Freeze, thaw, freeze, thaw, rain, rain, thaw, thaw, freeze, raaaaaaaain, sunshine…let’s go ride!

This is the recipe for a new derailleur and brake pads. It’s the time of year when there’s no denying that you’re hitting the brakes, because they’re so damn full of dirt that they’re squealing all the way down the mountain as if ridden by a frightened four-year-old.

This dirt pits the disks, wears down the pads, and everything wants to either stick together or fall apart. There is no way to keep out the grit, making smooth parts forever scratchy. The only way to make the parts somewhat last is to end each ride in the cold evening air with the hard, cold hose held by rigid and shaking muscles. It’s the only way to prevent the bike from hardening into bike art. Nobody wants their hands freezing as they poke a scrub brush across the mud-encrusted rings, but it’s the only way to keep the mechanics from rolling their eyes when you show up with a sculpture, rather than a ride.

Do we ride anyway? Yes. We do. It’s because when that first sunshine hits, it warms the forest floor, raising the earthen smell into heaving lungs. Vitamin D soaks through our bare skin and sweat is dried by mountain breezes. It’s because mud slaps up against our legs like camouflage. It’s because the spinning wheels up a steep climb no longer sharply pierce our lungs with cold air, but soothe the alveoli with humidity. It’s because the forest smells moist as it sleepily stirs with its first shimmer of spring growth. It’s because that stirring back to life is twitching in our own quads and hearts after a long winter nap. It’s because the squirrels are scampering happily, rather than scurrying busily.

Yeah, it’s going to cost a few more bucks, and it’s going to take a lot of work, but it’s a matter of emotional and physical survival.