Mike Best is the creator of BOCOMO Bikes. Mike fills his free time by building custom steel creations in his basement. This post was originally published on the Columbia Missouri Cycling Cooperative website, which can be found here.
The waning light of the crisp autumn day is beginning to sink beyond the horizon. I’m undeterred. My pulse quickens as I scurry to change from khakis to spandex while tucked in a corner of the trailhead parking lot. Mentally astute, I run the checklist of essentials, as I do the bib short dance and click into my carbon tap shoes. There’s no time for a preflight check today; pressures, chain lube, loose bolts will be assessed tomorrow. My window of opportunity is small, and every minute counts.
Dropping into the first piece of single, I scan the trail, evaluating conditions. Looks promising, I think, as a squirrel narrowly escapes peril and darts up a black oak. Gaining momentum and shifting into the big ring, my breath becomes more labored and rhythmic. I begin to roll. Laid out before my tubeless rubber, the path ahead dips and dives, clear of organic matter and packed tight from a summer of use. Hero dirt, I think, as I hammer through the apex of a particular shifty off camber on the edge of control.
The first bead of sweat shakes loose and grazes the temple of my Oakleys. Fully warmed, I click up a few cogs and begin to crank. Sight lines are narrowing, as tree trunks in my peripheral start to buzz. Compress the fork, pump a flat rock to the left, and settle just beyond the root of a cedar, a full bike length away to the right. I pull up, come back to earth on a wooden bridge just out of a corner and immediately release from gravity again, only to flat land into a perfectly timed pedal stroke. It’s on.
My window is beginning to close. With only 15 minutes left in my hour of bliss, the available rays are scarce. Pushing on, I feel the stresses of the day release, work deadlines fade, and my vision sharpen. I know I’m alive because I can hear my heart beating. I’m in the zone every rider seeks: a singular focus with shrewd attention. My movements are fluid, purposeful, and precise. Man and machine working in harmony. Pure heaven.
I roll into the parking lot just as the last glimpse of the sun disappears, and I reflect for a few breaths. In a hundred hours of saddle time, you average just one this gratifying. A moment where all the variables of the situation come together in a perfect equation — where trail conditions, bike setup, and physical ability gel to create a masterpiece that clears the mind and returns a balanced self. This is how I stay balanced. How do you?
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