As I sit here in front of the fire on a cold January evening, my wife is scouring the weather forecast and, due to the potential snow storm headed our way, is wondering if she will have another day off from teaching at school. I start thinking about what another dumping of snow will mean to my riding schedule over the next week or two and, as we prepare to go through the inevitable freeze/thaw process, what that will mean for the condition of the local trails. Amongst all this uncertainty, there’s no doubt that I will find a way to get on two wheels, whether that be heading out on the road bike, suffering the monotony of the trainer in my basement, or just wrapping up warm, breaking out the mountain bike, and getting out there!
I often find myself riding in unpredictable weather, in strange places, and at sometimes unsociable times. In fact, I’m almost certain many of my friends and colleagues who’ve never been exposed to the joys of two wheels would brand me a little crazy. So what motivates me to get out there?
The Great Outdoors
For someone fairly new to the USA In many ways, I feel like a small child, where every experience is new and exciting. Particularly in the USA, the range of climates and terrain provide a plethora of options to test my skill and endurance. Mountain biking genuinely takes me to places I would never dream of going, seeing sights and wildlife, and experiencing genuine awesomeness that is beyond compare.
Clearing the Mind
Although my job requires me to be physically in the office Monday to Friday, in reality I am always on the clock, unable to switch off due to the love of what I do and the conscious requirement to keep things running smoothly. When I’m out on the trail I have no choice but to clear my mind. Each pedal stroke pushes me towards the next challenge, clearing the next obstacle, picking the right line to make it to the top of that killer climb, or nailing that technical downhill. All I can focus on is the trail ahead and for those few precious moments when I’m tuned in, it takes all my focus, energy, and resolve to harness the adrenaline buzz and keep those two wheels flowing freely.
This goes without saying, but cycling genuinely prepares me for life. My other fitness activities involve soccer and Crossfit. But when given the choice, other activities pale into insignificance and hitting the trail always wins. Pushing the limits on my mountain bike allows me to be better at all physical activities and is often the perfect way to recover after a hard-fought soccer match or a solid workout. In fact, after two knee surgeries, it was the time on the bike that rebuilt my strength and allowed me to return to playing soccer–one could say cycling was the perfect physical therapist!
I recently watched the Lego documentary “Beyond the Brick,” in which they talk about the mind-blowing stat that just six eight-stud (2×4) Lego bricks can be combined together a total of 915,103,765 different ways. When you think about that mind-blowing number and apply it to the millions of cycling products out there, it’s hard to comprehend the different combinations, options, and upgrades that are available for your bike. I try to be a frugal cyclist but in reality my bike is never more than a few weeks without a change, tweak, or upgrade, all in the name of chasing that utopian-like reality of having the perfect-riding, perfect-handling, most-comfortable bike, and shaving down those always-challenging lap or segment times.
The Chance to Improve
Aside from the actual hardware improvements, I often think of the phrase used by golfer Gary Player, “The more I practice, the luckier I get.” The more I ride, the easier everything becomes: those climbs don’t seem so long, the downhills seem to flow by, and rock gardens seem nothing more than a bump in the road. If I turn my mind back to my very beginnings as a cyclist, many of those things would have forced me to dismount and push the bike along. Whilst still definitely a challenge, such obstacles are something that I know I’ll overcome… if not the first time, definitely soon after.
After writing these few words, I can feel that cycling itch coming on! What is it that motivates you to ride?
Bio: Matthew Cox began mountain biking in the early 1990s near his home in the UK. Since then he’s relocated to Northern Virginia, where he races as an amateur and works on upgrading his bike. Matt also writes a hobby blog, which you can visit at mattonbikes.com.