I have a complex relationship with cycling. There I said it.
Most of my interaction with the sport is healthy but there remain some areas that are dark and destructive.
I am working on them.
For me cycling has been as much about headspace and ‘me time’ as group riding and socialising.
I am a loner by nature and find it really hard at times to integrate into the café culture that’s so prevalent in modern day cycling.
By wanting to ride alone almost all of the time I have been labelled as anti-social and rude. An old club mate even took me to one side to say that despite volunteering in a leadership role in that group, other members saw me as aloof, odd and borderline anti-social.
I was hurt.
My argument is that is safer to ride alone and in mainly riding time trials as competition it would be a waste of limited training time to ride with others.
The headspace element has been key for decades now. A boss I had in the early 2000’s used to know when I’d been for a training ride the previous evening as he said my best business ideas always came out of a tough ride into the hills of Northamptonshire.
My creative juices do seem to flow when I am riding and working on my fitness and form.
This is why I was so terrible at having a power meter. Despite the massive increase in fitness and upturn in racing results and times, I was a much worse human for riding my bike looking at numbers and data scrolling across my handlebars rather than getting my head up and taking in my surroundings.
Mentally I was just so keen to hit a certain power or TSS that meltdowns were common place. Looking back it wasn’t healthy for my family or me. I was never in a place to be a decent amateur rider, let alone anything more, and here I was heaping so much pressure on myself to perform and ride like a Tour de France star.
I remember the kit malfunctioning and me going out for a ride, stressed out as I had no means of recording my power. I was gutted.
And yet halfway through that ride I stopped my bike at the top of a hill and phoned home to tell my Wife how much I was enjoying myself and how I appreciated having this time to dedicate to my sport.
This is the odd relationship I have with cycling in a nutshell.
I want to be the best racer I can be making the most of my limited time to train, but I also want to enjoy cycling and experience the best of travel and the countryside.
I want to have it all.
At the moment the stress of lockdowns, redundancy and the effect that has had on mental health means that actually, I am craving company more than having that desperate need to be alone and focus on me.
So, if you are out on a ride and a guy in a Fendrien jersey tags along for a few kms having a chat. Please indulge him.
In fact, if you are out there and get the chance to ride with anyone, please make sure you say hello and ask how they are doing to strike up conversation.
Now more than even we should be cycling for enjoyment and the pleasure of meeting other people.
Enjoy your riding.