Twenty-five years is a long time to do any one thing. Do one thing for that du­ra­tion, and there are bound to be mo­ments of rep­e­ti­tion. Time will coil around it­self, decades will col­lapse on top of each other, and what should be fresh tire prints in the ground will just be an­other layer of tracks on top of those, on top of those, on top of those al­ready laid onto the tracks be­neath them. At some point, this may feel like a fu­tile rep­e­ti­tion—the 1994-typed words of the first edi­tor of this mag­a­zine echo­ing to haunt the present: “The only dif­fer­ence be­tween a rut and a grave is the length of the hole … .”

Those words never re­ally held much sway with me, but they have bounced in and out of my head when­ever I have looked back at the path of my life. They were in my head again as I started up a long fireroad climb a lit­tle south of Santa Cruz last week. I first rode this hill in 1992, when I moved to the base of it, and it has been an in­dif­fer­ent mon­i­tor of my fit­ness or lack thereof ever since. It has also ab­sorbed ev­ery one of my moods, rang­ing from friendly to foul, and, speak­ing of rep­e­ti­tion, has found its way into sev­eral of th­ese col­umns over the years. It’s a cou­ple hours of ass-kick­ing pen­i­tence (maybe 20 min­utes fewer if I go back a cou­ple decades and get some youth­ful quads and lungs), so to­tally fa­mil­iar that go­ing for a ride there re­quires no con­scious thought on my part. Ev­ery inch of that hill is etched into me, the trail choices at the top oc­cur by au­topi­lot, and I can spend a day rid­ing with­out ever once hav­ing to think about where I am.

So is this a rut? A grave? To me it feels more like a com­fort­able old hair­shirt, a sweat-tax re­minder that even in its mil­lion­fold self-in­dul­gent mo­ments the sport of moun­tain bik­ing re­quires that you put your­self into it, that you pay some sort of cos­mic piper, that one way or an­other you will have to earn those turns. It’s a fa­mil­iar­ity com­pletely de­void of con­tempt. It’s rep­e­ti­tion faith­fully borne out beyond num­bers into rit­ual.

A few years be­fore I first climbed this hill, I had started rid­ing moun­tain bikes. I think it was 1985 when I went on my first ride, and 1986 when I be­came hooked. So, 32 years now. I am 53 years old. That means I have been rid­ing bikes for 60.38 per­cent of my life, rid­ing this damn hill for 49.05 per­cent of it, and writ­ing about some vari­a­tion of that in this col­umn for 45.28 per­cent of the time I have been on this earth. Ex­cept I haven’t spent ev­ery minute of my ex­is­tence since then rid­ing, and I haven’t only ridden this hill, and it doesn’t take all of that time to write this col­umn, but you get the gist. Like I said there at the be­gin­ning, 25 years is a spell. Since I can still turn the ped­als, let’s go with ‘rut’ as a far su­pe­rior des­ti­na­tion than ‘grave.’

Rep­e­ti­tion be­ing the theme of the day here (that, or early on­set se­nil­ity), this

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