Essay: The joy of mountain biking with your dog

By Jeffrey Stern

Climbing the steep pitches, he’s faster than me. Four-wheel (er, leg) drive naturally makes it easier. When the trail flattens and turns into flowy singletrack, we’re about dead even; it’s as if I’m riding with someone who has the same climbing skills as me. When it comes to the technical, ripping downhills, I tend to drop him. But in his world, it’s all good. His tongue almost always touches the ground and his grin is most definitely from ear to floppy ear at every trail intersection, where he’s been taught to stop and wait to receive further route directions.

I’ve learned many lessons from the five dogs I’ve been lucky to have over the course of my thirty-plus years on this planet. They’ve taught me that no matter what happens in life, happiness is actually much simpler than I ever make it out to be. Just sitting, letting the sun warm my face with positive thoughts, is one of the best feelings in life. I learned that from just observing my dogs basking in the afternoon sunlight.

On the trails, these feelings are exuberated. Together, we release all this positive energy out into the world with shouts (or barks in his case) around every bend, through each swooping singletrack section and in the form of high-fives, tailwags and the excited circling of my bike and I when we come to full stop to adjust something. I’m never quick enough to his liking.

My dog reminds me to never forget what it means to just play for the fun of it. “Why do we need to be serious all the time?,” his eyes say to me in not so many words, or any at all. Feeling the joy of life, mountain biking, the great outdoors, unexpected encounters, new trails and adventures is our shared goal. I’m unsure if I could ask for anything more.

Over the years, my dogs have been the one thing constant in the ever changing landscape that is life, school, work and more. Whether it be a cloudy fall morning or a rainy winter day, dogs always shine with all of their light, all of the time. They’re never down in the dumps, unless I am too, and they’re quick to change my attitude and perspective on things. If you’re happy, jump for joy; they’ve always taught me to not hold onto my feelings, it’s fine to be myself even during the times I don’t actually feel like my normal self, physically or mentally.

What’s always been the quickest fix? A mountain bike ride. Nothing washes away my “problems” like a ride. Adding a dog or two is simply icing on the cake.

Mountain biking with my best friend; it doesn’t get any better for me and if I’m good enough at reading his signs, it’s one of his favorite things too. Always go for a ride and bring your dog too; you won’t regret it and they’ll love you all the more for allowing them to share the experience with you.

Leave all your worries behind and collect only the important things from the trail, too.