This weekend I have decided two things:
1) I much prefer cycling on my own
2) I’m going to join a mountain bike riding club
At first glance these 2 statements may appear a little contradictory but there is method in my madness.
I may have mentioned before that I am a highly competitive person, at nearly anything from Scrabble to cycling, and usually to a point beyond insanity and reason.
On the bike, I’ll race to overtake anyone – mopeds, kids, pensioners with shopping, yes it’s that bad.
When riding with a group I have still, after many years, to develop the ability not to want to be at the front, of pacing for the long haul and of not competing with people way above my calibre.
Riding with ‘roadies’ who are generally, younger, fitter, more experienced and on better bikes, I’ve often found myself in situations where I’m exhausted after a few short miles, body and motivation drained, skulking off home despondent and berating myself for lack of ability.
My solution, to ride on my own.
I actually enjoy my own company a lot. After 5000 miles and 4 months of touring a year or so back, I have no problem with sitting for hours, pedalling and letting my thoughts drift (I’ve written about it previously in ‘The Company of Strangers’).
Coming back from a lone road ride now, I feel tired but satisfied. I’ve chosen the route I wanted, the distance and there’s no pace comparison with a partner. In my mind at least, I was flying up those hills.
On the odd occasion I do ride with one or two friends we rarely have the same pace and the ride quite often turns competitive or in to a stop/start of waiting or chasing, satisfying for no-one. So I stick to, and am happier road riding alone.
My revelation came however when going out with a local MTB club recently. Mountain biking is the perfect way of riding to be social. On the road, due to traffic restrictions, it’s near impossible to ride two abreast, much harder to be sociable, to ride and chat (especially if you’re racing).
On the trails though there’s plenty of room for 2, or even 3 in-line. Stopping to assess or dissect jumps, descents or trails provides more time for gathering and talking. Conversely here, the more people there are to ride with, the bigger the group, the greater the opportunity has been to find that perfect pacing match.
As a novice too, having the back up of other riders after some hair-raising trails and regular falls is oh so very reassuring. Funnily enough I never worry about falling on the road or touring bikes despite many a close encounter with traffic?
What I realise, slowly, as I tackle this life-conundrum, is that, this is me and it’s ok! It’s ok that I’m always going to feel the need to compete, to push, to go further, faster.
It’s not necessarily a negative trait. Being driven to achieve goals has pushed me to do things, both physically, emotionally, personally that I never would have dreamed of doing and given some amazing experiences.
However, it’s also pushed me to ignore physical warning signs with disastrous, long-term results to health and well-being.
What I’m learning, slowly, is balance. That certain traits are embedded in our natures, accepting and channelling them positively instead of letting them drive us can produce the best, healthiest and happiest results.
It’s a small insight, but hard won. As for the rest, I’m still working on the answers to Life, the Universe and Everything….(and for those in the know….I hope it may yet be 42?!)