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.
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?”