn’t really even get wet. Long gone are the days that I would have to spend just as long cleaning my bike as I had done riding. Having to put my shoes in the washing machine with the rest of my riding kit, just to get them clean again (mum, if you’re reading this, I didn’t really do this). I do not miss any of this in the slightest. What I do miss though, was the reason for all of that first being there in the first place.
I bought my first mountain bike when I was 15, and then my first proper mountain bike a year later. I then never looked back. Every weekend would be spent out riding in the countryside, looking for new tracks, looking to escape, and then home for tea. It’s not that the aim was to get dirty, but that’s where the fun was. Putting yourself, and your bike, in conditions that you could just about get away with. Right on the limit of what either of you could do. As my love for this increased, so did the amount of time I would dedicate to it. I would go out a few evenings a week, scouting out tracks and trials in the town itself. As my bike skills improved, and bikes became more capable of taking bigger impacts, then hunting out steps and drops. I pushed myself until things broke. It was great… but also expensive. One thing that was free however, was getting to meet and become friends with like-minded fools. I’m still friends with now, people that I met in some woods once. There always seemed to be great sense of camaraderie, and having fun was easy. There were no clubs, no rules, no fretting about… stuff that should really matter at all. We’d meet up, ride, stand around and talk rubbish, and then ride some more.
After I flunked out of Uni I went on a riding holiday in Greece. I went on my own, hadn’t met any of the others before, it totally didn’t matter. By lunchtime on the first day, we could have been riding with each other for years. We all spent that evening together, and then every evening afterwards. On our rest days, we all went riding some more. We all only had one thing in common, and it bound us together, our love of dirt.