Addicted? Possibly.

I had been preparing my next gabble as a homage to how miserable the last 2 weeks have been, both in the real world and on my bike. As I read it back to myself, it didn’t so much dawn on me, as punch me squarely in the face that I was getting sucked into the media / social media view of the world with an unhelpfully negative view and conclusion… and I am not here to make everyone feel worse with my opinions of the situation – I’ll leave that to Laura Kuenssberg. And so, while much of that content is certainly valid, it will remain in draft, ready to be digested and regurgitated in a different form later on. Meanwhile, Mother Nature intervened…

Yesterday’s weather was beautiful. The sun shone all day, and as I sat at my desk admiring the bright blue sky through the window that sits behind my computer a little bit of magic happened as a gap opened in my calendar, and an opportunity to get out on my bike in some reasonable weather (nay in the sun) presented itself. Admittedly it was the end of the day, and the sun’s presence was going to be limited, but getting out on the road then would make for welcome respite from my office, turbo trainer and / or the numb digits arising from recent ventures outside. At 3c, it was colder than I was expecting, though setting off with the suns rays on my face, I really didn’t mind. The sun really does make such a difference in so many ways. Take a lunch time beer while skiing… you don’t mind / notice it being minus several degrees if the sun is shining, as not only does it create a special warmth and a magical vista, but it also creates the best tasting beer. A Feldschlösschen or Gösser taste like the finest nectar Mother Nature could offer on these days. Though could the sun’s magic extend as far as Carlsberg? Probably not.

However, I was dressed for the conditions. My favourite jacket, thermal gilet, with merino wool base layer, and full length leggings that bind your legs so tight that I swear they rob you of tens of watts output per pedal stroke. Despite this, setting off up the road, I noticed how easily the bike was moving. So easily that I deduced that I must have a tail wind and that I would pay the price later. Pressing on, my ride was flowing and I was just enjoying being outside in our amazing, now twilit countryside. Half way around, nothing had changed… my legs felt strong, really strong, and at the turn for home (the highest point) I knew the incline was done, and then learned that the only wind I had faced was actually head wind… with a grin, I put my head down and pushed on for home.

I am sure comparing a bike ride with a ski run will raise more than one eyebrow, but it reminded me of the feeling I had ONCE, when skiing the Furggsattel glacier in Zermatt, Switzerland. It sits in a most incredible slot between the Matterhorn and Plateau Rosa, and as you leave the chairlift at the top you are embraced by a view into Italy, the Aosta valley and motorway pistes of Cervinia. It really is a very special place. The gradient of the Furggsaettel is also absolutely perfect to allow you to let go, and let the skis run, carving ‘boiler plate’ turns (the radius it specifies on the ski), leaving just ‘train tracks’ behind you. These were the turns that I aspired to, dropping my hips towards the snow, with my inside hand brushing the top of the groomed ‘corduroy’. That was a good ski, the one time when I felt, ‘I’m really not too shabby at skiing’… and I can remember it as clear as day, despite being 13 years ago. Yesterday’s was a good ride, and while I doubt I’ll remember it in 13 years, the feeling of everything working better than you thought it could, and that perhaps ‘I’m really not too shabby at cycling’, was certainly reminiscent.

Strangely, I have NO IDEA why my ride came together as it did. What made the ride so much easier, faster and enjoyable, despite being dressed like the ‘Michelin Man’ and staying just the right side of freezing towards the end, is absolutely beyond me.

It’s not so long ago that the only data that would have been available to recreational cyclists would have been distance and time. Today, even the least ambitious cyclist is armed (bombarded) with data, and depending how much you want to spend you can have more or less at your disposal. I am not for one moment saying that data is an important component of cycling. In fact at a very basic level, I think it could well ruin the hobby for many. One of my favourite things about cycling is embracing the views of the terrain and wildlife… a computer on my bike telling me in real time how much faster I am today than last time I rode this 50 metres of tarmac, or on the 26th March last year, would drive me crazy. For others, they get a real buzz from a macro level of data and it makes their rides more purposeful. The basics are enough for me, though I do use them at a micro level as an overall validation of how I am performing, and on odd occasions such as yesterday, it is really useful to validate whether my perception was indeed in line with reality – which yesterday’s most certainly was – perhaps a personal best (as subjective as that is!).

However, there is a ‘part two’ to this story. While yesterdays ride was magnificent, tonight it is raining, and so I’ve taken to my indoor bike, and despite a rather average course selection, my performance was miserable and it felt that way too. Any perception that I had that my own capabilities and performance had miraculously improved, evaporated immediately, and I am left with only one conclusion… that the prior ride was the result of ‘everything falling in to place’… my consumption and attitude being spot on… my bike preparation being perfect… perhaps the moon and stars aligning. My challenge to become the first amateur MAMIL to race the Tour de France is over.

Obviously I would never dream of anything quite so preposterous, but my personal expectations of my capabilities have certainly been re-grounded. And that’s a good thing. While cycling is my passion, I really don’t need any reason or excuse to become any more passionate about it, and there is a not insignificant risk that more wonderful rides and performances, may result in more passion, excitement and interest. Today, I class a short ride as 1 hour, an average ride as 2 hours and a good ride as 4 hours, and I only take one day off the bike per week, and therefore I really don’t need or want any encouragement to take this more seriously. This would carry many (some unthinkable) consequences, and it would probably need to become my job. As an average performing 43 year old MAMIL with arthritis, I am never going to become a professional cyclist. I’ve got that!

Ok, it’s only riding a bike, but it does give me something of an insight into how addictions can develop. The buzz that last nights ride gave me was extraordinary, but it’s clearly beneficial to know when to stop. It can’t always feel like that, though we need to really savour it when it does, and it’s ok to look forward to the occasions when it does. However, to chase that feeling, without knowing which components of my behaviour, performance or the overall experience had got me there, would only be destructive to myself and / or my love of my hobby, with perhaps collateral damage elsewhere. As has been recited many, many times… ‘all good things in moderation’.

That said, I’m a bit beyond moderate… but at least I recognise it, and it’s manageable.

Addicted? Possibly.

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