Determination and passion can push people to surpass themselves in pretty amazing ways. Few of us can claim to have mastered a discipline. Even fewer are those who attempt to pursue more than one. But Ryan Rodriguez is one of a kind. After becoming a really talented drum player, he went on to conquer new heights on his bike.
Like most kids, he first found freedom on a bicycle.The two wheels of his BMX took him and his friends around town and to parks where they would practice jumps and tricks. All they wanted to do is have some fun and he didn’t take biking seriously, at least not like music and so there was less and less biking and more and more drumming. It’s only years and years later, when his younger cousins were going to mountain bike parks, trying to convince him to come along that he decided to give it a shot.
“I didn’t have any money to afford a mountain bike and then after riding BMX, I thought mountain biking was really lame, but I also pictured cross-country. I wasn’t really into that. I ended up taking my BMX bike to the downhill park and I was just getting hammered with my one rear break. That didn’t go over so well. Somebody had a hard-tail, a dirt jumper and I tried that thing and I was blown away by it. You can do really big jumps with these longer bikes!”
Whether he knew it of not, it was the start of a new era for Ryan. He went to a few more trips to the downhill park, dreaming of getting a bike on his own. The more he did it, the more he got obsessed with it. In 2012, he made the jump and got his first downhill bike.
“Mountain biking is something else. There is a lot more freedom and a lot more adventure and exploration than ever in BMX. There is more ground covered. We’re traveling the country for it, some are even traveling the world. It’s so much more intimate that BMX or dirt bikes. It’s the only word I can think of. There is just more connection with the Earth in general with a mountain bike that with a dirt bike that’s loud and wild. Way more intimate.”
The connection he felt on two wheels was fulfilling and there was progressively more bike in his life and less drums. He started racing downhill, following the national circuit.
“Whenever I go home after a bike trip, it takes me weeks to learn how to play drums again to a level of professionalism that I used to play at. I’m lying, I actually can’t play like I used to. I think the brain re-wires itself. Thinking patterns and technique in music is just not the same. But there are similarities between music and racing. When you play music and go on stage in front of a bunch of people and the time comes when the show starts, you have to be on, you have to perform. And this wasn’t a big deal for me, I was looking forward to it. It’s the same thing when you have a race run. The countdown starts and you have to perform. Maybe that’s why I like both of those. They’re forced control.”
Forced control, forced meditation, living fully in the moment, it’s the common driver between those two distinct passions. That and a desire to surpass yourself, to get better, to conquer a difficult run or a complicated part. For Ryan, that desire sometimes morphs into an obsession he can’t take out of his head until he makes it happen.
“I get these personal visions of what I want to do on a bike and then I just want to go out and do it. You want to do it and feel it. The main thing, and I think it goes for a lot of people is when you’re doing it, when you’re in the thick of it you have no control and you’re active, you’re not thinking of anything else and you just focus on that. You’re truly living the moment. It really happens when you are on the mountain side. It feels right when you hit a turn well, when you get sideways up a jump and float. It just feels good.”
Following your instincts is sometimes the best way to make decisions. When he was working contracts for an oil company, he remembers quite well the moment he realized a good job was not the most important thing.
“I was just scared of getting stuck there. That would suck, to live your whole life in an oil refinery. That definitely polarized me. The realization was there but it happened progressively. When I got offered to be put into supervisor training, I had to get out of there. I didn’t want to get stuck in there. My soul was dying.”
For this California man, there is nowhere better than Utah to keep his soul alive. The red dirt, the crazy lines off the mesa that have made RedBull Rampage a one of a kind freeride event force him to continuously push his limits.
“Pushing the limits of fear is why I like coming here. It’s one of the only place where that happens, in Virgin Utah. You just have to deal with it, slow the craft. If you’re up there and can’t envision and feel the run, so to speak, it’s not going to happen. I got to go for it to see what happens or else, how are you going to know. A little leap of faith.”
Maybe that’s the key to pushing yourself, little leaps of faith. After all, one doesn’t become so good at things without following his heart, trusting his instincts and just going for it full throttle. Because like Ryan likes to put it, “Hesitation breads devastation!”