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book review: Just Ride

by Rob Friesel
Cover of the book Just Ride (Petersen, 2012)

At the age of 41, while living in Bellingham, WA, I decided to “spend too much money” on a mountain bike. It had been about 2 years since I’d owned a bike, and (if I’m being honest) probably about 10 years since I’d done any riding. I was going through a tough time (pandemic + some personal stuff) and figured that maybe I could buy myself some happiness in the form of a nice mountain bike — take up a new active hobby, take advantage of the apparently excellent local trails, and distract myself from the essential mundane horrors of my life.

Almost immediately after buying the bike, I had two revelations. The first was: “Oh wow, a bike that isn’t shitty can make a real difference in your riding enjoyment.” The second was: “Well jeez I’m super self-conscious on this mountain bike when I’m riding on the road and/or easy gravel trails down to the bay.” I’d gotten it into my head that I was committing some kind of faux pas by riding a mountain bike on a paved surface.

Galbraith Mountain (first time!)

And that’s where this book comes in: I feel like they should issue a copy of Grant Petersen’s Just Ride to everyone who is just getting into the sport, or otherwise feels like they’re going to fall victim to the peer pressure of Racers™ and other Serious Riders™.

The number one lesson of this book: “Don’t pay attention to those guys. Enjoy your bike. Ride it. Have fun.”

What a revelation!

It was liberating to have someone Knowledgeable About Bikes™ write something like this — giving someone like me permission to ride that mountain bike on the road. To ride it for 5-10 minutes around the neighborhood. To put it away in the garage at the end of a ride with mud still on the tires. To ride in my regular clothes and shoes.

I’m back home in Vermont now, but the lessons stuck with me. I went to Saxon Hill this morning for the first time and I felt like Grant Petersen was riding right behind me. “Hey man, if that section looks too tough, just shoulder your bike for a second. No one’s gonna care. Did you come here to show off and get hurt? Or to have fun?”

Thanks, Grant.

About Rob Friesel

Software engineer by day. Science fiction writer by night. Weekend homebrewer, beer educator at Black Flannel, and Certified Cicerone. Author of The PhantomJS Cookbook and a short story in Please Do Not Remove. View all posts by Rob Friesel →

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