A guy rolls past on his bike and I hate him. No, wait, that's not right. I despise him. The clicking of his freehub. The mud spattered across his jersey. That damn grin plastered across his face. No wait, despise isn't the right word either. My fingers drum an angry beat on the steering wheel. I envy him. Yes, that's it. Envy. I stab at the clutch, put the tranny into reverse and listen to the racket of plywood, hammers and circular saws sliding around the bed of my truck. Jesus, I wish I was out there riding.

But I'm not.

I'm patching drywall and hanging doors and cleaning gutters and pulling stumps and pressure washing decks and building fences and…well, mainly, I am not riding my bike. Haven't been for the past couple weeks. Oh, I've escaped for an hour here and a half hour there, just enough to keep me from going insane, but just barely.

I glance at my rear view mirror. I can still the rider, merrily turning circles. The whole day ahead of him. Freedom within reach. Ah, shit, I forgot to buy a new sink for the utility room… I nose the old Ford left towards Home Depot–my least favorite place on earth and my home away from home.

Don't get me wrong–I appreciate that hardware stores are full of compressors and nail guns and chainsaws. I covet a Milwaukee M28 Cordless Lithium Ion Band Saw as much as the next guy, but I like these things on my own terms. Spend a weekend building a new chicken run? Fix a leaky faucet? I'm game for that. Spend the next five weeks on my back in a filthy crawl space or digging fence post holes in frozen ground or laying tile or replacing toilets? Not so much. Not when I can be out riding–grasping that last bit of the season before winter blows in for real with its asshole buddies, Frostbite and Hypothermia.

Yep, being sidelined sucks.

Yep, being sidelined sucks. Photo: Anthony Smith

You see people smiling as they amble down the hardware aisles or waving merrily to one another whilst patching roofs or staining fences and you realize that some people have simply never discovered a worthwhile hobby. I am not one of these people. I have discovered this thing called riding a bike and while it's a first-world problem to sit here and kvetch about not being able to ride my stupendously overpriced man-toy of a bicycle, I also know that I'm a much better person when I get out for a ride or three.

I can go a couple days without visiting the forest–plowing through deadlines, bringing home the bacon, rearing offspring and all that jazz…these things must be done–but a week or more out of the saddle? I develop a twitch, my sentences shrivel to grunts and I develop a thousand-yard stare.

Yes, there are things you can do to fend off that itch to ride. I've heard all about this before. I could, for instance, learn to meditate. I understand you can squeeze in what passes for a fairly kick-ass half hour of sitting cross legged with your eyes closed before you hit the sack each night. But meditation, calisthenics and yoga are all merely life's version of a cold kale-casserole when compared to three hours spent ripping through the forest.

I pass another rider as I pull into the Home Depot parking lot and I stop myself before I begin glaring at him. After all, it's not him, it's me. I breathe deep, tuck my loathing back where it belongs and slouch off towards the lumber section. This too will pass. But if you get a chance to hit the trail this week, do me a favor and take it. I'll be thinking of you as I comb the bargain bin at Builder's Supply for that perfect toilet flapper and diaphragm valve seal. Get out there and enjoy the ride. I'll keep my envy to a minimum.


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