From Ramps to Walls
By | Ryan Pohl
Issue IV, September 2018
Some conversations don’t need to start with “are you…” but instead “where are you…” and “when are you...” That was the case every day for many years when it came to my BMX bike. BMX was my passion, I loved it. The best days of riding usually followed a broken relationship, a failed test in school or maybe a shitty day of work. My bike was always there to take my mind off of things, the one place I didn’t have to think about bills, relationships, or responsibilities in general.
After 20 or so years of BMX, rolled ankles numbering in the triple digits, a few surgeries and countless other injuries, my body started to fight back. I remember a day at Ray’s MTB Park in Cleveland, throwing my bars over a box jump, getting worked. My back was in such bad shape I couldn’t walk. As long as I was on my bike where I was able to press down on my bars, it only hurt modestly. I may not have been able to walk that day, but I made myself able to ride. Over the years I became a bit wiser, sure, but it got to a point I could only ride a couple hours at a time before my back flared up. At one point I felt certain if I rolled my ankle one more time it would explode sending bits of bone and Nike everywhere.
Injuries were a part of it, but there was no way in hell I was going to sell my bike. I moved to Oregon in 2013 in a Subaru Impreza, no bike rack, no rocket box, but as cramped as it was, my bike came with. About two weeks after I landed in Portland I decided to ride downtown to a beer festival. I chained up my bike outside government circle in a well lit and very populated part of town, never to see my bike again. Cable cut, middle of the day surrounded by hundreds of people, I was in disbelief. That day marked a new chapter in my life. Not only was I in a new city with no familiar faces, but the thing I loved most was instantly gone. I decided to take that event as an omen. My body obviously didn’t like what I was doing, and as a result I never bought a new bike again. Instead, I used what little money I had and bought a pair of climbing shoes and a chalk bag.
I bouldered for about 2 years before touching a rope. On Tuesday nights there is a meetup group at the Northeast Circuit Boulder Gym in Portland from 6-8pm followed by us usually closing a bar. Not before long I was looking forward to Tuesday nights more than Friday nights. What attracted me to climbing so much was the similarities to BMX and for all the right reasons. I once again didn’t have to think about responsibilities, I could clear my mind while on a route.
More importantly the communities in BMX and climbing are incredibly strong. We would give bike parts away for free if that meant you would get your buddy back on his bike faster and the same goes for climbing. BMX and climbing require more than simply talent, they require commitment, risk and cohones. I’m sure anyone could learn to hit the three-pointer, bowl a strike or kick a field goal but both BMX and climbing take something else: you have to want it. I’ve thrown hundreds of bar spins and led hundreds of trad routes and I am still a puckered everytime, but once I get into it it all fades away to pure joy.