“Why do you do it?”
Usually accompanied by looks of incredulity and disapproval, this is often the question asked by my friends or family members when I tell them of my latest ride or plans to do so later on, despite the cold, almost freezing temperatures and winds outside. They might not even have to say anything, but you can see it in their eyes. What the hell is wrong with you?
So it got me thinking what really is it that gets you to go out in such adverse conditions, to expose youself when you could lay around all day in front of the telly – and to actually enjoy what so many others think is pure madness. We all have our own reasons. And I’m pretty sure everyone will say it’s because it’s fun, it’s eco-friendly and the nature’s nice. Then there’s the money and it might seem cheap at first, but there’s always something new to buy, some new gadget or piece of clothing to try. While riding might indeed not cost much, you make up for it buying all those pieces of kit.
But in the end that’s not why. Sure, all these things are true, but they don’t get you out of the couch and into the wind. What is it then? Let’s take a deeper look…
For those that do spend most of the time inside, low temperatures and cold winds are often the unwanted devil and should be avoided at all costs. Closing the doors and windows is paramount and letting cold air inside is simply uneconomical. For us cyclists, these conditions require only a bit of extra equipment, an added layer of clothing, something to cover your face with, gloves perhaps. Your body warms up quickly and you soon forget how cold it should feel. If anything, cold weather is an added challenge to overcome, an extra feat to brag about to your friends.
Many times in life, I find my mind drifting off, thinking of plans and memories when I should be focusing on the task at hand. I move slowly, as if without the proper motive. People seem to rush from one task to another, rarely realising the small wonders of their surroundings. When out on your bike, you have the time to sink into all that – the feel of the wind, the small bumps in the road, the vibrations of the bike. The strength in your legs and the air in your lungs.You watch people going about their business – school children, construction workers, farmers, drivers on the highway. Sharing that moment in time, you can relate to their thoughts a bit. Your mind slows down as there is nothing to fill your head with commercial messages, social networks, content of no general importance.
All of these things give you direction. You might not even know exactly where you want to go, but all along you feel like you are on the right track. There are no wrong turns when out riding. You base your decisions on how much is left in your legs, what kind of terrain is ahead of you, or how explorative you feel at the moment. Or perhaps you have a set target you would like to achieve – climb a hill, keep up the pace, sprint to the next town sign, get home before it’s dark. In that moment, your only purpose is to meet the goals you set yourself and once again, there is nothing around to disturb you. In the absence of your cycling partner you are on your own and you have only yourself to blame in you give up. There is only yourself to thank should you succeed, as well.
Whether going solo, riding in a group or just meeting others on the road, you come into contact with people that generally share your view on the world. You might not even know them, but a look when passing by is often enough for both of you to know how the other is feeling. Raising your hand in greeting is mostly the thing to do in such situations and met with cheery replies – even more so in the off season, when a bit of encouragement goes a long way and you are happy to see a fellow sufferer battling the elements. Even though cyclists differ in their general purpose of riding or the level of commitment, there is a common affinity and likemindedness shared amongst all of us. It gives a sense of belonging, be it to your group of buddies, a local cycling club or your favourite internet forum.
After a long hard ride, when the sun is getting low and your legs grow tired, there is only one thing left to do. Your mind turns back to the warmth of your home, the comfy couch and the football you’re going to watch in the evening. You have all the right in the world to feel good about yourself. In the face of naysayers around you you have shown the drive and determination to go out of your comfort zone. You might feel a bit of pain in your thighs, but it’s the good kind of pain. All that remains now is to wipe the dust off your bike and let it rest for a while – until the next time you feel the need again, so it’ll be ready as you are.