Cycling and Life – Simple yet Curious Parallels.
I was riding in Wales last month. I had tired legs on that particular day, yet loving the exhilaration of the descents far more than usual. As such, I was taking at least an extra couple of MPH worth of risk as I avoided my usual break-feathering. The difference between the hard and the fun, the pain and the joy was more pronounced than usual on that day, and importantly, the relationship between them.
There are similar uphill struggles on the rolling landscape of life. Except on the hills of life, sometimes it’s harder, because there’s usually no view to admire whilst life’s dealing you a Grade 4 Category Climb. On a life Grade 4, it’s easy to feel like the hill’s never, ever going to end.
Sometimes life’s hills come out of nowhere, turn a corner and boom! A 30% waiting. Sometimes there’s a gradual ascent quite on view in the distance. These ones could be avoided, but the curiosity of a challenge is no bad thing – nothing ventured, nothing gained.
In cycling and in life, whether the bumps are tackled quite deliberately or a total, annoying, unforeseen surprise – there is one thing that is common and quite certain; there is always a summit, always a top, often a view to be gained. And in every challenge too there is growth. In cycling up a big hill, the very ripping of those muscle fibres is going to make them stronger in the long run. There cannot be muscle growth without damage. And so it is, without the challenge of a climb we cannot grow, nor can we expect to truly appreciate the heart-pounding descents that we earn.
I believe that it is good to remember that there is always a summit in both life and cycling, though it’s rarely easy to do this when the going gets tough in both sports. It’s a skill to practise and never stop practising. In racing, I’ve learned to visualise myself in that moment of achievement precisely at the very moment that my brain starts telling me to abort mission. The visualisation of a successful finish keeps me going, and has even helped me achieve my first racing wins. Since meeting Ben Hamley, a mind sports coach, who taught me this skill, I have had my first two race wins.
It’s all about the journey – the fun and the hard
When we are cycling, we are heading for cafes, for chocolate brownies, for thrills and for pain, and always, for the heartland of home with whatever that means to each of us cyclists individually.
And on the way there is a changing landscape of very good and really quite bad; from the leg-burning hills to be endured, to the thrilling, exhilarating descents, and the seemingly endless flat bits in between, in which it is not uncommon to pass heart-breaking road kill, so up close and personal with the shapes of how a badger came to rest in the last moments of precious badgery life, or conversely the delicious summer smells of lemon grass and wild garlic. And let us not forget the happy, kindly, patient drivers, or those that apparently attempt to kill us with a their vehicles whilst wearing a frown.
The laugher with co-riders, the inner worlds we share with one another whilst we’re riding, the miles and miles of silence, rarely but sometimes tears, easy companionship in respectful, quiet togetherness towards a summit through shared pain and growth – this is cycling, and it is also life.