Editor’s note: Sal Ruibal covered endurance sports for USA Today for more than 20 years, including more Olympic Games, Tours de France and other sports than he’s probably like to admit. In 2007 he was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame for his coverage of a sport that had previously been considered too far outside the mainstream. Now he has offered his services to Dirt Rag. We couldn’t be happier.
Crashing on the couch
By Sal Ruibal
I’ve been a big fan of Dirt Rag almost as long as I’ve been riding mountain bikes, which started in 1995 when I was preparing to report on the first-ever MTB events at the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta for USA Today.
Something about the East Coast mud-roots-rocks perspective of the mag resonated with me and I would greet every issue with a big smile, like seeing an old friend standing on my front porch.
Today, it is me standing on the virtual front porch of Dirt Rag, a duffle bag in one hand and a six-pack of Duvel in the other.
After 23 years at USA Today, my job ended and I suddenly had the time and reason to figure out life after corporate journalism. I’m not sure where that search is headed, but the first step is what I call my “Crashing on Your Couch Tour.” No, I’m not sleeping on Mo’s sofa or pitching a tent in Karl’s backyard, but my Sal Bike Blog is traveling around the cycling world one couch at a time.
DR is as close to a second home as I’ve ever had for my words, publishing some of my short stories and poems under my non-corporate nome de plume of Nick Verstain. I consider that work some of the best I’ve done, ever. And the people at DR are some of the best friends I’ve ever had.
We’ve shared campgrounds and beers at Canaan, Snowshoe, Big Bear WV and other race venues. I’ve worn DR colors at a few races, honoring the place the magazine has earned in the hearts of true mountain bikers.
When I was inducted into the Mountain Bike Hall of Fame in 2007, I was sad because I had to be in China covering the women’s soccer World Cup while my closest bike friends were in Vegas for the ceremony. I was feeling sorry for myself, but then my cellphone rang in my Shanghai hotel room. My friends were calling from the ceremonies to congratulate me.
That’s the spirit of mountain biking and the spirit of Dirt Rag: Sharing fun with your friends in the places you love.
Like a good guest, I promise not to make a mess or drink the last beer in the fridge. I come bearing the gifts of a life spent behind a keyboard and a handlebar, stories and experiences that are never diminished by the telling, passing person to person around the campfire.
Mountain biking is my life. Being able to write about it is frosting on the cake. Crashing on Dirt Rag’s couch is as good as it gets.