Breaking the Habit – Finding Riding Priorities

Ambador Randy Barcena riding near Whistler, B.C., Canada
Riding wide open landscapes near Whistler, B.C., Canada. Photo by @jasonmaletsky

No, I’m not talking about the song, but I love Linkin Park.

I’m talking about breaking old habits and start new ones. I’m talking about re-organizing our priorities that may lead us to a more adventurous life.

Break the habit of saying “I’ll go next time.” Do you have your eyes on a bike trip that you’ve been wanting to go to? What’s stopping you?

I was at my local bike shop one time to get my bike tuned up before my trip. I was talking to the owner and he asked, “Where are you gonna be riding?”


“Aww man, lucky you! I’ve been wanting to go there my whole life but I have a family now, and running this shop. I wish I could’ve gone when I had the opportunity. Maybe one day. Life happens, man. Enjoy it there.”

I’m fortunate to have awesome, like-minded friends. My friend Jason told me about his plans and invited me and several other friends along to Whistler, Canada. Four of us ended up making it happen to go and it turned out to be the best trip I’ve been a part of, yet. I could’ve come up with many excuses to not go. In the weeks and months before the Whistler trip, I had already gone with Jason on his trip to Colorado and some other smaller trips before that. We all can agree that money doesn’t grow on trees. Instead of turning it down, I had to come up with a plan to join them. I saved up vacation hours from work and began choosing wisely on my daily expenses to save some dough to help pay for the trip to Canada – which brings me to another point.

Break the habit of upgrading bikes or parts just for the sake of looking good and impressing or “keeping up” with your friends. I’m not just talking about bikes, it could be anything that we don’t really need. More power to you if you have the money to get all the goods, not throwing too much shade. It’s doubtful in the history of cycling that a rider stopped someone to tell them they couldn’t ride with them or the group because a bike was a little outdated.

“Don’t buy upgrades, ride up grades.” – Eddy Merckx Photo by @xandeigram
Looking out for the newest adventure, not so much the newest "standard." Photo by @jasonmaletsky

I have been trying to stop paying attention to all the new bike standards or whatever it is that the bike industry always comes up with nowadays. I know it seems constant but sometimes I too can’t help myself and read up on articles touting the fancy new bits every now and then. Though, most times it leaves me shaking my head in the end. Boost or now Super Boost, or is it called MTB Boost? It’s crazy, there are too many things to keep up with. Fancy gold 12-speed drivetrain. New tire sizes. Electric this or that. Blah blah blah…not that I don’t like some aspects of a “new” standard – what it means for me is either a fun trip with friends or just fancy gear that I might get asked about near my house by riding buddies.

Don’t get me wrong, we talk all-bike related tech and stuff out on the trail all the time and compare setups or new gadgets. Or when you have older ones. I recently got a few comments about why I’m still on 180mm rotors and not 203s. They said, “They help me to stop faster.” I reminded them that I don’t go bananas on the downhill like Aaron Gwin. What works for others may not always work for you.

Six years ago my only bike was a Vassago rigid singlespeed (SS). I put lots of miles on it for three years until I bought a full suspension trail bike because I had a foot injury. Lately, I’ve noticed increasingly my friends are getting into SS riding. They love what I loved when I used to ride one exclusively – the pure joy and challenge of suffering with only one gear, and less maintenance!

Break the habit of always relying on your mechanic to fix your bike even on the slightest issue, like fixing a flat. It sounds complicated but it’s really not. Don’t think I have anything against going to bike shops for this kind of work or in general, but it’s good to learn how to do the important steps that you should know how to do yourself.

Next time you’re at the shop, ask them how it’s done, and they will gladly show you how. Make it a new habit to learn how to work on your bike. Learn a thing or two every chance you get. There are tons of YouTube “how-to” videos or simply ask one of your riding buddies to help you. You’ll slowly start acquiring the skills and a few tools as you go but it will save you money from spending hard earned cash on simple maintenance in the long run.

I met my good friend Bernard seven years ago when I got into SS. I call him a bike guru–he knows his stuff! I’d make the 45-mile drive to his house if my bike had issues. I’d watch him do the work sometimes or he’d give me instructions and I’d do the work. I try to pick his brain whenever possible–even now I still call him for advice. Over the years, he has helped me assemble my bikes, built my wheelsets, taught me how to bleed the brakes and many other bike maintenance related tricks. It’s made me a better mountain biker and saved me money to do great trips.

Even doing a few simple things after a ride can save you money. Here are a few easy-to-do tips to knock out right after riding to save some coin:

  1. Clean the chain and apply lube to keep it shifting smoothly and have a longer life.
  2. Keep the stanchions on the fork and rear shock dirt-free to maintain their performance and service when needed. Service is cheaper than replacing.
  3. Check all bolts regularly to make sure they are tight to avoid mechanicals or even injuries.

I’m not sure how you measure a level of happiness. All I know is, it feels damn good having a little extra money on the side which allows me to go to new places and ride new trails. Had I focused more on upgrades or not knowing how to take care of my bike properly…it would’ve been a different story for me this year. Don’t let opportunity pass you by if it’s there. Life happens, and things get in our way. It gets harder for us to do the things we want to be doing but even then, work your way through to get that opportunity back as much as you can. Go cross off that bucket list.

Photo of Randy at an overlook at Whistler while mountain biking.
Riding in special places with friends is more fun than that new bling on the bike. Photo by @jasonmaletsky
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When Randy was 10 years old, he'd wake up at 4 a.m., hop on his bicycle and sell fresh baked breads from his aunt’s bakery to neighbors in rural parts of the Philippines. He enjoys solo mountain bike night rides whenever possible after working all day at the office. He thinks the best rides are the unplanned rides; the adventure rides, the ones where you don’t know what to expect. Randy's favorite trail is Gridley in Ojai, CA.


2 thoughts on “Breaking the Habit – Finding Riding Priorities

  1. Such a great story and well said. I’ve know him since i started this mountain bike journey, actually he’s the one that really got me into this mountain biking adventure. Because of him i ended up building a SS mtn bike as well after leting me borrowed his Vassago SS. Randy had taught me everything i need to know about riding my Mountain bike. He had taught me how to get better as a rider. I’m so proud of you Lakay Apo.. I could write pages after pages about him but, i will stop here…your are one Crazy humble man lakay.

  2. Great read. I agree and think a lot like you. I have to make choices with my budget and every time I see something, before I buy, I ask if I really need, if this will make me happy or if I should just leave on the shelve and save the money for my next trip or adventure. My road bike is 6 years old and have a lot of miles. I know it’s in good shape because I take care of it. Keep riding and exploring my friend. Life is short and you are on the right trail.

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