A couple of weeks ago, I set out on a Christmas Eve ride in one of my favorite playgrounds: Haywood County, North Carolina. Spirits buoyed by sunny skies and armed with a frame bag stuffed with extra clothes, I set off on an ambitious loop, starting with a climb up to Max Patch at 4,600. Unfortunately, I forgot to add that elevation into my weather calculus, and as I ascended the mountain, an inch of snow became two, then three, then four, eventually morphing into the frozen double ruts of yesterday’s cars.
As I packed my Ryan Knapp special road cleats with ice for the next fifteen miles while narrowly catching myself before innumerable slideouts, I kept remarking on the “epic” nature of the ride. There’s often a fine line between epic and dangerous, and I know I stuck a toe onto the sketchy side. As racers, we take pride in pushing our limits, but it’s important to do so in a productive way. I could easily have crashed and ended my season before it began. I put myself in unnecessary physical danger, way out in the woods. So, while I was able to make it through the ice and finish the ride safely, it’s important to acknowledge the privilege of health and being able to ride bikes.
I’ve spent so much time in various layoffs (both by chance and poor decisions) that I really treasure my time on the bike and don’t want to risk it to seem cool. That’s my takeaway on EPIC rides: do cool stuff, take pictures, tell your friends, but remember to keep your safety as the priority, and don’t intentionally involve yourself in unnecessary risk. Slap those blinky lights on the bike, wear bright clothing, and ride disc brakes ;).