A dying passion
How I felt out of love with cycle touring
I recently returned from a trip where I cycled to Barcelona.
Starting in London, I cycled with my friend Felix and broadly followed the 2016 Tour de France route over the Pyrenees and into northern Spain
We were meant to be competing in the Transcontinental, an unsupported bike race that starts in Flanders and finishes 2,500 miles later in Turkey. But we had to pull out at the last minute. We decided to cycle south from London instead.
The road to Barcelona was breathtakingly beautiful. I will remember the trip for its rolling hills, lofty green peaks and sleepy French villages.
But, more significantly, I will remember the trip as the moment a passion of mine died. A passion that once defined me.
To be honest the signs were always there that I’d fallen out of love with my bike, but sometimes we don’t want to see the truth.
It’s only cycling, right?
True. It isn’t a tragedy by any sense of the word. But there is something about endings, transitions and new beginnings that I want to share.
Missing the signs
Earlier this year I looked at Strava, a cycling app that I record all my bike rides, and realised I had hardly done any cycling in 2015. That’s odd, I thought. I was still talking about bikes as this big passion on mine, and yet I didn’t do much riding last year.
When I started to prepare for the Transcontinental race in February it was painful, both physically and mentally. But I figured I was unfit from my lack of riding.
By the time we began the trip to Barcelona at the start of August I had done LOTS of cycling. I was fit and ready to go.
Yet the road to Barcelona was tough, way tougher than any previous bike tour. Normally I would float up a mountain, tapping away effortlessly at my pedals. This time I huffed, puffed and cursed my way to the top of each big climb.
Looking back, they were all major signs.
A sign that something I once loved was coming to an end. That I was ready for something new, a new way of spending my time. But I was unable — or unwilling — to acknowledge it.
Being in transition
In truth, I was in transition, moving away from cycling as a form of moving my body, and heading in a new yet undefined direction.
William Bridges, author of Managing Transitions, describes a transition as the nowhere between two somewheres.
Our lives are a constant flux of endings, transitions and new beginnings. But many of us do not see value in that murky, grey phase when we don’t know what happens next.
Transitions can last days, months or years.
With hindsight, I understand that I’ve been in transition for some years now. I have been in an exploratory phase without knowing it.
New ways of moving my body have piqued my interest: dance, yoga, trekking, weights, martial arts, and many more. I have been dabbling in all of them, all while defining myself as a cyclist, not realising these interests were the spring buds of a new beginning.
Ending the hard way
I don’t regret the rollercoaster road to Barcelona, it was still an unforgettable journey.
And importantly, it brought closure. Those painful ascents through the Pyrenees brought with it the clarity of mind that something in me had ended: I didn’t want to do this any more.
But if feels like this ending happened the hard way. It was a forced falling out of love. I suspect if I’d been able to let go and see the signs more easily, this new beginning would already be in full bloom.
A new beginning
Now that I am home, I have packed away my bike, this time without a wistful look over my shoulder.
My wife and I are expecting a baby girl later in the year, and I suspect this has played some part in the transition too.
Now I am looking forward. Accepting this closure has somehow accelerated a new beginning.
Where previously I was dabbling in different types of movement, now this exploration feels fresher, more purposeful, more committed.
I can’t wait to see what new passion emerges.