The joy of riding is a splendid thing; however, sometimes one finds they are taking the fun out of it. The focus of riding for joy is simply to be out on the bike (or on your trainer) and riding for the simple pleasure of riding. When I first started riding I didn’t a specific goal in mind, it was just to get myself off my butt and do something good for myself. I also rode to work daily, regardless of the weather, because I knew I could do it.
I’m a farm kid and when I’m determined to do something you better believe I’ll do it! Eventually my goal of no goals turned into wanting to ride around the whole Trout Run Trail loop at least once before the cycling season was over. That goal was met at least 3 times last year, of course each time with my struggling at some point during the ride. Regardless of the struggle and the amount of rest stops, it was done. I rode to work in all kinds of weather last year, I must say for being new rider, tackling my first winter wasn’t the worst thing in the world. I battled wind, snow, ice, sleet, and rain; I made it to work every day in one piece.
This year something started to change when I rode during the warmer months; I became obsessive about numbers. My fitness bike has a computer on it, which lets you know how fast you’re going and how long you’ve been riding. It’s very handy for indoor training but it started to take away my joy from riding. My focus became how fast I accomplished the loop and that would either make my day or let me down.
Last year my time was never a focus, my riding was simply to get out and burn off extra stress energy so I could function better. This year my riding took a turn towards being more competitive with myself, without taking into consideration my physical setbacks as well as my bike. My bike can only go so fast and I have exercise induced asthma. I physically can only do so much until my lungs get stronger, for I’ve never been a very physical person before.
I also needed to remember that my bike isn’t a road bike and that I should stop trying to pretend it is. Finally after regaling my so-called terrible morning ride to Travis he firmly told me to “stop it.” He reminded me that I warned him last year that I have the potential to become numbers obsessed and I certainly had. Instead of regaling him with details of my rides based around animals, nature, and thoughts; all I did was whine and moan about my terrible times.
“What happened to riding just to ride?” he asked. I was feeling very sheepish, I didn’t have a response at that moment; what had happened? My rides that were so therapeutic before had turned into stressful ventures to prove to myself I could be fast. Knowing full well I am not interested in time trials or racing in general, what was I doing out there?
Yes, I’m naturally pretty fast. I’m better at riding for longer periods of time instead of riding for speed. I’m alright at climbing hills now, but I enjoy going down them even more. I suspect that during this year and having ridden with a few more people either as a pair or in a small group, I was bound and determined to find out who I was on a bike. I was going about this the wrong way, and ultimately became my own worst riding partner.
When I looked at the numbers, I didn’t feel a driving energy to push myself. I felt defeated. Whenever my body tired out, I cursed it. I wasn’t kind to myself, I wasn’t learning anything, and I wasn’t experiencing anything other than my self-defeating attitude. The last few rides I had of the more weather-tolerant bike season, I didn’t look at the time. I didn’t care when I got done with the ride, I just enjoyed the fact I had been able to go on one more ride.
I smelled the leaves; I listened to the birds, watched for animals, and listened to the snapping twigs under my tires. I felt the cold air sting inside my lungs and it made me feel invigorated. Riding for me isn’t about how fast I go or how hard I push; it’s about the simple joy of being on that bike. Some rides are not amazing, I’ve had my share of bad ride days; I’ve learned to accept that as part of the whole adventure of bike riding. You accept it for what it is and appreciate the ride you get to have, for they all have lessons to teach us.