This morning on Facebook my memory from 10yrs ago was my first MTB in my new-at-the-time apartment.  It was a trip down memory lane and made me smile, and reminded me of how this whole journey got started.  I thought I’d share the story of how I got into MTBing, and my first three rides.

Mid June 2007 – I was 22, had just graduated from Georgia Southern, and I moved to Augusta, GA to start my first ‘real’ job at an engineering firm.  I got a great deal with that job – a $5000 signing bonus (Uncle Sam took about half of that…) I would use to buy some furniture, and they put me up in a hotel and covered my food costs for up to 5 weeks while I looked for an apartment.  I had no idea how lucky I was!  One day after work I went by Andy Jordan’s Bicycle Warehouse – a bike shop only a block away from our office.  I went in thinking I wanted a road bike.  I had ridden BMX through college (jumping ledges, stairs, doing grinds, we even built some dirt jumps behind our apartment complex), but always thought a road bike would be fun.  I met Drew Jordan, we chatted a bit, and he said he thought I’d enjoy mountain biking more, and there were great trails in town.  They were having an anniversary sale, and they had a 2006 Giant Anthem 3 on sale for $1000 (originally $1600 I think).

The sale ended the next day, and I had just started my job and had no money, I hadn’t even gotten my first paycheck yet.  Drew told me about a financing deal they were offering through Citi, it was no interest if paid in full in 12 months, so I could get the bike now while it’s on sale, and as long as I paid it off in a year it wouldn’t cost me anything.  I went back to my hotel, thought it over, did some research, and went back the next day to buy the bike.

This part cracks me up – I had to use the financing to get it.  I had almost no money in the bank, no credit history, no proof of income, and no permanent address.  On paper I was unemployed and homeless.  I was approved for like $4000 or something.  That’s why the recession happened – they were giving money away to anybody back then!!  So I got the bike, a helmet, saddle bag and a few repair items all for zero money down.  Drew was kind enough to store the bike for me until I got my own place – I was homeless, remember?

My awesome new bike on the balcony of my first post-college apartment.  I actually still have that saddle!

July 4th – I had the day off from work and decided to get my bike and ride it.  I went to the Augusta Canal and rode about 14 miles up and down the tow path – a flat dirt road along the canal.  It destroyed me.  I went ‘home’ (aka the hotel) completely exhausted, I ate an entire foot long sub and took a four hour nap.  I’m not a napper.

A few days later I ventured out to FATS for the first time after work.  If you don’t know about FATS, it’s an IMBA Epic trail system, and it’s awesome fast flowy purpose built MTB trails.  I rode upper-Skinny and Brown Wave.  This was before all the signage was put out, before we all had smartphones, and being the idiot I was I didn’t take a map with me.  I got a little lost, started doing a 2nd lap on Brown Wave.  I figured out I was going in circles, and backtracked and luckily found my way back to the car.  I realized that was dumb.  It was blazing hot outside, I didn’t have much water, didn’t know the area, it was almost dark, and being new in town I didn’t know anyone who would be able to help me if needed.  I had a ton of fun, but I realized that going out there alone was stupid.

So, I got on the local MTB club’s forum and asked for someone to show me around.  A few days later I met Bill Victor and Todd E. at FATS.  Here I am with my shiny new $1000 bike – the most expensive thing I’d ever bought myself.  Aluminum frame, dual suspension, 27 gears, hydraulic disc brakes, air shocks front and rear – the bike was awesome, and I was the man.  When I met Bill and Todd I remember thinking “well, this is gonna suck, I’m gonna be waiting on these guys with their crappy bikes all night.” They were ‘old’ (everyone’s old when you’re 22), both had steel hardtails, and Bill’s bike didn’t even have gears!

Man, I was such an idiot.

Coming from a BMX background I stepped into MTBing with good bike handling skills, better than average I’d say, and WAY better than most newbie-MTBers.  But my fitness sucked.  I didn’t know that yet, but I was about to find out.

At FATS the main parking lot is the high point.  So when you start out, it’s all downhill for a while.  But eventually you have to climb back out.

We get going down the trail, and I’m following Bill and Todd.  I’m right there with them.  No problems keeping up at all for a few miles.  But then we get to the first climb.  And they were GONE.  They rode away from me like I was tied to a stump.  I was looking for the lowest gear I had, my heart rate was through the roof, lungs and legs about to explode, and they pedaled away chit-chatting about their wives and kids and upcoming vacations.  They were kind enough to wait for me at intersections to make sure I didn’t get lost…but they had to do a good bit of waiting.  I sucked.

I’ve learned a lot since that first serving of humble pie.  I consider Bill a good friend now.  He taught me a lot, about riding, trail building (FYI he’s a co-owner of Long Cane Trails, the company that built FATS), and life in general.  Drew, the guy that sold me my first bike, is also a good friend now.  We’ve been on a bunch of fun rides together, and I helped him create and host the Canal Crown Time Trial Series in Augusta, which had it’s 9th running this summer.  The weekly Weds. night rides Drew hosts from his shop were the highlight of my week for years.  Even though I don’t live in Augusta any more, I made a lot of life long friends there, thanks to bikes.

Looking back, it’s pretty wild how much influence cycling has had on my life, and I couldn’t have guessed or even imagined it back in June of 2007.  Without that first bike, my life today would be completely different.  It was, by far, the best $1000 I’ve ever spent.