Group rides make it all better.

I had a disturbing moment recently when I found myself browsing the self-help aisle of the bookstore. The titles of the books were resonating with me like never before. “The Enchanted Self.” “Are You Living or Surviving?” Suddenly, I realized I’m the target audience for this sort of do-it-yourself therapy. It’s not that I’m depressed, it’s more like I have a mild case of ennui. It’s just enough to make me an unpleasant person. I get angry quickly, I lack motivation, and I find myself staring off into the distance and singing “Desperado.” It seems to be an epidemic. Most of my friends are suffering from a similar affliction, as if we’re all going through an early mid-life crisis in unison. Sort of like when sorority girls spend so much time together and their lady patterns become in sync.

I spent some time analyzing my life to discern a cause for my unrest, but everything seemed to be in place. Career: great. Family: fantastic. Diet: healthy. Exercise: regular. Sleep: ample. Only one key factor seemed to be missing. The group ride. My friends haven’t gotten together to mountain bike in almost three years—a period of time that has been a blur of babies, career moves, and financial woes. There was a time when we had a large ride every Wednesday afternoon. We scheduled our weeks around it. Somewhere along the line, we all shifted our priorities, moving the group ride lower and lower down the list. Most of us continued to ride individually, and occasionally two or three of us would squeeze in a quick hour-long spin, but we couldn’t seem to get the entire “band” together for the raucous weekly ritual we were all accustomed to.

The regular group ride seems like such a simple thing: five or six dudes get together for two hours, once a week, to ride their bikes in a single file line up and down a mountain. You wouldn’t think that this mundane ritual could have such a profound effect on a person’s life. I mean, the group ride is fun, it’s healthy, but could it actually change my mood? Could reinstituting this regular bout of camaraderie make me a better person? A nicer husband? A more patient father? A harder worker?

As luck would have it, one recent afternoon, I had the opportunity to see how valuable the group ride could be to my personal well-being. The stars aligned and all five of the original riders could make it to our favorite trailhead at the same time on the same afternoon. The band was getting back together.