Essay: Inspiration in old yet unfamiliar places

Words by Stevil Kinevil

For the sake of full disclosure, the last couple of years of riding mountain bikes just hasn’t stoked the same sort of internal flame that it had over the course of my existence aboard knobby tires. This is due in large part to a fairly catastrophic knee injury I experienced back in 2015. My legs have had more hair on them than they have in the past 30 years, and the scar tissue that creates a zigzagged map across them had begun to soften as well. This isn’t to say I’d stopped riding, mind you. I had just misplaced the spark, which more often than not ignited my internal powder keg to go out on a daily basis, throw caution to the wind and get dirty.

Certainly the injury worked against me mentally, in terms of pressing my luck and riding sections of trail that most reasonable folks might not. I had a lot of conversations with myself regarding risk versus reward, which at least a portion of the time would result in walking a section instead of attempting it and potentially wrecking myself all over again. Though I wasn’t happy about the development, I’d assumed that this new and moderately timid person staring back at me from the mirror was who I’d become. If straying from occasional challenges I’d come across on the trail meant I’d be guaranteed to ride again the next day, well, I guessed that was how it was going to be. This was an unpleasant constant that in some instances I actually fantasized about engaging in hypnotherapy to remedy.

All of that changed in early August, when I was invited by some friends to spend a week riding in my home state of Colorado. Returning to the place where I’d had a number of formative experiences on a mountain bike basically threw my entire plan of risk assessment out the window, and within 24 hours of riding the rocky chutes and forested singletrack of the Front Range, much like Stella before me, I’d gotten my groove back.

This was no more evident than when I’d headed to my beloved hometown and taken one of my hosts to a trail network on which I’d spent my early years first playing in the woods sans bike and later almost exclusively aboard one. Deeply breathing the thin mountain air into my lungs and railing across ribbons of considerably more-technical trail than my tires had seen in some time, any caution I might have previously practiced was entirely abandoned, and I rediscovered that skill set and nerve I thought had been lost forever.

Where had the mountain biker I used to be been hiding, and why was it here in the most familiar of places that he decided to return with such a vengeance? Sometimes it’s best not to ask why, to simply embrace the hand that’s been dealt, which is precisely what I’ve done.

Author Thomas Wolfe once famously said that one can never go home again. Perhaps when applied to social engagement, relationships with family and re-immersion into one’s own history, this might be true. However, when it came to finally reuniting with the mountain biker I’d feared had left me for good, it truly was exactly where I needed to go.

Photo by Joe McManus

This piece originally appeared in Dirt Rag 201 as part of the SWTPYITFB column penned by Stevil Kinevil. Subscribe today to be the first to get content like this delivered in print six times a year, and while you’re at it, sign up for our weekly email newsletter to get the latest web stories in your inbox every Tuesday! 

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