I’m a strange mixture of lone wolf and pack animal when it comes to riding; I originally started out as a lone wolf, tackling my difficult morning rides all by my lonesome. I won’t deny that when I first started riding, I wished to ride alone out of fear. I wasn’t fast or strong, and my bike was quite heavy and cumbersome. It was also personal therapy time, one of which let me ride and talk or think out my innermost thoughts.
Then one day I had my first ride with Travis, and subsequently he accompanied me on a few more rides. I realized the power of companionship on bike rides, especially when they seemed most difficult to me. I managed to successfully accomplish the whole loop last year, three times, with his help. I was not motivated enough to do it all on my own. There is true strength in support and pep-talks, and his kindness and thoughtfulness proved beneficial. I didn’t feel like a failure, even when I had to stop for breaks.
I was thinking of all this while on my ride this morning. It was a chilly fall morning and I had to motivate myself to get up and out. I have all the clothes, but that doesn’t mean I always feel motivated to throw myself out into the chilly air. When the seasons start changing and the temperatures drop to a certain level; the number of individuals out on the trail decreases rapidly. I won’t deny my going into a completely meditative mindset almost instantly.
You are the only one out there, and you can completely immerse yourself into the outdoors. Listening to the birds and smelling the decaying leaves. My tires run over fallen branches, the leaves on the ground crunch under me. I take turns as tight as I desire and as fast as I want; I am completely one with myself and the bike.
I come up a hill and see another biker in the distance, a female rider, like myself. I think several things in my head at that moment. We must be pretty darn awesome because there were no other women out biking at that time. We are determined women who are not allowing the temperatures and change of seasons to dictate our riding. I climb the hill and come closer to this mystery rider, I start wondering if I’ll have to pass her.
I didn’t want to pass this person; I only want to pass if I know I’m going faster than they are. It’s pointless to me, to play biking ballet and have each of us pass each other multiple times. I can be competitive with myself, but I choose to not compete with others. I spent a good number of months pushing myself and beating myself up over not going fast enough as it was. I was also finding that the cooler temps made my body work slower. Even with the right gear, the air still tightens up my muscles and joints. I’m also feeling the desire to enjoy what time outside I can; enjoying the ride that day meant to not rush it.
I was close behind this rider, but not too close. We both were making our way around a corner and she was ahead of me enough that we could both see each other making our way down. I hoped that I did manage a smile, but my lips felt cold and numb there is no telling what actually happened to my face. Normally on the switchbacks I speed my way down, taking the corners fast and fluid. I slowed myself a bit, decreasing my speed and allowing the first rider plenty of room and time.
I was thinking to myself how this person might be seeking the same sort of meditative experience I was. Enjoying this quiet fall morning, and wanting to completely zone out and just ride. When you feel someone coming up behind you, it takes away that meditative feeling and you are on alert. You’re wondering if the person will pass you, or can you speed up and stay ahead? Being the person behind, I’m thinking similar things; “Will I be able to pass this person?” “Should I pass this person?” and “How fast do I want to go?”
I made the decision to keep my pace which meant I wasn’t going to pass the fellow rider. I kept going at a speed I was comfortable with; the rider was long gone when I got down the switch backs and onto the flats. By the hatchery I was able to watch an eagle soar down near the field and fly back to the nest. I was in awe of the majesty of that, and was thankful that I didn’t push myself. Otherwise if I had been there any sooner I would’ve missed the beautiful sight.
There are days where I crave the company of someone to talk to while riding, but I do appreciate those days where I ride alone. I experienced many quiet mornings by myself, and was able to work through many of my emotional and mental struggles on those rides. I’m happy that I dabble in both solo rides and rides with others; either way I have companionship be it human or nature.