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Zen and the Art of Getting Your Ass Kicked- By Justin Mackie

en·dur·o…. Defined by Webster as “ A long-distance race, especially for motor vehicles, motorcycles, or bicycles, typically over rough terrain, designed to test endurance.” 

Few things on this planet draw me to dig deep, the kind of deep that allows men to do things they look back on not foolishly, but in awe of their achievement with fire and bravado in their belly. Hard enduro motorcycle riding with friends is one of those things. You should gather your pals, your ride or die brothers and go get your ass handed to yourselves, as one , in the mountains. The physical and mental benefits far outweigh the dangers. Let me tell you why. 

As men we have, for so many of us, gone soft. Gone soft in a world full of niceties and pleasantries, comforts and conveniences. There are no fist fights, no duels, no barbarian games, no challenges of honor to uphold, for most no war. We live in a civilized world, as men we need to bond through challenge and peril with our brethren, our tribe. There is an inner fire among us that today for most is only lit by a dim pilot, the burner long since cold. We must find ways to reignite that fire of vigor and battle for ourselves. It is I believe one of the strongest most positive things we can do for ourselves, especially our mental and physical health as men. We need war, we need to conquer, we need to fight and we need to win. We need to go as a team and finish victorious together. When we do that, our fire inside burns blue. That fire is what propels us to be strong and confident and brave to go forth and fight the battles of civility in our world with padded walls. For our wives, our children, our parents and our loved ones. Without it we are weak, when we are weak there is a void in society. Society needs us to be strong, it relies on it. 

On the last week of July, eight friends and I traveled to a place I hold dear for hard enduro riding, the Bradshaw mountains of central Arizona. Known by the Yavapai Indians as Wi:kañacha, "rough, black range of rocks". Located just a short drive south of Prescott, the Bradshaws rise up from the desert floor that surrounds them to an elevation of over 7000’. Even in summer rideable conditions persist with temps at elevation 20° cooler than those in the nearby verde valley. Upon these mountains within the prescott national forest the decomposed granite and saguaros give way to high mountain pines and angular quarry stone. Tree fall is common among the tight, narrow brush leiden routes, perilous obstacles are a plenty. Heart pumping singletrack can be found throughout the range, much of it posted, numbered and mapped by the forest service. Faint lines through the forest and rock at times as these are not heavily trafficked due to their difficulty. Views from these tracks are breathtaking and stretch for miles, the atmosphere limiting visibility before the earth on the horizon does. Down low on the mountain dry creek beds of endless rock gardens stand guard to the ease of the two track just off in the distance, always seemingly just over the next ridge of pain and suffering, never quite within reach. 

The Bradshaws and areas like them serve those who dare to enter the ring, by providing a battlefield. A battlefield for men to come and wage war with the mountain, together as a unit. Many will fall during this battle, the act of helping one another serves to heal both the fallen and the outward hand. As you and your team encounter trail obstacles seemingly impossible, on trails that there is no possible way to go back. You rediscover the power of a team of the strong and willing, the power of your tribe. You cannot forward plan and solve all the hardships that lie ahead in the bradshaws and places like them, it's not possible. You must forge ahead together and learn to deal with whatever the trail throws at you, on your feet, in real time. You know just around each bend is the next monster to slay, reality of the enormity of the fight sets in. 

As the day gets long, bodies and minds get weary and weak, members of your tribe start to break. They are breaking physically and mentally. Their actions, their words, their willingness to fight has changed. The truth is they broke hours ago, they just didn’t let you see, for they were too prideful to let it show. Their weakness is showing and they are now having to reconcile, not just with themselves but with their tribe. You have reached that point.. The point that I have not found a way to achieve anywhere else in civil society. The point that can be found in hard enduro. The point at which your tribe and its members get to experience true guttural dig deep, fire lit, raw anger, loss of hope, fear driven existence and must operate in that headspace. 

Now in full mental war paint, you and your tribe of angry and weary warriors must manage yourselves to remain a collective. To each man it feels as though your survival depends on it. Fight or flight is screaming in your brain and must be suppressed or harnessed. If you are lucky it will get dark and wet and stormy, the pressure mounts as everyone must continue humping the weight and the burden. The well known battle cries in our heads “No one is coming its up to us” “Embrace the Suck”  carry us down the trail. Those that break are held up by the strong and the tribe continues ever closer to the relief of the clear road home, back to camp.

Off the mountain and still as one, hours late, soaking wet, adrenalin saturated, the afterglow of the battle swells. I begin to laugh, it rolls to a satisfying smile in my helmet as I bask in the camaraderie and brotherhood that hard enduro with friends provides. Done right it is a visceral experience not easily duplicated in our lives within our daily bubbles of relative world peace. 

As we return to camp and begin to settle in for libations and sustenance I notice everyone is smiling. Everyone is head held high, chest out. We all look like roosters on a fine sunday morning with the prettiest hens in a well packed hen house. Everyone is beaming, everyone is talking loudly, everyone is reminiscing that one log, that one rock, that one hill. There is laughter and jackery. The kinds of things victorious, confident, fire in the belly men do. Men who are unstoppable both from the inside and from all outward appearances. 

These men are fathers and husbands. These men are nine to fivers and business owners. These are not men who have lives without stress, no debt, no fears, no apprehensions, no self doubt… On all other days. Today for two hands of hours they were only tribes men, in battle, shoulder to shoulder with their brethren. Digging deep within to ensure not only they weren't a liability to the tribe, but they were of value. This act and this act alone fills the belly, the heart and the mind. Fills it with a currency that cant be bought, traded or touched. It can only be earned. You must go to the dark side of comfort and convenience to achieve it, to access it, to unlock it. 

In today’s world finding ways to cultivate these fleeting moments in time, where stars align and true warrior emotion of a tibesman can take hold of you, is beyond rare. It's almost extinct I believe today. As men we need to go with our tribes and fight, not for the sake of the fight, but for all the things it breeds within us. Hard enduro motorcycling with your tribe is I believe for us two wheel guys, the best way to achieve this headspace. It is a truly transformative experience done right, I suggest you call your tribe and set a date. Your victory swell and those of your brethren awaits you all in the mountains. 

Justin Mackie


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