|The black speck at the crest is Lee|
By any standard of measurement, riding to the summit of Tiger Mountain is difficult. From the upper parking lot the ascent is over 4 miles on a loose-gravel service road. The incline is relentless and constant, there are no flat or downhill breaks from the 30 degree ascent, in fact, the only change comes when it actually gets steeper. It takes over an hour to gain over 1700 feet of elevation, pedaling the entire time. Which I did not do.
But mountain biking is like that: difficult. When it 's approached with serious devotion, with intent, and in a way that leads to mastery; it's hard, it's painful, it's dangerous and more often than not, it's crashing.
Most of the time a crash is scrapes, bumps, and bruises but sometimes a crash is breaks, blackouts, and permanent damage. Crash, is also the nickname of my best friend and faithful riding companion, Lee. I've been friends with Crash since the 80's but he only just received his mountain bike name this summer.
Ride after ride, he would crash, usually in very spectacular ways but always without drama. He simply gets back on his bike and rides on as if nothing happened.
Consistently crashing on a mountain bike (several times each ride) usually means that the rider is out of their depth, or their skill set is less than the conditions demand, or they quickly find themselves in an unsolvable problem. In Lee's case it's different. Lee crashes not from inability or inexperience; he crashes with intent. That is not to say that he deliberately sets out to go ass-over-tea-kettle. No.
He rides with abandonment and with the idea that every ride is an opportunity to become better, to push himself past his limits, to break his old-self into pieces so he can carry them forward into a place of mastery. This unrelenting effort is difficult to match. Combine all that with his iron will, the endurance of a Kenyan marathoner and the result is that I frequently find myself on rides with him where I watch him disappear ahead of me down the trail without effort.
The ride on Tiger Mountain was a typical ride with Crash. I struggled up the road with everything I had, I dismounted often, I walked my bike (shameful), and I cussed. Not Lee, yeah he struggled too but his determination and tenacity kept his pedals moving when mine stopped. I am reminded of that brutal ride today because we rode 12 crushing miles at Lord Hill this morning and once we started on a trail I saw very little of Crash. Only at crossroads, he'd patiently wait, as if he'd been there all day.
Crash to Master.