Words by Reese Ruland
I wouldn’t say I had an ordinary childhood. I mean, my family wasn’t living in a van down by the river or anything, but it was normal that we spent a month driving from the East coast to Montana, camping and visiting parks along the way. I was five and a ten-mile hike in Glacier National Park was like recess for me. My parents, specifically my mom, was always planning some trip to the wilderness. Of course, this was before cell phones, social media and MacBooks. Exploration, both big and small, was how we were taught to entertain ourselves. My mom encouraged us to explore even when we were stuck in suburbia. My sisters and I were always playing make-believe in the backyard, pretending we were the female versions of Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer. She taught us that adventure is everywhere if you just look hard enough.
This enthusiasm for the outdoors stuck with me far past childhood games. So, it is only natural that this love for exploration led me to become an ultra runner and now, an endurance cyclist of sorts. I’m not sure if I’m just happiest moving for long periods of time or if I love where these long rides and runs take me. I’d wager that it is a combination of the two. But I do know for sure that if it was not for my mom and her love for the outdoors I would not be either of those things.
My mom is about to turn 62 years old, she’s still a total badass. She goes on backpacking trips in places like Ireland, Iceland and the Grand Canyon. So when I persuaded her to visit me in Colorado for some exploration by bike. I immediately began researching epic gravel routes, looking for big days in the saddle, at high elevation on roads I’d never ridden. As the planning progressed and the forecast deteriorated, I kept thinking about what would really, truly be an actual enjoyable adventure for my mom and me to share.
In my family, it’s common knowledge that when any of my sisters or I plan an adventure with my mom, we don’t hold back. We rarely take into account that she is older than us or maybe doesn’t have the skills needed for the job. But my mom never says no and we always are successful in completing the trip. Though, not without some moments that are only fun in retrospect. So this time around, I thought I could make a change.
What is epic for a 30-year-old is likely unsafe or downright stupid for a 62-year-old. (Look at me with my grown-up wisdom!) So one might reason that tailoring things for the latter would be the smart move. It just has to contain the right elements. Good company. Great bikes. Delicious snacks. Quiet roads. Ideal weather. Which is exactly what the ride with my mom was going to be.
I planned to take her on my favorite, non-climbing route in Fort Collins. It’s a great mix of gravel, single track and road riding. The roads are fairly quiet and when they aren’t we’d have a massive bike lane to hang out in, which is ideal for my mom who’d a) never ridden in traffic before and b) never ridden right next to someone. I planned my route on Strava and downloaded the GPX file to my phone. I showed her how to upload the route to the ELEMNT Bike Computer, which was easier than showing her how to use SRAM shifting. Even though the route was short, it was good for my mom to see where we were going and feel like she would not get lost if I suddenly decided to ditch her for a QOM attempt.
The ride was perfect because nothing crazy happened. It went exactly as planned. My mom enjoyed the ride, I made sure she pushed herself maybe a little too hard on the only uphill because I wanted to pass some other riders. Turns out we’re both competitive. Guess the apple doesn’t fall far. But overall, nothing was epic. Which is ideal. Not every ride needs to be 150 miles long with 9k of vert, a severe bonk and two flat tires.
I absolutely loved showing my mom around the town I love on the roads I ride. In fact, we should all treat our ride partners as if they were our mom. Make sure they are safe, prepared, having fun and of course, push them just a little past their comfort zone.
Reese is an avid trail runner and cyclist. When she isn’t out riding gravel roads or running up a mountain near her home in Colorado, she’s drinking hot tea and staring at her French Bulldog, Loaf.
Check out @reeseruland for proof.
What adventures have you taken with your Mom? Share your story in the comments below.
Learn more ab0ut the ELEMNT GPS Bike Computers that guided Reese and her Mother during their adventure.