I have been regularly riding mountain bikes now for about two years. As a matter of fact, I just celebrated the two year anniversary of my dirt shredding and general adventure- seeking- cycling- endeavors. Happy anniversary to me! Hold on. I guess it should really be “happy anniversary to usThis journey that I have experienced has not been traveled alone (thank goodness!). In many ways it has been a community experience and a community adventure. This trip has not been for the faint of heart or the weak minded. Trust me, riding a bike over hill and dale does not always (or ever, if we’re being honest) come naturally for me. Getting to the place I am now (which again, is not saying much) has taken patience, determination, lots of encouragement and many (MANY) hours of slow, painful, hike-a-bikes. Most importantly though, this effort has taken a tough, forgiving, kind and generous companion.

(If you’re not the sappy-loveydovey-blog-reading type, you should probably skip this post in its entirety and just wait for Gordon to take away my contributor’s rights so you won’t have to read any more of my ramblings.)

I found her exactly two years ago waiting for a new home and loving mother who would afford many hours of attention and exercise. She came nameless. Without a story. We were perfect for each other and I adopted, called her “Olive” and without having any idea of the things to come, we set out on our lives together, me being completely illiterate about mountain biking and her being the seasoned and protective companion to my blissful ignorance.

In case anyone was wondering, mountain biking is hard! It is particularly hard having had no experience on two wheels in the forest ever before. I would just like to say though, that our initial trip into the unknown was epic. Approximately halfway through the ride we came to a very large creek (sometimes called a raging river for the sake of the story) and halfway through, I dutifully stopped (otherwise known as- fell over) and christened (through complete submersion) my sweet Olive (and myself) in the mud and silt and water. It was cold and I was horrified and embarrassed at my incompetence, but, that initial journey has somehow, some way propelled me to where I find myself today.

Since bringing Olive home with me, she has been unbreakable. Through hundred mile mud fests, rough, backcountry, bike-eating ridgelines, technical and exhausting climbs and descents, and crazy cross mania, Olive has persevered and only ever reprimanded me with a handful of flats (most of which I deserved) and a couple of busted chains. While I jokingly refer to her as a “precious angel” she is anything but delicate or sensitive. She is a work horse that happily shows up to the job every day ready to put up with the hardships of bearing my novice leadership and wild roaming. In a strange way, I find myself wishing to be more like her as I write this. Faithful. Generous without reason. Trustworthy despite tough conditions. Tireless in the pursuit of good things even though surrounded by barriers. Forgiving. Unshakable when faced with shitty situations. Slow to anger. A companion.  A good friend. Unbreakable.

In two years, Olive and I have done a lot. Things I never dreamed I would do. Things I never thought I was capable of doing. I have found such a sweet community through that little bike. Communities like the illusive and yet wildly distinct Moonstompers of SWVA, the Blue Ridge Cyclery family, lifelong friends in the Blacksburg area who include the “Bears”, Adam Walker (who dragged me through more than his fair share of my hike-a-bike experiences), Chris and Mary Dobroth, AJ Kray, Wyatt Lifsey, Caitlin Rivers, and many more. Most importantly, Olive helped me find my partner who just happens to be the primary author of this blog, Gordon W. Wadsworth. I will forever be grateful and so tremendously thankful to her for that. So much has changed and improved in my life because of a bike that by all accounts is too old, too small, too heavy and too outdated to do the things we’ve done together. Despite this, I adore her and Olive has continued to be a giver of good gifts. She is my most treasured material possession and I am so stoked for another year of growing in this awesome community with this special little bike. And maybe (if I can ever motivate to spend more than 15 minutes on the trainer), sometime in the coming season, we’ll get to stand on a couple more mountain tops, a couple more ridge lines, a couple more hike-a-bikes, a couple more podiums together in celebration of the good gifts we’ve received and the good gift we are able to reciprocate.