I jogged in my bike shoes with the couple hundred other riders down the dirt road to the start of the 24 Hours In The Old Pueblo, wondering why I’d volunteered to ride the first lap for my team: I still have a cold. Jesus it’s hot. There are so many people. Wearing lycra. This isn’t my type of thing at all.
Then I saw my friend Chris on the sidelines, sweating in a gorilla suit, minus the head, wearing a Drunk Cyclist jersey.
“Come on,” he said, “we’re gonna do this Tour de France style.” I jumped on my bike and started pedaling, as he ran alongside, pushing with his hand on my back for about 200 feet, giving me an emotional catapult into the race and out of my hesitation. It was his reminder to me: This is not a race. This is supposed to be FUN.
Chris is the driving force behind DrunkCyclist.com, a website that’s not so much about being drunk as it is about not taking things so seriously, which is something we’ve managed to do with a lot of things we do after work for “fun” nowadays. Among all the heart rate monitors, five-paycheck lighter faster better bicycles, maniacal Strava obsessions, and recreational racers using non-recreational dope to get ahead, there is Chris and the guys from DrunkCyclist, who will throw two beers in a backpack for a half-day singletrack ride.
Because we work 40 hours (or 55) a week. The other part of the week should be playing.
We have tons of media offering to help us do things better, faster, harder, achieve our goals, give us a list of 570 tips on how to get stronger, focus our training, cover more terrain, extract the maximum possible amount of something out of whatever it is we used to do for fun. And nobody’s writing about going out wandering around on our day off, or accidentally crashing, or daydreaming about the next trip that might not be The Best Ever, but might be pretty goddamn fun if we relax a little bit.
Amidst all the news in my feeds about people crushing climbs around the world, winning races, and pushing physical limits, I find myself clicking on Chris’s photos more: he rappelled into a slot canyon with his bike strapped to his back and rode it out. He took a few days off work to try to fatbike along the U.S.-Mexico border fence in Arizona. He’s in Nepal, exploring trails on his bike, solo. Bikes and beers on Saturday. Bikes and burritos on Monday. Bike ride again on Tuesday. Man, is this guy employed? Yes, he’s a chemist.
“I think what makes Chris Chris is that he never has an excuse,” his friend Andy says. “People ask how he makes time to do all the rad stuff he does, but in reality, everyone has that time. They just don’t have the drive to get out there. They don’t have that first kick to get out the door. That’s what Chris has, and it speaks volumes for the authenticity of his interest and enjoyment of mountain biking.”
Chris does not have fun. He is fun. If he had a spirit animal, it would be a bear riding a perpetual wheelie on a fatbike, high-fiving everyone he rode by. In his words, “I am just a normal guy but I just happen to like being outside by myself a lot. I want to tell my stories and have them get people stoked to go outside.” And he does.
I formally interviewed Chris one time, and I asked him the question, “What’s one event every cyclist should do once in their life?” I usually expect bicycle enthusiasts to answer, “RAGBRAI,” or “Ride Trail X,” or “Do Race X.” You know, grown-up goals that grown-up bicyclists have on their lists. Of course, Chris said:
“Ride their bike off of a ramp into a large body of water.”