Confession: I started mountain biking to impress my boyfriend.

Irreverent Advice #2: Sometimes, it’s okay to flirt the same way you did when you were twelve. Sometimes, it’s okay to kick a little ass in order to get the attention of the person you’ve been crushing on forever.

As climbing partners, my boyfriend and I just weren’t that compatible. He loves bouldering and sport climbing. I hate bouldering and sport climbing. I would like to climb splitter cracks all day. He finds splitters to be a little boring. I would like to spend all of my vacation time climbing easy routes in the alpine and getting hammered by wind, rain and snow. He gets cold too easily to really enjoy those kinds of adventures. 

We are both cold, and about to bail, on Prussik Peak in Washington.

I tried sport climbing and bouldering–I really did–but it made me miserable. The thought of being dumped for a long-legged, flexible, barbie-doll-gymnast sport climber infuriated me. My quadzillas (that’s short for Godzilla-like thighs), and painfully tight hip flexors, have always taunted me with a bit of an inferiority complex–combined, obviously, with an unhealthy amount of competitive spirit. So, I racked my brain for ways to divert my boyfriend’s attention from the gym-climbing goddesses in town. Here’s what I remembered working for me in similar situations in the past:

1. In fifth grade, I slide tackled Joel during soccer practice, and despite giving him the worse Charlie horse of his life, he asked me to be his girlfriend.

2. In sixth grade, while sitting in the back of the class, I ripped a bruised and dead toenail off my foot and threw it at the back of Matt’s head. Everyone in class burst out laughing–except for the teacher. For punishment, Matt and I were told to sit in the hallway until the end of class. In the hallway, via a note that said circle “Yes” or “No,” Matt asked me to be his girlfriend.

3. In eighth grade, I tricked Stu into asking me out by telling everyone that I would never, ever go out with him.

4. In ninth, tenth and eleventh grade I took a break from these sort of flirting antics.

5. Then, in twelfth grade, I pretended to be interested in the Bible study that a different Stu hosted over the summer…just so that I could dry hump him on the beach afterward. (I’m not super proud of this one. In some ways, it marks the downfall of my flirting tactics over the next ten years).

After reflecting on these past moments of preteen and teenage suave, I decided my best option was to buy a mountain bike. My boyfriend loves mountain biking, and although I’d only ridden a mountain bike once or twice before, I was confident that my quadzillas would be able to keep up with his scrawny legs. At least on the uphill. I was right.

I watched HOW TO BE A MOUNTAIN BIKER to help me act like I knew what I was doing.

So, for part of a spring, and one entire fall, we rode bikes together on days that we didn’t rock climb. Sometimes, after a long, sweaty uphill section, he even kissed me. It was awesome!

But then he started making plans to race the Tour Divide without me. My heart sunk. This was before I owned a dog, so I sobbed into my pillow at night: all I want is to go on adventures with my boyfriend. Why am I not good enough?

He sensed that I was upset. “The Tour Divide is supposed to be an experience of a lifetime,” he tried to explain while we were out on a bike ride one afternoon. This made me feel even worse. But I want to be a part of your experience of a lifetime, I thought as I cried behind my sunglasses.

I can be a bit of an asshole when I’m upset. “Fine,” I said. “I’m going to race too, and beat you.” We didn’t talk for the rest of the ride. I quietly plotted purchasing a nicer mountain bike, registering for a few races in the fall I knew he wanted to do–and beating him.

For motivation, I watched MY GIRLFRIEND IS A MOUNTAIN BIKER.

Our first race together was a small 12 hour event called the Bear Jaw Groove. This is where I have to admit that my boyfriend, despite what a pain in the ass I can be, is surprisingly chivalrous. The week before the race I tried to set the tires up on my bike tubeless. It took me an entire day, and an entire bottle of Stan’s No Tubes sealant (I misunderstood the directions of “2-3 cups” to mean 2-3 actual cups, instead of 2-3 of the little tiny red cups that come with the Stan’s sealant). When my boyfriend came over to look at the mess I had made, he just shook his head: I had put the rear tire on backwards. But he fixed it for me the next day! And helped me replace the valve stem I had broken in the process too.

He beat me in the race, but we did get to ride a few laps together. I really am more sentimental than I am competitive, and just getting to ride a few laps with him was good enough for me. However, the three weeks of precious vacation time he planned to take without me in the spring, to race the Divide, was still on the line. So I talked him into registering for another race with me–the Tour of the White Mountains.

I’d like to brag about how I kicked his ass at this point, but that’s not really fair. He had just come off of working a stretch of night shifts, and I took advantage of the fact that he was tired. We rode the last twenty miles together! I sprinted ahead of him at the finish, but he came in right behind me. It was so cute! And the best part is that he bought me a massage afterward.

Thanks to the presents from my boyfriend on my 30th birthday, I now look like a mountain biker: Crank Brothers hat, Crank brothers sweatshirt and Crank Brothers Pedals.
Thanks to the presents from my boyfriend on my 30th birthday, I now look like a mountain biker: Crank Brothers hat, Crank Brothers sweatshirt and Crank Brothers Pedals.

So far, this plan of mine–learning to mountain bike to get his attention–is really working well. He helped me fix my bike before the last two races (and he wasn’t even in those races!). He helped me replace my cassette, replace my derailleur, replace my chain.

My new derailleur next to the worn out old one.
My awesome boyfriend talked me through the process as he replaced my cassette.

He also bought some really nice Crank Brothers pedals for me.

But the question remains: are we going to race the Divide together? If we do, I need to get another new bike, and learn to do more of the work on it myself–so that he feels like my partner, and not like my support crew. This last part is important, because when I leave him in the dust during the last few days of the race, I’ll feel less like an asshole about it…

In the meantime, I’ll be watching SHIT MOUNTAIN BIKERS SAY, and planning our next ride together.


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