Column: The best time of year for a bike ride is now

'Switchback'

This is the time of year I really feel our local trails become just about flawless. So much of the foliage is changing color… bringing shades of orange, yellow and red almost everywhere your appreciation might choose to find it. There is a bite in the breeze, especially when the sun starts to get low. Leaves carpet the ground making that wonderful crinkle and flutter as you roll over them, forcing you to guess at the terrain disguised beneath.

As with most bike enthusiasts, I have never really been able to limit myself to just one. I have a carbon suspension bike, a full on adventure fatbike and a steel singlespeed…. just to name a few. They all have their place, and they all excel in one way or another. However one fits the mindset of fall just slightly better than the rest.

The pure simplicity of a bike with no gadgets partners effortlessly with the changing timber. This bike has no derailleurs, no height adjusting seatpost and zero suspension. It’s comfortable, quiet and uncontaminated by technology. Stripped down of everything, even paint. It’s raw and unapologetically beautiful. One gear, two wheels and the minimum required to hold it all together.

Looking up at the naked trees only a few lonely leaves persist. As the wind builds they will slowly fall, enjoying their last performance with gravity until coming to rest. A dimly clouded sun seems to show respect to what was once sheltered below as the bare branches draw new found lines in shadow. Tones of gray and brown dominate and whatever splashes of color remain are muted from their former glory. Winter is coming as the forest begins to hibernate.

Two wheels crunch across the roots and gravel. The honey dirt smell is unmistakable as once obstructed summit views now open wide. I begin to wonder how many days might be left before the ground turns frozen white and what’s left of the trickling streams and sleepy ponds are turned to glass. There is a hush one can almost feel.

This is the purity that is mountain biking. Not about the speed but the connection. No longer about the destination but instead involving one’s self in the surroundings. Taking it all in. The joy of concentrating on the now and being present. To climb, to breath, to flow, to fight and conquer as well as to relax and drift.

I write these words not to encourage those that may read them to get another bike. It is tempting after all to think that a different geometry or suspension or frame material might improve the experience of being outdoors. Instead, I write this to encourage people to appreciate the bike they have.

To enjoy what it does well just as much as what it might struggle with.

Ultimately when looking back on the best rides and places I have seen from the saddle I realize it was never about what the bike was by itself, but what I became when on the bike.

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