“When I see an adult on a bicyle, I do not despair for the human race”
This is Dory, my first ever road bike.
I’ve always loved riding bikes but the purchase of Dory was a bit of a game changer. Previous bikes were either incredibly heavy and old, having been inherited from my older brother and Dad who had no use for them, or were way too big (foolish eBay purchase, I think I was perhaps hoping for a mid-20s growth spurt). I’ve had Dory for just under a year and I still smile every time I take her out for a spin, which is most days. I’ve also been known to give her a little cuddle after a long, tough ride. To celebrate our upcoming anniversary, I thought I’d dedicate this blog post to Dory and the lessons we’ve learned together.
1. Adversity Makes You Stronger
On the bike, adversity comes in the form of a strong head wind, huge hills, a rainy day — often all three combined. The days on the bike where you have to dig deep and just grind out the miles and ignore the burning in your legs are the days you’re building strength and resilience
These are the days you look back on, feeling absolutely shattered but proud. Life is no different. No rider ever got stronger by training in good weather and on flat roads, and no person ever developed by taking the easy option.
2. Take the Path Less Well Travelled.
In life, we are all surrounded by the popular roads — the ones familiar and safely approved by all those that regularly travel along them. The path might look like a financially safe, but ultimately unfulfilling, career. It’s risky to go down a road you’ve never been down before; to build that new business, to try out that different job, to give yourself permission to follow that pipe dream — but these quiet little lanes make for gorgeous, scenic cycling and they often lead to somewhere surprising and wonderful in life, too.
3. Fall Over, Pick Yourself Back Up
Anyone who has learned to ride a bike has fallen off a bike. Sooner or later, the stabilisers come off and you have to figure out balance. Then later, we have to figure out fellow road users , pot holes and other obstacles. As I write this, I have a scar on my left shin from a mountain biking attempt in Wales and I have some fresh scrapes on both legs from recently making the switch to clipless pedals.
The point of this is not to brag about how clumsy I am, the point is that falling down and staying down are 2 very different things. Falling down, both on the bike and in life is fairly inevitable. It’s really what you do next that counts. If you let the fall define you and listen to that dented ego, you’ll never move past it. Brush off the dirt, take a deep breath, try again.
4. Shine Bright!
Once upon a time, I had a really awesome black Goretex cycling jacket. It was stylish, sleek and, sadly, it got lost. When I needed to replace it, I was on a budget. Cue the purchase of a £7 fluorescent pink child’s cycling jacket. Yep, actually designed for a 13 year old girl but it does the job. It’s REALLY bright, offensively so.
Perfect for the road — it means I’ll be seen. It’s mostly inappropriate for other situations but it packs down pretty small and I’ve come to really like all the little pockets it has, so if I ever need a waterproof jacket that I don’t mind getting a bit grubby and I’m saving on space, this one goes in the bag. This jacket is possibly the most hideous piece of clothing I own so I’m not defending it so much as emphasising that I think we should all shine bright and own what we do 100%. When did we get so scared about standing out? The colour of life is in the bold decisions we make, the passion that drives us and the courage that stops us from giving up, regardless of the odds.
5. It’s Not About the Destination.
I know what you’re thinking — London to Brighton/Southend/Paris, it’s all about the triumphant arrival at that finish line. You did it! You made it! And actually, yes — this moment is wonderful. The celebratory beers at the end of a long ride is obviously a sacred thing and I’m not diminishing that at all. However, all of my long distance bike rides have been coloured by all the little moments along the way. One of the toughest rides I did last year was the Dunwich Dynamo — an overnight 135 mile ride from London to Suffolk. I was sleep deprived, I was a bit soggy and I really wasn’t enjoying myself much at all. But, there was also hot coffee and hysterical laughter at Arnold Schwartzenegger quotes. There was the unrelenting desire to give up and sleep — that I completely ignored.
Moments like these are what make a ride. The finish line is good, but there’s a lot of magic along the way. In life, we get so caught up with working towards a goal and make it okay to be miserable along the way. We tell ourselves it will all pay off and we’ll be happy when X is achieved — we miss out on so much. If you’re not enjoying the journey, what’s the point? Life is too short not to enjoy the ride along the way.