Recently I've had a few conversations, with fellow riders, that have left me wondering about what really motivates me to do what I do when it comes to this group. I know it isn't for the money, as I don't make any running San Jose Mtb. It actually costs money to run the meetup side of things. It isn't for fame, I'm pretty sure there are lots of members of SJMtb that have no idea who I am or what I look like. And despite what people think I don't do it because I love to do nothing more than sit on the Internet making sure there are rides scheduled and current content available. So why do I do it?
I do it because I love it and what it has done for me. Sure it's a lot of work, and it sometimes wears me down. Without it though, who would I be? I'm healthier and more fit than I've ever been in my whole life because I started riding. Riding has shown me first hand what is possible when you keep working to get better at something. Sure there are other aspect of my life that this have shown me this, but none so clearly and quickly as riding has. When I first started riding I was 250lbs, recently married, and not really getting any thinner or healthier. It was actually my wife that suggested we ride bikes to get some exercise, of course I'm sure she never imagined that I would take it this far. My first rides I would stay on flat trails. Places like Arastradero were impossible climbs, and forget getting to the top of Santa Teresa, let alone the parking lot. With each ride I pushed a little further and a little further. I rode everyday when I first got my mountain bike. I would ride into work then go for longer rides home, in hopes that I would someday be strong and fit enough to ride real trails. I'll never forget the first time I made it to the top of Quicksilver. I had been riding there twice a week for what seemed like months, always getting too tired and winded to make it to the top. Then one day I did it. I didn't make it without stopping the first time I went all the way, but I made it. In that moment I fell in love with mountain biking. My bike became a symbol of triumph. I couldn't wait until the next ride when I could push myself a little further. As the months flew by I became a better and stronger rider, eventually getting to the point that my friends I had started this sport with could no longer even hope to keep up with me. Mountain biking had given me a new life and I wanted to explore it.
My desire to further explore mountain biking and my lack of friends willing to do the same led me to Meetup.com and San Jose Mountain Biking. At first I just stalked the group, thinking to myself "I don't want to ride with a group, I'm still too slow." Eventually, though, curiosity got the better of me and my desire to take this riding thing further led me to a ride on a Friday evening at Arastradero. "They're all so fast" I remember thinking to myself as I tried to catch up to the group. I was embarrassingly slow. I had shown up late and was pushing as hard as I could to catch up with them. When I finally did catch them I met Ken. He was waiting for the rest of his group to finish the climb up woodrat and I was fighting to catch my breath and not seem like a total newb. As his last guy peaked the climb I told him I would try and catch him another time for a ride. That day marked the beginning of two new relationships for me, one with a new friend, Ken, and the second with this thing we call meetup. As the weeks passed by I became a regular fixture in the group, trading all my solo rides for rides with the group. Eventually as the group began to grow Ken asked me if I had any interest in hosting my own rides with the group. I was hesitant at first but eventually said I would give it a try. Sea Otter pre-ride was my first group led event and it would prove to be monumental in terms of SJMtbs future. The ride went great until in the last few hundred yards something horrible happened. Ken, the guy who along with my wife, had convinced me I was ready to lead rides had a fluke crash that ended in his shoulder being separated. It was a whirlwind year from that point forward. I began taking over the majority of rides as Ken healed, doing my best to fill his shoes as a ride leader. Somewhere along the lines I pissed someone off and was removed from another group, but that's a story for a different time. Before I knew it the year was done, and so was Ken. He had hoped that he would get better and want to ride again, but in his off time his passion for the ride had faded. This left a void in the group, and with no clear leader, it seemed the group would implode on itself. It would be a long and stressful couple of weeks before things would work themselves out and in the end I would become the Lead Organizer for San Jose Mountain Biking.
My first year of leading the group officially saw its fair share of growing pains, as our member numbers grew, and I struggled with gaining the respect of my fellow organizers. We merged with the East Bay Mountain biking meetup, and began expanding our rides even further than before. I was leading rides all the time and having a blast, but didn't realize I was burning the candle at both ends. My desire to not let my friend down by running his group into the ground and my feeling that unless I rode everyday I would, led me to riding nearly everyday for the group. I began to forget why I was riding and was flying on auto pilot. To the extent that my wife took notice. It became clear that I was going to need to do something if I was to recapture the passion that led me to riding so much in the first place. I had to get back to those early days when I rode because I loved it. Meetup had become a chore and the only way to change that would be to stop worrying about what I thought I had to do and just do what I wanted to do. Ken from the very beginning had told me, "do the rides you want to do and people will come out." but I had lost that idea somewhere along the lines and was instead hosting rides that I didn't really have passion for. This went against every reason I agreed to take over the group in the first place and that was a big problem.
The only way to fix the issues, created by my feeling that I needed to try and please everyone, was to just stop. I had to get back to what led me to riding with the group in the first place, passion. Originally I didn't have a feeling that I needed to please everyone, I had a feeling that I needed to share my passion with everyone. So to allow for this to happen I went on the offensive. I drew up a new vision of what I felt the group should be. I envisioned a community of organizers from all walks of life and with different skill levels, leading their rides, the rides they wanted to lead. I began looking for more people that also had passion for riding and wanted to share it. Asking people I had become friends with if they would like to become part of this new thing. The plan was simple really, if I found enough people that wanted to share the rides they were passionate about there would be rides for everyone, and no one would have to do rides they didn't want to out of a feeling of obligation. It was the beginning of a new era in SJMTB's history. Within a few months we had a good sized group of ride leaders leading rides all over the bay. This shift in leadership style would lead also eventually lead to SJMTB becoming the family it is today.
Today I no longer feel I have to do rides at a certain level to accommodate riders. Sure I still enjoy the occasional total beginner/first timer rides. It's always exciting to see people fall in love with this sport. After all that's why I wanted to get involved in the first place. Seeing the look someone gets when it finally clicks for the first time out on the trail is priceless, and will always be one of the greatest rewards afforded to me by this group. My new freedom, however, has enabled me to not just tell people about my passion, but rather actually show them. Talking to someone about something you're passionate about is one thing, but letting them witness that passion being reborn with every twist and turn of the trail is something entirely different. When you ride a ride you're stoked about and share it with people equally stoked it moves you. It reaches down deep into your soul and changes you. It binds you and your fellow riders in a series of blissful moments where nothing else matters. For those brief moments you are free of all your cares and worries. That is why I do this thing we call San Jose Mountain Biking.