Rolling With Wicks

Everyone needs a faster friend!

Ryan Wicks is one interesting dude.

Ryan spent the better part of a decade as an outdoor educator and a math teacher. He runs, bikes, sails, swims, flies drones, flies airplanes, builds computers, drives too fast, and is always ready for an adventure. I met him in my first five minutes in grad school. I sat down in a classroom for my first class, too nervous to speak up to anyone else in there, and Ryan turned around from two rows up and said “Hey, I’m Ryan! Nice to meet you!”

Ryan and I have been camping and hiking and biking together for about two and a half years. I love going on trips with Ryan, because his experience and physical fitness is way ahead of mine. You wouldn’t know it, even if you went out with him five times. Ryan stays very humble about it. He just happens to prefer 16-mile trail runs, and doesn’t make a big deal about it.

Ryan is going to get mad at me for saying so, but by the standards many of us have for our outdoors gear, most of Ryan’s stuff is absolutely wrecked. He’s been sleeping in his tent for 7 years, his sleeping bag has upwards of a thousand nights of use, and his bike is a cantilevered early 2000’s Specialized with slick tires. How he negotiates wet leaves on long climbs, I have no idea.

We slept out on Mt. Orient last week, in temperatures slipping down to 20ºF, even colder than that at elevation. Ryan slept in a hammock, with a torso foam pad. It’s amazing Ryan is still alive, between getting lost in the rain on trail runs and accidentally biking into swamps at night. He’s had a few more hypothermia scares than me.

But that’s what’s great about Ryan.

Ryan could build a new bike, but he doesn’t need it. He could pick up a new sleeping bag, but it’s not a priority- his old one does the job just fine. He’s not afraid of new gear, either; he’s spending a small fortune on a climbing rack because outdoor lead-climbing is cheaper than the rock gym. I believe Ryan secretly has life figured out better than the rest of us, and I could serve to follow his example more than I do.

I have a lot of fancy equipment. I have a highly tuned bikepacking bike and I’ve got a very light sleeping bag. I update my gear a lot. I just updated my cross bike.

Ryan knows better than I do. It’s not about the gear, it’s about what you do with it. Sure, I have a good time messing around with “stuff,” but this coming winter, I’m going to try and spend less time preparing for trips and more time going out unprepared. Ryan lives at the edges of experience, pushing himself and his equipment to the limit. That’s how I wanna live my life, too. I want to be a Ryan Wicks.

Some more pictures from our recent jaunt up Mt. Orient:

Get out there and see what your body is capable of. Do something reckless and live to tell about it. Just do me a favor and don’t mention me in your obituary if you push it too far… it takes years to become a Ryan Wicks.

Keep wrecking gear,

3 thoughts on “Rolling With Wicks

  1. I’m excellent at gear wrecking, repurpose alpine skis for backcountry Nordic use, buy my bikes 2nd hand off eBay, have climbed, bivvied, skied, biked, canoed, sailed etc. in a few continents. But my better road bike has been poorly recently and I’ve been out on my ancient steel bike. What a difference in enjoyment, it’s heavy, sluggish and much harder work. But I’m still out there turning the wheels and still grinning.

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