Column: On the trail, energy is a powerful thing

'Switchback'

Energy. You use it to climb, descend and conquer the trail. Be it through your heart pumping, lungs billowing or legs mimicking pistons. It takes additional effort to turn the bars and balance. Even requires a bit of fuel to power your smile.

The great thing about using this energy is how you get it back again later. Numerous rides end with a meal that magically tastes just a bit better than one from the couch. For many this is the reward for burning all those calories in the first place. I have earned many a burrito for my miles.

But where does this energy really go? The power of your muscles transfers through the bike and drives you forward. Allows you to fight gravity or play with it on occasion as your wheels leave the ground. But very quickly this output of power dissipates into the dust below and then traps itself in memories. In a way you exchange the fuel you consume for a thrill or two. It is the loop of exploration and connecting with the world around you.

I have been a bicycle mechanic for over a quarter century. Wrenching on everything from hand me down kid’s bikes to high end wonders that would make a stealth bomber jealous. With every single repair, bolts and screws have been torqued and adjusted. Springs loaded with the proper tension. Cables drawn and set in order for shifting to be as on point as possible. With each little tweak I have locked a small part of my energy into each component on the bike.

My favorite example of this is building a wheel. Generally requiring thirty two individual spokes and nipples to be threaded through the corresponding holes of hub and rim. Gradually each one is hand tensioned until the wheel becomes true and round. This is a complicated process that requires experience. To have a hand built wheel means it has the ability to flex and withstand loads while remaining strong and resistant.

In a way… it is my energy and knowledge that is locked up and held into the countless wheels I have built. With every rotation and rock they roll over all the spokes work together. The spirit I have twisted into the wheel fights back, retains a balance and keeps the bike on track. The essence of the builder remains in the wheel and interacts with all the forces around it. Endlessly… mile after mile drawing a line from the shop across the trail.

We all use energy to live, enjoy, create memories. It is temporary and ultimately fleeting. One of the greatest joys in being a bicycle mechanic for all these years is knowing my energy has helped many riders experience the trail with a bike that responds and behaves as expected. It’s nice to think that all of those spinning wheels still have a small part of me in them while they roll.

Steve Reynolds is a columnist for The Daily Courier. Follow him on Instagram at @Prescottopia. Contact him by email at sportsdesk@prescottaz.com.