Before the ride, after the ride, and even when not riding...
Cheers To The Institutions
Riding your way through the trails today
Takes everything you got
Taking a rest from all your struggles
It sure would help a lot
Wouldn't you like to take a break?
Sometimes you want to go
Where everybody knows your bike
And some are folks you actually like
You want to be where you can see
The mechanicals are the same
You want to be where everybody knows your (nick)name
- With apologies to Gary Portnoy | Judy Hart
As much as I love Boeshield T9 on my chain I think it's fair to state that good coffee and good beer are the two best lubricants in the mountain biking. Over the years my gang has haunted a number of local establishments from the patio at Seymour's Pub, to Dageraad's picnic tables, to the Black Bear pub and most frequently Bean Around The World coffee shop in Parkgate Mall at the base of Mt. Seymour.
Places that have nothing to do with riding mountain bikes in and of themselves but by the twin circumstances of location and social potential have become institutions for local mountain bikers. As my friend Scott says, "If we're going to sit around and talk about the ride, or bikes, or anything else you would talk about after a ride, you had better have a coffee or beer in hand. It's just not efficient otherwise."
What Makes An Institution?
Of the seemingly infinite purveyors of beer and coffee, two spaces are legends in my mind. The aforementioned Mt Seymour Bean location and a pub in Dublin, Ireland called The Blue Light that I've never visited. What makes them institutions?
The way mountain bikers talk about them, think about them, and feel about them. The sheer amount of post-ride bullsh*t that has been smeared around their patios and inside their walls. Heck, the fact that they don't cast out the soaked, sweaty and stinking mountain bikers that darken their doors counts for a lot.
If we're going to sit around and talk about the ride, or bikes, or anything else you would talk about after a ride, you had better have a coffee or beer in hand. It's just not efficient otherwise." - Scott Pilecki, Rocky Mountain Bicycles
What other bar allows you to bring your dirty bike inside or sit on the bar stool covered head to toe in mud? The next pint of Guinness is always poured for you before you go to the bar." Paul McCarthy, Steed Cycles
Bean Around Seymour
The fact that the majority of North Shore Triple Crown rides I've been on - and that anyone I know has been on - start at the Bean, and before that the Lazy Bay Cafe in the same location, definitely means something as does the fact that Bean Around the World has long been a sponsor of trail building efforts on the Shore.
You can't sit drinking coffee for more than an hour on the weekend - at almost any time of year - without bumping into an approachable local legend headed out for the ride. Bruce Spicer, Andreas Hestler, Chaz Romalis, Wade Simmons, Brett Tippie, Dik Cox, Keith Stark, Jerry Willows, Kevin Calhoun and countless others... you never know who's going to drop by.
I seem to bump into people I know all the time. Finish a ride, drink a coffee, bump into someone I know. The next thing I know I'm off pedaling another lap of the mountain.
I've also met a few of my semi-regular riding friends from conversations struck up enjoying a post ride medium-medium in a big black to-stay mug.
We started one winter during university, and we were cold a lot of the time. The coffee at the end of the ride was the only thing keeping us warm as we felt like we had to drink it outside to avoid spreading dirt all over the coffee shop. - Scott Pilecki
The Blue Light
Ask any Irish mountain biker about riding on the Emerald Isle and their tale is bound to include the "world famous 'Brock Stock'" which happens to be "the highlight of the year at The Blue Light." I'll let Paul explain: "it's a casual ride out with 200+ friends on the trails above the Pub. The main event of the ride is the Mass Start (Le Mans Style) race from the top of the mountain back to the bar."
If that level of support for local mountain biking doesn't suggest institution status then ask yourself "what other bar allows you to bring your dirty bike inside or sit on the bar stool covered head to toe in mud?" And heck, Guinness and grilled cheese is one of my favourite post ride combos. The fact that the next pint is always poured for you before you go up to the bar is just a bonus.
If its current place in Irish mountain bike lore wasn't enough of a draw, The Blue Light Pub is steeped in a tradition of "scofflaw" behavior. Named after an 1800's practice of dodging customs agents, it was a bikers' bar back in the day- home to local motocross heroes and TT racers before the local mountain bike community started holding court.
For me as a kid it was that bar at the top of the Mountain above my house. As I became of age to attend bars it became my go to after an evening of night biking in torrential rain. - Paul McCarthy
What's Your Institution?
The reason I've heard of the Blue Light Pub is that every person I know who's ridden bikes in the Dublin Mountains has a story about the place. Usually one that invokes a smile or a laugh. I've been hitting the Bean for years and I'm writing about it after a long conversation with Scott about what the place means to mountain biking on the North Shore - I'd never considered it.
Whether it's the Love Muffin in Moab or Mission Springs in... well... Mission, it seems to me that wherever you ride there's at least one local where you are guaranteed to meet some fellow riders. It would be great to know the must-visit establishments wherever I ride.