Posturing Ain’t Pretty (and Other Desert Teachings)
The area around Hurricane, Utah is a tumultuous riot of steep, rolling rock, an outdoor playground. The expansive views and fine winter weather create a dream destination for desert lovers, including mountain bikers sick of snowy home trails.
In January 2020 P.C. (pre-COVID), I’d journeyed to the desert with my friends Paul and Eric in search of sunshine and temps over 35 degrees. I’d quickly figured out how to pronounce Hurricane – Hurr-UH-CUN – and so far the only trip negative was Paul’s penchant for hiding in surprising places and scaring the bejeebus out of me, an immaturity battle I quickly escalated. (Eric wisely steered clear of our asinine antics.)
However, I generally prefer my heart-palpitating moments on a mountain bike. (Earmuffs, mom.) To that end, we beat my bike rack to death on the rutted dirt road to Gooseberry Mesa, a fabulous piece of terrain overlooking the surrounding valleys. Astride our bikes, we pedaled the undulating terrain, a natural skatepark for bikes.
At the bottom of a particularly steep rock, three guys – clearly experienced, with all the cool gear – were “sessioning” or repeating (and failing) the same move. As I rode up, a break in the action presented itself, so I gave it some gas and clawed up it.
I stopped at the top and one of the trio yelled, “Hey, have you ridden this before?”
“Nope. I’m from Oregon.”
“What kind of tires you got?”
Commence excuses. Justifications. Posturing. Typical tough guy BS reinforced starting in childhood. Anything to help these three guys feel ok that I, a root and dirt rider from the PNW, might waltz onto their terrain and ride something they couldn’t.
Paul and I exchanged glances as the guys spouted excuses – one had tired legs, another was on a new bike, and of course one owned the wrong tires. It was like I’d grabbed their ego voodoo dolls as I pedaled by, then smashed them in my Magic DHF Tread.
Never mind that Minion DHFs are best known for loose, wet terrain, NOT for rocks. If I’d sported Teflon tires, these guys would have said I could slide my way up the rock.
We left their empty excuses behind us and vamoosed to the viewpoint. Enjoying lunch with a spectacular vista, we forgot the guys…until they rolled up again. Sigh.
One of them immediately blurted, “I rode it.” It wasn’t genuine pride: it was an ego looking for affirmation. I pictured a kid seeking a gold star.
In the inimitable fashion of posturing males (takes one to know one), the guys blathered on about their trip. Paul, who suffers no fools, pointedly walked away to enjoy the view and his PBJ in silence. I briefly hoped he’d turn around and scare the crap out of the guys, but social decorum prevailed.
Luckily, they left soon enough, echoes of excuses and pathetic tire tread marks the only proof of the brief interlude. Well, that and our laughter at their ridiculous comments. We adopted “If only I had a DHF” for any mistake for the rest of the trip, on the bike or off.
Even with the sour aftertaste, I love experiences like this for an opportunity to learn. Those three riders remind me to steer clear of a) excuses, especially to random strangers, and b) posturing versus letting performance speak for itself.
All a work in progress for me depending on the day. I’m not perfect and will slip up, so perhaps I need a frequent reminder of this 15-minute episode in the desert.
I’m hoping that tattooing ‘DHF’ on my forearm will suffice.