By Vernon Felton
Bikes in the pick-up bed? Check. Camelbacks? Check. Helmets? Check. Quarter gallon of pee perched precariously above all these things?
Welcome to Dudelandia.
Cram a dozen guys into a house and suddenly the toilet paper roll is always empty, the sink brims over with dishes that no one can recall dirtying, and milk jugs of piss magically spring up in the most unlikely of places—as if the urine fairy flitted in sometime during the night and left us a few gallons of piping hot urine beneath our pillows.
This house, for the record, is nice. Like the kind of nice that has a bass boat in the garage, a weekly maid service and a plastic surgeon on speed dial. Swank and then some. But we're doing a good job of changing that. Not that we're trying to….
Here's the sad part: We're actually on our best behavior. Floors are being swept. Empty beer bottles are being tossed in the recycling bin. Deodorant is being used… most of the time anyway. We're trying to play nice and keep the cholera outbreaks to an absolute minimum, but it's no use at all. Within a day of arriving in base camp, our Martha Stewart-Edition McMansion had taken on that distinctive aroma of dead cat, with just a hint of old jock strap.
Every year the editors of Bike Magazine travel from all over the country and gather in one riding destination for the Bible of Bike Tests. The idea is simple: Test a year's worth of the best bikes on some of the best trails in the country. Somewhere along the way we also transform a perfectly nice house into a hovel that's always just a visit from the local health inspector away from being condemned as a public health hazard.
Men aren't meant to live together; it's science—a Malthusian formula, which dictates that the carrying capacity for any single house is exactly three men. Try and squeeze a fourth male into any structure for more than two days and things go Lord of the Flies real quick. You know how lion prides out on the African savannah can't contain more than a couple males without bloodshed erupting? It's like that, except the chaos sounds like Metallica and smells of bacon grease, dirty shorts and stale beer.
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And yet, despite the overwhelming filth and flatulence that accompany our Bible of Bike Test sessions, these are always two of the best weeks of each year. Why? Does it have anything to do with the garage filled with 34 ridiculously sexy mountain bikes begging to be ridden hard on all manner of awesome trails in a far-flung riding destination? No. Well, wait, that's a lie. I can't deny the Magpie gleam that attracts me to each Bible. But it's more than that. It's the fact that the Bible of Bike Tests has become my professional excuse to ride bikes with some of the best people I've ever known.
Make no mistake, real work is done each day at the Bible. The house is humming at six in the morning, the days are filled with laps that are sinfully fun, but which also have a way of leaving your body a bruised and bloodied shell after, say, day 12 of non-stop riding. The cameras are rolling well past midnight every night, keyboards are being punished all day…In short, we're dead serious about our work, but for many of us, this is our only chance to share dirt with one another during the year. We come from Boulder, Vancouver, Whistler, San Clemente, Santa Cruz, Portland, Bend, Santa Fe, Bellingham and all points in between. If it weren't for this orgy of bike testing, many of us would never connect. Which sucks.
I realize how much I miss these people every day we rattle down the road and we reminiscence about that bar in Grand Junction or the visit to the emergency room in Bellingham or the time we jumped into a mosh pit in Brevard dressed as Gumby, Pokey, a gorilla and a duck. The Bible of Bike Tests has hosted feats of strength, snowball fights, wrestling matches, and some hard to explain purchases of BB guns, scrap booking supplies and Hello Kitty mini skirts. In short, these two weeks are filled with work, yeah, but it's work with friends. The bikes are really just shiny toys. They don't matter. This year's wonder machines eventually become next year's creaking heaps. The jokes, the crazy things that happen on the road, the people pulling together each year to make something truly big and difficult happen—these are the things I remember.
So, to all our friends who are no longer with us—who are caring for kids, stuck at work or on assignment elsewhere—we miss you one and all. Lou, Chris, Gavin, Squirrel, Seb, Dan, Kristin, Joe, Kevin, Anne, Garrett and Michael. May we share trails again another day.
You may never want to ever take a trip to Dudelandia. I understand, it smells and those jugs of urine are a serious tripping hazard—but there's a lot to be said for finding a way to immerse yourself, even for just a day or two each year, in the thing you love with the people in your life that matter. That may sound frivolous when there are bills to pay, deadlines to meet and pipers to be paid, but those deadlines and bills will always be there waiting for you. Your time with friends, on the other hand, is limited.
Make the most of it.