I grew up in the small west desert town of Delta Utah. From an early age, I would ride everywhere. I have memories of riding my bike to preschool and kindergarten and getting my homemade MC Hammer type pants stuck in my chain. So I learned the valuable lesson of the “sock tuck” young.
My friends and I would ride to school, after school, and everyday in the summer. All throughout town there were vacant dirt lots that we turned into trails and jumps. If we wanted to find each other, we would just make the rounds to the spots. I never learned any sweet tricks, but I loved catching air and pumping through the tracks. Our little kid bikes soon were updated to BMX style bikes. These BMX bikes turned into bigger air and more injuries. My shins still have multiple scars from the good ol’ days.
Riding a bike was FREEDOM. I could ride to the store up the street, rent a video game and buy a .25 cent mystery soda (sheesh I sound old, right?).
Riding a bike was FUN! I could rally the jumps and fly through the dirt trails all around town. I loved designing and making new jumps. If I close my eyes today, I can still see these jumps and trails in my mind.
Riding a bike was my CONNECTION to my friends. If we weren’t jumping our bikes on the vacant lots, we were riding to go swimming in the canal. We were riding to each other’s houses to play video games. We were riding to the gas station to get candy. Or we were riding, just to ride.
This all changed at the magical age of 16. Even though everything I needed to go to was within probably a two mile radius, I drove everywhere. Because that’s what everyone else did. Only the kids ride their bikes around town.
After high school, I went on a church service mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I went to southern California and I was one of those crazy dudes riding a bike in dress clothes in the heat of the day. I had my first real hard-tail mountain bike and I loved that thing. Zooming through the busy streets, jumping curbs, ollieing over trash, I seriously felt like a kid again. It was during this time that I started to recognize how biking made me feel. I could be missing my family, being yelled at by people, and just overall feeling depressed about life. But once I hopped on my bike and started pedaling, my problems seemed to go away.
There were some major hills in the areas of southern California that I was at. Climbing up them was always a slog, but man oh man, nothing better than bombing down them! I would just fly down them as fast as I could and would feel so free and alive. On our days off, I had a fellow missionary that was into biking and we hit some of my first ever mt. bike trails. I was hooked.
When I was going to college, I didn’t bike much. I would ride around the streets a little with a roommate, but I didn’t fully get back into it because it was just easier and more convenient to drive my car. A few years had gone by, and I started to think about those mt. bike trails I hit in California. I thought, “there has got to be some trails around in the mountains of Utah”. So I got my old hard tail out and started exploring. My mind was blown by how many trails were nearby. On my days off of school and work, I would spend hours in the hills and mountains of Utah County. I started to connect more to nature and feel rejuvenated from the stresses of school and working in the mental health field. I would start researching and looking up more and more trails that I wanted to ride. I soon upgraded my old mt bike to a newer hard tail bike that was still affordable to me. On my new ride, with tall 29er tires, I could tackle any trail.
As I was beginning to bike more on mt bike trails, I wanted to be on my bike more so I started riding to work. My ride was about 8 miles one way. It was an easy ride going to work because it was all downhill. On the way home, in the heat of the day, going back up a long hill…woof. I would be totally exhausted and unavailable to my family because I was so tired. So I did what any “lazy” person would do, I got an ebike. Not just any ebike though, I converted my newer hard tail 29er mt bike into an ebike. Well, I paid a guy, and he converted it.
Having electric assist opened up a whole new world to me. My range significantly increased and I started viewing my bike as another vehicle. I equipped it with baskets so I could haul more stuff easily and I began riding it daily. Any excuse I could make to not ride to work was gone because of the electric assist. Too tired? Too hot? Too cold? I would make little adjustments to my wardrobe and ride. I absolutely love riding it to work. It is the highlight of my day. In just a couple years I put over 3000 miles on my bike and it’s still going strong. There are hard days working as a mental health therapist with teenagers at a youth crisis shelter. But riding to and from work helps me look forward my work days. It helps me process the days events. It helps me deal with my stresses. It just overall improves my mental health.
Since I converted my mt bike to an ebike, I did what any bike junkie would do. I bought another mt bike. Again, I kept it affordable to me by purchasing it second hand. This time around I bought a full suspension with a seat dropper post. These features are definitely not mandatory but they have been sweet. I had also started getting more trail apps for my phone, so that I could find more local trails, as well as plan out fun rides when I go on trips. I had become addicted to researching trails and planning my routes.
I would not say I am an “avid” mountain biker, but I love going. I have a group of cousins that are all similar ages and stages in life. We ride together early in the mornings and plan a yearly trip to somewhere close by. We have done this for a few years now and it has been so fun to renew our relationships with each other through our love of mt biking.
As I type this, I am currently recovering from my second ACL replacement knee surgery. Same knee, six years apart, dang basketball. One thing that is keeping me motivated through my recovery and treatment is getting back on my bike. I even bought my first road bike (second hand), right before my surgery to motivate me through my recovery and to help in my treatment when I am cleared to start riding again. Biking has helped my legs prepare me for surgery, and it will help my legs after surgery. But even more, it has helped my mind. I went on a super long ride (with my torn ACL) a few days before my surgery and just cleared my head and helped prepare me for the road to recovery and how I can ride this out.
So yeah, if you’re keeping track, I have 3 bikes. Sounds ridiculous, because it is, but it’s all good. I have been sharing my love for biking with the kids I work with, as well as many co-workers. I even have a few other co-workers riding to work as well. Many of the kids have said, “I think it is so cool that you ride your bike to work.” My hope is that they see biking as a viable transportation option. Not just now, but when they are old enough to drive too. It is so rewarding riding on the bike path to work, and being around so many other bikers as we ride along to go about our day. There is this sense of community when I see fellow riders. Whether they are e-bikers, road bikers, mt. bikers, we are all still riders enjoying the same benefits for our physical and mental wellness as we enjoy the ride together.
My wife Stacy also loves biking so it has been fun to pass that love down to our boys too. We bought a cargo ebike so we can haul the boys around. We have put over 2,000 miles on it and it has become another vehicle for us. Stacy will load up the boys and ride to the school, parks, library, store, and just about anywhere. Some of the funnest rides I have been on have been with my little family, just around town. We have been saying that besides buying our house, our ebikes have been the best purchases we have ever made. They have completely changed our lifestyle.
I’m excited to start this path of ridethisout.com and share my experiences of biking and mental health. I’m also excited to hear the stories of many others as we build this community together and promote wellness through biking. Let’s re-connect to the joy that we all felt as kids riding bikes. Let’s promote mental and physical wellness through riding. Let’s connect to each other’s stories and encourage others to join in.
Lets ride this out!