By Lukas Brinkerhoff
I can tell by the slightly uncomfortable burn on the back of my neck that I should probably be getting out of the sun. It’s a feeling I know all too well. One that happens almost weekly. Cuz, you know, my life is a little too uncomplicated.
The Mooseknuckler Adventure Vehicle is parked at the edge of a sandstone slab and pointed toward a cinder cone. Just beyond said volcano is Zion. A place some call god’s country and a place that I call home. The sun is getting ready to enter that time of the afternoon when everywhere looks like heaven as the golden hour light bounces off of everything. The stoke level is where it should be, that is to say at its maximum. We’ve just finished another Alliance ride on the mesa and high fives are flowing like wine. Fortunately, we don’t drink wine.
The camp chairs emerge. 1, 2 or 6 ice chests emerge into the circle that has formed at this particular trailhead. A bag of Doritos is propped up against a chair. There is a can of olives being passed around (if you’ve never had olives after a ride, you should definitely give it a go). First for the juice and then for the olives. A can of cashews emerges. But of course, the main attraction comes out of the ice chests, cold and strong.
As Kenny Jones put it, the after-ride beer is the best part of the ride.
Before I learned the dark art of imbibing ferment hop soda, I had another friend who concurred with Mr. Jones. He didn’t say it in English or even live on this continent, but after a long road ride out toward the coast past the olive groves, to the point where there weren’t many cars to deal with on the highway. Our conversation moved toward that of the after-ride beer.
Our long rides, like the one this day, tended to end as we entered our comuna of Renca. Instead of a gathering at a trailhead, we each would split off down our respective streets with a shouted, “Chao! Hasta la proxima.”
We were getting close to that point when Camilo mentioned how excited he was for the beer waiting for him at his house. I don’t recall much of what I said, but can remember the detail of which he described the pleasure of popping the top and taking a deep draw. His ritual was a tall bottle of Crystal, a long, hot shower whilst drinking it and then the inevitable crash into bed for the coma that would follow.
At the time, I didn’t get it. Beer was just a drink that tasted gross and was against the religion I had grown up with leaving me with little education in how these things worked.
It was several rides later. Camilo and I had begun spending more time together. Our rides kept getting longer, faster. And one day, instead of splitting off to our respective homes. We stopped at the corner liquor store, snagged a couple “chelas” and headed to his house.
I was hesitant. I hadn’t developed the taste for beer, but his passion for this recovery drink led me to believe that it was at least worth a try. We pulled up some chairs on the porch. Willie, Camilo’s dad, was there. And we split the beers.
As expected the first draw made my face twist from the bitterness of the beer. Camilo and Willie laughed. I took another swig to show I was tough. And that was pretty much it. As the alcohol begun to relax me, to give me that high of being completely destroyed and not having anything else to do but drink beer and sit around talking shit about how we had dropped each other on the climbs. The beer slowly disappeared as we sat. Then the beer was gone. I could not believe how good it felt. I was relaxed from the hard ride, the effort we had put in on the ride, but the beer took that and amplified it. It really was the best way to end a ride.
It was a while before I would drink beer just to drink beer, but the after-ride beer became a main stay in my riding repertoire.
Utah is not known for its beer. Local vernacular uses the phrase “Utah beer” to describe low point beer you can buy at the grocery store. In all fairness, the Chilean beer I was drinking with Camilo probably wasn’t much stronger, and definitely not any better, than what can be purchased in local gas stations. Luckily for those of us who prefer to end a ride with an adult recovery drink, beer brewed in this great state of Deseret is some of the strongest, good tasting beer you can buy.
The local breweries have embraced the cycling community. It’s a match made in heaven. They need someone to sell their brews to and we need that sweet nectar, so we can sink into our own post-ride comas.
12 years later, a dirt trailhead, mountain bikes instead of the skinny tired one I rode in Chile and that feeling is still there. The camaraderie of sitting in a circle, talking about the wreck, the move cleaned, the dab that just shouldn’t have happened but it did. This is mountain biking. It’s friends enjoying the world that surrounds them and escaping that grind that tends to make us all be a little too serious.
Here’s to beer, Salud!
Lukas Brinkerhoff blogs about mountain biking and life at mooseknuckleralliance.org.