Ed Note — MTBTP (Mountain Bike Trailer Park) is a new Dirt Rag column written by Uncle Dan that will appear about about twice/month. We scraped him off the walls of the interwebs after he attended Dirt Rag Dirt Fest in 2016 and wrote a funny story about it. Seems like a good guy. Hope you enjoy.
Ok, so let’s talk about expectations.
You ever have a fruit cup from a grocery store or coffee shop? Ever notice that they put, like, two strawberries on top and a couple of slices of pineapple? Looks good, right? But once you dig beneath the good fruit, what’s underneath? Fucking honeydew and grapes. Really, the cup is like 80 percent honeydew and grapes. Who likes honeydew? I mean, really. It’s like the cucumber of fruits. But you paid for the whole cup, right? What are you going to do, throw half of it away?
Personally, I have learned to enjoy the honeydew.
At this point, if you’re still reading, you may be wondering whether Dirt Rag has switched from covering MTB to covering melons and tree fruits. What does any of this have to do with bikes, you may be wondering? Bear with me, friend. I have a season and a half of mountain bike racing behind me. I have learned a lot from both honeydew and racing, mainly that I suck.
That’s right, I suck.
Last year, I raced as a novice. It was my fourth or fifth year riding mountain bikes, but I had never raced before. To my surprise, I won my category in the local Ohio race series (best overall points after five races). I know what you’re thinking: “There’s mountain biking in Ohio?” Yes. Yes there is. And some of it is pretty awesome too. But that’s a subject for another day.
Anyhow, this year, I took a big plunge and moved up a category and added some bigger, endurance races.
I didn’t really know what to expect. I knew that I had been training hard, and I knew my times on many of the trails. But it’s tough to compare a Strava ride to race day. Conditions, competition, nerves and other variables will all affect your performance. And other excuses, too. Still, I had high hopes that I might nab a podium or two this year. Boy, was I in for a surprise.
So far, in almost all of my races, I have finished in the middle third. That is, not in the top 33 percent or the bottom 33 percent, but somewhere in the middle. In the fruit cup of racing, I am the fucking honeydew. So, what to do about it? Get mad? Well, I’m kind of used to being the honeydew in other areas of life.
I am, like many of you, not a professional mountain biker. I have a desk job. I’m not living in a van, riding from adventure to adventure. I have a wife and kids, a lawn to mow and a mortgage to pay. Like most of you, I don’t live in Sedona, Arizona, or Brevard, North Carolina, or Moab, Utah, or Wherever, Colorado, where the trails are all RAD. Nope, I live in the Midwest. I’m guessing a lot of you are nodding your heads right now. You relate—my story probably sounds a lot like yours.
Guess what? You’re the honeydew, too.
And, as a mid-category racer, in the 40-45 year old division, I am often in the biggest group at the race. There’s a lot of fit, middle-aged guys around, it seems. That’s not all bad. I mean, we are the bike industry’s target demographic. So, they’re constantly making stuff they think we will like. And most of us have money to buy it and the time to play. My job allows me to buy bikes and I get enough time to race and to travel to awesome places to ride.
Plus, the world needs honeydew. The Moab slickrock wouldn’t be mind-blowing if it was just the same in Ohio. Watching Julien Absalon and Emily Batty wouldn’t be so sweet if we could all ride like them. If a fruit cup contained only pineapple, we’d get tired of pineapple before we finished the cup. We need the honeydew to appreciate the pineapple.
Not that recognition of this fact makes it better. I don’t want to be honeydew. It stings a little that I’m not as awesome at mountain biking as I am at my day job. My approach is to embrace the suck. I could be—and have been—mad about my finishing time and frustrated on the trail.
But how short-sighted is that? Better to enjoy the ride. A day in the woods beats a day at the desk every time. Might as well have fun. And even if I don’t win, I can’t wait to get out there and set a new personal record. Grinning the whole time. Be brave and eat your honeydew.