I was sitting outside jamming a burrito in my face at Chipotle the other day, when I heard a loud rap on the window next to me. It was my old mountain biking buddy Bob Anderson harassing me again and we sat together and laughed about the old riding days. Back when I started mountain biking, I had an entry level bike with no shocks( they were not invented yet). A couple of road cycling friends got MTBs too and we began to explore the horse trails in North Park much to the chagrin of the equestrians who reported us to the police. Undaunted, we tried to get together as much as we could and one of the regular nights that fit everyone’s schedule was Tuesday night. I was always an organizer so I contacted my group and we began to ride regularly. Soon the word spread at the Month of Mud Races that there was a “training” ride on Tuesday nights led by yours truly. I am here to tell you that the original intent of the ride was exploration and fun and not a “training” ride. But since we were dabbling in racing at the Month of Mud Races and the Hidden Valley spring and fall races, some guys started to show up and the next thing we knew was that the pace of the ride accelerated with each passing week.
Fast forward, Chuck Greenlee and the Greenlee Mountain Bikes crowd started to show up with some pretty fast guys. They adopted me to race in their Vet and Masters Team and began to treat my ride as the official Greenlee’s weekly training ride. Really fast riders started to come like Bob Anderson, Chuck Greenlee, Jonathan Moran, EJ Sigety,Eric Sauereisen,Frankie Ross,Diane Blackburn,Steve Wahlenmeyer, and a host of other characters. Ed DeLuca came and was so fit he looked like he could explode right out of his skin suit. The guy was ripped and still is to this day. Ed rides a single speed today and still races the most difficult MTB races on the local schedule. We even started to see guys and gals from West Virginia and Seven Springs. It was becoming somewhat of a cult ride and the funny thing is that I organized it every week and was quickly becoming one of the weaker riders. My M.O. has always been to bring people into the sport and watch them eventually get stronger and kill me on every ride. The story of my life. The only reason they put up with me was because I kept them entertained with my inane stories and jokes along the trail. They were serious racers and I have always been a serious joker.
Each week my group of normal guys like Bill Belch, Master Plumber Supreme, George Sagan, and some other North Park specials were being pounded on the first hill by all these incredibly fast guys who had taken over my Tuesday Night Ride. People used to think I must have been really strong to ride with these guys when they really did not know my secret weapon………….the short cut. You see, I know every stone in North Park and when the pace became insanely fast and all these guys tried to beat each others brains in on the climb in the Nature Center, I would lead my little band of mortals up the climb to the North Park Lodge where we would stop, have a drink, catch our breath and wait for the thundering herd to come up the hill. Rested and hydrated, I would look at the group and say,” Here they come………..the pain continues.” We would be abused by the group for cutting the route but I looked at some of them and said that I had socks older than them. They would laugh, Bob A would abuse me personally and we would laugh as they inflicted more pain on us until…………..the next short cut. All in all, on the two hour sufferfest, I had about three bona fide hydrating, heart rate reducing, short cuts which kept us in the game. At the end, we had been pushed close to our limits but since we took some “liberties” we were at least able to ride most of the ride behind the fast guys and feel like we were still part of ……..”My Ride!!!!” The nerve of these guys taking over what had begun as an exploratory mission on new steeds of steel. I am proud to say that this ride continued and grew for close to 15 years until guys got married, had kids, had to attend to soccer games and baseball games like me which forced my riding during the week to 4:30 AM. The Tuesday Night ride started to fade with responsibilities and schedules. But it will be forever etched in the minds of all who took part. The interesting thing is now guys are starting to return because their children are raised and they have a little more time on their hands. I see some of the old Greenlees jersies on the trails and along with the younger,faster, Dirty Harry’s crowd, some of us old veterans can relive our youth watching the young guns ride up the trails at lighning speed ahead of us. But, I still know those old short cuts and the 58 year old kid and his pals can hang in there if we indulge ourselves. Age and treachery can sometimes beat youth and skill…………but not too often. Mountain Bike technology has come a long way and equipment can always keep you in the game. But the memories of the infamous Tuesday Night Ride live forever in my mind as I trace those old routes that have been worn in with the riders of time.
We all need to push ourselves in this world. I can say with certainty that my group of mortals became much better riders because the good guys pushed us out of our comfort zone. I see this all the time as people become involved in a sport and have a friend or friends that hold them accountable to ride each week. Whether it is with work, relationships, sporting pursuits, or whatever stirs your blood, don’t be afraid to push yourself. A good group can help you but take the initiative to work hard and improve. You can even do it at my age. Remember…..the older I get……..the better I was. Thanks again for reading.