When the invite went out to lead a bikepacking trip in Crested Butte, there was no hesitation from any of us. It’s a place we’ve all ridden and can’t seem to get enough of. However, this bikepacking trip wasn’t just about climbing and descending some of the state’s most beautiful trails. We wanted to really check in on each other and hold space for us to show up as we are—something many men don’t get the chance to do.
I feel lucky to call Eric my brother. You may recognize him as @pedalhomie on social media and his brilliantly crisp photos of the natural world and athletes from all walks of life. As one of the most influential creatives in the cycling industry, he’s spent the last few years documenting one major event after another. Since becoming a full-time photographer a couple of years ago, his lifestyle is somewhat of a dream. He travels across the continent capturing athletes of colors’ stories and perspectives with the dignity and honor they deserve. I’ve watched his growth as a photographer and creative, and I’m incredibly inspired. Eric has modeled for me what it looks like to bet on yourself and follow your passion.
I’ve looked up to Evan for a while now, and he’s like my big bro. You likely know him as @thegreenevan on social media. He’s uber-dorky, insanely creative, a geologist, a videographer, and a photographer. We met rock climbing in Denver and have collaborated on a number of adventure projects together. Additionally, he freelances full-time and has shown brothers like me what’s possible when you take a risk on yourself. Last summer, Evan documented the Full Circle summit attempt of Mt. Everest, summiting and landing his photography in National Geographic. We’ve been out on several rides together, and let me tell you, there’s nobody more fun to try and keep up with on two wheels.
For me, pushing beyond my comfort zone isn’t just about bikepacking through the mountains. In the last few years, I’ve started the work of recognizing the emotional and psychological wounds I carry every day and how they affect me and the people around me. As an athlete, I mostly thought of healing as being exclusively linked to physical injuries, but since I’ve started this inner work, I can assure you that our “invisible” wounds require a substantial amount of caretaking.
To heal is to uncover the wounds from our past that keep us down, set back, or misaligned in the present day. In my life, this work is messy, nonlinear, and lifelong. I used to be one of those athletes that would bully myself into getting faster and stronger. If I didn’t meet one of my goals, the following week would entail an even more intense and demanding regimen. I’m sure we all know someone like this. A person who doesn’t quite know how to rest or let someone else take the lead. In my experience, there are emotional wounds connected to feelings that are influencing those behaviors. Until I and the majority of men address our behaviors, feelings, and wounds, we won’t see a change in how the world operates. I see this in cycling and the outdoors at large, but it isn’t exclusive to athletics.
To heal is to uncover the wounds from our past that keep us down, set back, or misaligned in the present day. In my life, this work is messy, nonlinear, and lifelong.
In sports, when we see someone break a bone or tear a muscle, it’s normal to expect them to take some time off to heal and for folks to reach out frequently to support and check-in. But when we see our peers and friends acting from places of hurt or in ways that aren’t resemblant to who we know them to be, the status quo is to remain quiet and at bay. Admittedly, I’ve been this person one too many times without ever realizing the harm I was doing to myself and others. This has looked like navigating intimate relationships in highly avoidant ways, not being a reliable colleague, and speaking and acting out of integrity with my values.
I truly believe no one wakes up to suck and that we are all doing our best every day. So to the brothers in cycling, I want to continue to see the level of dedication and commitment we have towards our physical health transfer with grace and attention to our emotional and psychological wellness. We deserve to heal the wounds that plague us day to day.
So to the brothers in cycling, I want to continue to see the level of dedication and commitment we have towards our physical health transfer with grace and attention, to our emotional and psychological wellness.
This is where my brothers and bikepacking come in. So much of the work of healing is about understanding how you feel and why. When placed in a small group and tasked with navigating mountainous terrain, you have no choice but to be aware of how you and those around you are doing. I find bikepacking to be a unique way to practice the skills that help us understand what we feel and why.
As a man today, I have grown up in a world that has told me that to express myself outside of anger and humor, is a form of weakness. What I’ve noticed is a constant expression of stoicism from the brothers in my life, myself included. We all know the “everything is fine” face, despite everything being not fine whatsoever. Growing up I had very few safe spaces to express myself. I learned early on that asking for what I needed was often met with shaming, neglect, and sometimes violence. And what hurts the most is that it came from the people who I loved. So, to be close and authentically express myself to my inner circle of friends and family can be sometimes triggering.
Luckily, while bikepacking, there are several opportunities to practice expressing myself. We’ve all been there when we’re four hours into a two-hour ride, or if bikepacking, we’re 47 miles into a 30-mile day. One can only go so far without speaking up and inquiring about the itinerary. My brothers Evan and Eric make sure to be clear about what the plan is and make space for differences in thought when they come up. When the weather eventually turns, as it did on our trip, we shift our expectations and check in with one another and our needs. As the going gets tough, as it does in the mountains, we adjust our pace and look for alternative stopping points for the day. All the while, we’re asking each other how each of us is doing.
It’s imperative we’re honest. A hot spot underneath my foot can turn into a debilitating and infected blister if not treated promptly. Or a slight headache can swiftly transform into loss of consciousness if not treated properly. It’s a special thing to be asked, “How are you really doing?” This question is something I think not a lot of men get a chance to hear. I’m grateful for the bond Eric, Evan, and I have. It’s a brotherhood that has taken time and has paid off tenfold. I honestly can’t name many more vulnerable spaces I have in life.
You are loved
I want to tell the brothers around me, near and far, that I see you and you are loved. It takes a courageous commitment to uncover some of the wounds we’ve received early on and throughout life, but it’s work worth doing. As we collectively heal ourselves, that change in perspective can create a better and safer cycling world for everyone. You have brothers here for support who truly know what it’s like to go through this healing journey. I want to see us grow and heal—we deserve it.