I'll tell you, but first, go crack open a cold one and put up your feet. This story goes back a ways.
Like most love affairs, it began with a serendipitous introduction. For me, it was being buckled into a child's seat on the back of my dad's bike as an infant. We lived in a mid-size suburban town and since before I can remember, my parents would strap me into the seat, load up my older brother and sister and we'd all pedal to the park for an afternoon of sunshine.
I think I was born with wind on my face.
As soon as I was old enough, my dad put me on a Big Wheel. After that, it was a big red metal tricycle, followed by a hand-me-down bike with training wheels from my sister.
Weekends, afternoons, and whole days were spent ripping around on the tricycle, and I'd back it up next to my little sister's matching rig so we could color as buddies.
When I was finally ready to ditch the 'baby wheels' (as I called them), my parents fixed up a cousin's bike and painted it pink for me in the basement of our house, then gave it to me for my birthday. Dad gave me a push and WHOOOOOSH... That was only the beginning.
Barefoot and grinning, I'd tear around the neighborhood like a bat out of hell, offering rides to anyone who dared accept, boosting about with someone (usually my little sister) propped up on my handlebars and grinning like a fool.
After we moved to a small, quaint horse town in central Utah, bikes played an even larger role -- from summertime lake jump hucks to Popsicle trips to the convenience store about 2 miles down the road -- bikes meant freedom. It was more than a source of transportation... It was love.
It was adventure and speed, as I'd learn years later as a teenager in an outdoors immersion class, after being repeatedly scolded about sticking with the group and not going so fast.
I never did quite figure that particular lesson out.
But larger than my drive for competition or my hunger for speeding down a trail was my need for exploration and discovery... Of the world and myself. I love bikes because they gave me the answer to both.
Bikes (and mountain bikes in particular) touch a place inside all of us... The freedom of our own power, the courage to try anything once, the confidence to go at things again and fight through the uphills and the technicalities. Mountains don't move, and we can't just give up in the middle of a trail. We can't fake it, we can't force it, and the bike won't work without effort on our part.
Riding bikes is beautiful because we're never too good to learn. There's always room to improve; a new challenge, a new obstacle. We never stop growing and changing and becoming.
There's always a reason to climb on a bike and head out, like dry corners and dust in my teeth, or the wet squelch of my tires on a rainy day. It's the way the bike moves underneath me, ebbing and flowing and pulsing and dancing. It's a partnership. It's the flow, and the smile, and the wind in my hair. It's sunrises and sunsets and the sweaty exhaustion of a day spent in the sun and the dirt, or the wet and the mud. It's the heartbreak of a tough ride when nothing goes right and the glow of a good one when nothing can go wrong. It's high fives with my friends, and post-ride beers with the boys, and farts and road trips and laughs and inside jokes and heckles and cheers. It's LIFE. All wrapped up in the best adventure in the world.
It's a give-give-give relationship, and nothing will take more from me than my love of riding... It's not a bad thing. Because for everything I give to ride, I gain twice as much.
Obsession? Maybe. Love? Definitely.
But it's a love affair that will never end.