The Mountain Bike Life

What is Faster and why must we find it? What is the compulsion that opposes our mortal fears and drives us further beyond whatever we’ve done before? Competition can push us, but this is different from a desire to win or to not be beaten. It is an irresistible lover’s whisper. A temptation in spite of the danger. A giggle where there should be a scream. Letting off the brakes when one should really be applying them. A fall-line challenge calling out the biggest rocks and sketchiest lines. Daring gravity and geology and pain to come and get their licks.

Faster is Vision. The ability to see in four dimensions. To see the future seconds in advance and live there, two or three seconds ahead of yourself. Faster is focus. It is ignoring all impossibilities until only the possible remain.

One more, one better are the quanta of Faster. The addition of +1 pedal strokes or -1 brake checks. It is the devil in the details. The difference one ride makes in how much tread is left on your tires. Faster is one click more or one less click damping. A couple of pounds per square inch. A little straighter. A little lighter. A little cleaner. A little harder. Even still, Faster is not a metric. It isn’t a miles-per-hour or a Strava KOM, or any other number that some stupid little box on your handlebar pukes out. It is not winning or podiums or even crushing a loudmouth buddy. Faster is individual. It’s a race against your own weakness and flaws, not necessarily times. It is futile to compare oneself with others. There are too many variables. The race against yourself is the only fair fight you’ll ever get, and maybe the hardest to win. Faster is the underdog triumph of yourself over yourself.

Faster is authentic. It bubbles up from within instead of being applied from the outside. Much of our experiences in today’s world are manufactured. Movies. Television. Theme Parks. Mainstream Media. Artificial happiness painted on plastic actresses. Second-hand lives empty on vicarious living. Faster is not vicarious. It isn’t watching or reading about. It can only be achieved as a first-person experience. Faster is an emotion. It shares the primordial clay from which things like joy and love and exhilaration are sculpted. It is a kiss from a girl way out of your league. It’s a haymaker up-side a bully a whole lot bigger. It’s a home team score in the bottom of the 9th. It is the fleeting grasp of something true, something unsustainable and hopelessly dying. It is the cheating of time. The smearing out of seconds over minutes and days, sometimes years.

Faster is riding without regret. It is leaving everything you have out on the trail and arriving at the bottom with nothing left except yourself. Faster is being alive and knowing it.

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