Commute to work and commute home. Monday to Saturday, for 52 weeks of the year. 140 miles a week depending on the weather. Guaranteed miles for me and the bike. I can predict the traffic light track stands and I prepare for the short cuts for when the train barriers block my way.
Sometimes it feels monotonous, repetitive and predictable. Only an Ipod shuffle playlist can perk up the daily A-road commute. The body has grow accustom to the 50mins sitting in the saddle. It conquers the climbs with effortless ease and its only the thought of beating a Strava segment that raises the adrenaline.
But I wouldn’t want it any other way. I love it. It defines me. it’s what I do.
My own palmares is something I treasure. I cut my teeth in Epping forest and the Stirling Cycles crew. Biketrax supported me on my quest for off road success. Beastway, Cylone Cycles and Broxbourne woods taught me things that only now I appreciate. Herts Shore and great friends filled 6 years with wooden DIY North Shore, trips to Canada and drunken nights around the communal campfire.
Moving to Yorkshire has opened another chapter. A change in topography required a new approach to my cycling. New riding buddies meant taking a back seat and required me to be taught a few things.
The Dales was to be my play ground. The OS map laying before me glowed with treasures. Settle loop, Mastiles Lane, the 3 peaks and many more to mention filled the to-do list, but I needed a new approach to help me complete my list.
My weekends soon filled with far flung trips into the Dales. Steady 3 hour rides soon became 4 or 5 hour epics. My small day sack was soon to be replaced with a bigger rucksack to accommodate the Jetboil and extra sandwiches. Chocolate was exchanged for energy bars and water for carbo drinks.
I loved the miles. Watching my computer reach 50, 75 miles brought on a feeling of accomplishment and satisfaction, a job well done. I enjoyed and relished what was required to finish my ride. I set myself new milestones and entered events to challenge this new desire. My first ever 12 hour off road race at Gisburn Forest back in 2010 lite the torch that now guides my new cycling path. 12 months later and I finished another Gisburn 12 hour mtb race. Lap after lap on a rigid 29er, legs pleading to stop but the mind driving me onwards. Last lap approaches and I notice I am into the 90 miles completed. “Will I reach 100, now that will be a milestone”. 96, 97, 97.5 the line approaches 98. Race finished but I continue through the line and onwards “Your finished Stu. Its time to stop”. I need that 100 miles. I couldn’t let this pass and I wanted that century.
I started to enter longer rides and events. I wanted to challenge myself and dive into the unknown. My fitness had grown along with the milage. My steady eddie pace ticked along like a metronome and my rides where no longer restricted by the need for physical effort or restraint but by the mental barriers that shot up when planning the next adventure.
My confident approach to my physical ability did not match the mental toughness needed to complete some of the rides I set myself. Why did I doubt myself.
Was it due to mental weakness. Did I need to bench press the old grey matter, exercise the cerebrum and flush out the disbelief. The answer is a resounding YES. Simple.
It’s a recipe. If I have all the ingredients and adhere to the instructions then it should all come together. Bike, kit, route, time, food, drink and a plan. Have a plan A but be prepared to implement plan B, C and even D. Adapt and overcome. Be confident and be positive. You never know until you try.
100 miles soon grew to 150 miles. A few 160 miles and a 266 miler went into the bank. I followed fellow cyclists in their own challenges. Following Mike Hall on his round the world bike ride on the WWW only fuelled my desire to test myself. The BB200 and the Cairngorm200 gave me the opportunity to emerge myself in the wealth of knowledge of the seasoned endurance racers and I soaked up the advise and experiences. My resent trip to ride the Tour of Flanders with the Skipton Cycling Club wrote another chapter in my riding journal. Listening to Sean telling tales of cyclist of old and their heroic efforts to beat the elements swelled my passion for adventure and accomplishment.
It’s my spirituality that drives my riding now. The physical part is a welcome bonus, a satisfying by-product of milage and effort.
Lets not forget the bread and butter rides, the daily commute. It has grown in significance now that I run my own bike shop. My monotonous journey now has evolved into a welcomed ride to work.
Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance you must keep moving.
~ Albert Einstein,