Thoughts from the trail by Colorado-based mountain biker and trail builder Alex Chay.
Alex Chay lives in Eagle, Colorado. A former collegiate lacrosse player, he got into trail building and mountain biking in college and it’s become his greatest passion. We called him up recently to chat about what gets him on his bike every day and what he’s giving back to the bike community. These are his words.
I work full time and I ride or dig every single day. That’s my driving force.
Growing up, I was always infatuated with mountain biking. It all started with the idea of building trails. When I was younger, any free time I had, I was out in the woods, thinking like a mountain biker. I’d watch videos of these guys building trails in BC and I thought it was the coolest thing.
A few years into playing lacrosse in college, I realized I wasn’t really pursuing my real passion. Then my junior year of college, I started getting into mountain biking, embedding myself in the biking community. It felt like a team to me. I still find that team dynamic of wanting everyone to progress and have fun doing it.
Mountain biking has this creative element to it. With trail building and creating trails and features, I felt like I was finally being creative.
If you can, contribute to your local trail organization and find somewhere to learn how to properly build trails. That’s very important. At the same time, I think it’s important to go out in the woods and have fun and create and produce whatever your vision is. If you’re able to access a local trail organization and add to the community and help out, that’s huge. Every community is growing in terms of how many mountain bikers there are. Contribute at whatever level you can. It’s also a great place for new riders to meet other riders.
I would describe my style as freeriding. So, that’s finding and riding natural terrain. But freeriding is also riding for yourself and the love of it. If you’re not racing or competing, you’re out there like a freeskier in the backcountry—riding cliffs or building jumps. That’s my take on freeriding. It encapsulates all the creative aspects of the sport. You can be on any kind of bike to do that; you don’t have to be on a downhill bike.
Why do I ride? I don’t want to say it’s running away from your problems. But after a long day of work, you go out in the woods and you’re at peace. You’re with yourself. You’re releasing all of that energy. You’re letting go and not thinking about anything. I work as a project manager in construction. It’s pretty stressful. I’m dealing with a lot of people and issues every day. When I’m riding, I don’t think about any of that.
Flow state is so good for the human mind. It puts you in this relaxed state. It’s this calm, meditative state. I’m an anxious guy. Riding allows me to release, to see the vastness and tranquility of what’s going on.
The cool thing about biking: If you’re pedaling up a big climb, you’re getting stronger. You’ll be able to do it better or faster the next time.
The greatest gifts mountain biking has given me are the ability to travel, to meet some of the coolest, nicest people in the world. That’s always blown my mind.