I Used to Ride Bikes. A Lot. (Guest Post by Matt O’Rourke)

My dear friend Matt O’Rourke wrote this earlier this week and nearly made my little bicycle heart break with longing and happiness. He has kindly agreed to let me publish it here as a guest post.

Matt and I are old buddies from my advertising days in San Francisco. We reunited a few years ago after too long apart. We met on the slopes of Mt Diablo and he pushed a ridiculous corn-cob up the grade with some crazy monster truck force. I made a video. We ate ribs and bacon cheeseburgers afterward. We laughed and drank whiskey from a flask that looked like a 1980′s cell phone.

I can’t wait to make the call again with you soon, Matty. xo

For a good time (and more F bombs than you know what to do with), follow him on twitter.

I Used to Ride Bikes. A Lot.

I rode them hundreds of miles at a time.
Through cities.
And suburbs.
And countrysides.
Through foothills.
And up big hills, with names like Diablo, and Ventoux, and Tam, and Spooner, and Rose and Gieger.

I rode a lot of bikes.
Pretty little Italian ones.
Noodley steel ones.
Buttery titanium ones.
Ass crushing, stiff as fuck, straight as an arrow aluminum ones.
Funny looking carbon ones.
Rusty old stolen ones.
I loved them all.
I rode them every where.
And with some of the most beautiful people in the world.

I’ve had conversations on bikes that could never happen anywhere else.
I’ve built relationships on bikes that have never faltered.
Some of my best friends in the world are exactly that because of the hundreds of hours of shared pain and joy and introspection that people can only have riding side by side in sun and rain and mud and snow.

Bicycle friends use their precious water to wash rocks out of road rash while you call them English words like cunt and twat, and try not to hit them.
Bicycle friends hand each other wheels mid-race because they’d rather finish with you than make the top 10 without you.
Bicycle friends wait for you when you’re falling apart, and understand on those special days when your legs are like those of a wild pony on meth, and you just have to keep jumping, and you’ll see them on the top, and you’re sorry, but it just feels so, fucking, good to go and go and go.
Bicycle friends are born of a place a place no one else can have.

But bicycle friends are only half of the equation.

The solitude one finds on a bike can bring a balance unlike any other.
A $300 an hour therapist’s couch has nothing on a rock hard saddle guaranteed to make your beans cry.

A few years ago my life went completely off the rails.
It didn’t just take a turn for the worse – It was more like complete and total, self-induced, nuclear annihilation of the purest and best parts of who I am.
It was my own doing, and I regret it more than I could ever put into words, but the point (in this particular little dissection) is I put my bikes away.
Not completely, but for the most part, away.

I got caught up in trying to make my life make sense, and in doing so I put away the things that had always made it all so easy to understand.
My two wheeled counterweights went to the wayside – wheels off, saddles down, in the corner, next to vacuum, behind a pile of work and life.
Of course life is never black and white – I had little moments of pulling the Merlin out for a ride every 8 months or so, or hitting the bars on the Bologna.
And yes it felt amazing, every, fucking, time.
But really, those were just tastes. A bit like quitting drinking for a week – false moments of reassurance that I hadn’t lost it completely, when in truth, I hadn’t had it in years.

I tried all kinds of things to make my life make tidy sense again.
I swore off certain people.
I leaned into others.
I talked to shrinks and read terrible self help books.
I tricked my brain with all kinds of new people and things.
All in this desperate effort to get back to a place that could make me whole again.
And my bikes were always there, in the corner, for the taking.

I’m not claiming my bicycles are the answers to all of my life’s problems.
They’re not the answers at all.
They’re just vehicles.
Vehicles to hundreds of hours of time I will never find anywhere else.
Time to figure it all out.
Alone sometimes.
And with beautiful friends other times.

I put the Merlin back together yesterday.
It’s in the garage.
Shining, and oily, and patiently waiting.
And I’m going to go ride it.
I’m going to go ride it until it all starts making sense again.
And then, I’m going to keep riding it.
I’m not making that mistake again.

Burr Purnell, Nenad Rodic, Jaffa Prince, Heidi Swift, Sal, Al D, Itts, and all the rest of my bike friends:

I cannot wait to be side by side with you, figuring it all out. Again.

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9 comments

  1. Lovely, beautiful honesty. Thank you for putting into words that which many of us have felt.

  2. Absolutely beautiful post. Just the thing for making me want to ride my bike to work in sub-freezing weather. Thanks to your friend for sharing it here.

  3. The ox is slow, but the earth is patient.
    Bikes, bless them, are patient too.
    Ride.
    Sometimes… no. Most of the time, it is all that makes sense.
    Keep pedaling, it will get better*.

    *Thanks always to Kent P. for voicing that thought.

  4. Burr Purnell

    Poetry. Lets ride.

  5. This resonates with me so much. It’s nice to know that I am
    not the only one who loses their way from time to time. Here’s to
    much more glorious riding in 2011. Thank you.

  6. Most of this strikes a chord with me. I too used to ride bikes. A lot. And it was definitely therapy. But then I tried to be pro and ended up spending several years as a Cat. 1 getting my butt handed to me by the pros. Now I’m just bitter about the massive quantities of time I spent alone on the road.

    I still love cycling and look back on much of it fondly. The therapy and friends I made are awesome. I would claim that I’m not going to ride again anytime soon, but then I read posts like this and my feelings become more mixed.

    Thanks for keeping me confused.

  7. Matt…GREAT reflection of why we all spend so many hours on the bike. I’ve already sent it to many of my friends.

    Thank you…

  8. This just makes me yearn for my bike and an open road…ah the romance of place and people and time.

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