This past weekend, I got a glaring glimpse into a life I have left behind in mountain biking.
First, let me preface this article by saying the following…this is purely my opinion based off of how I chose to live my life and ride my bike. It does not and will not apply to everyone. It also does not mean that I believe this is the only right way to do things…it just happens to be right for me at this point in my life.
The ride last weekend was a simple one. A local bike shop in one of our favorite riding areas on north Georgia (Cartecay Bikes) puts on a ride they call the Drama Queen. With two routes available (34 and 57 I believe), it pulls out all of the endurance guys in the area that do not have a race that particular weekend. This ride is not a race…but it does bring in competitive personalities that creates a painful, fast ride in the mountains.
In the past, I have stayed away from this ride…but for some reason this year…I went. From the start, I was already at a disadvantage on a 30 pound 5.5″ bike amongst all of the hard tail 29ers in the group. This was ok…it was not the first time I have been in this situation nor will it be the last and I like riding the 5.Spot in the mountains. The series of events that started as I rode brought me to a place that I would rather not go anymore. The competitive edge started to kick in…and things went downhill.
I am not willing to do what it takes to be competitive anymore.
In my riding…for me to be competitive…I have to ride angry. There is a certain point for every rider as they look to be competitive at a race level that mind has to overcome matter. Your body wants to quit, but your mind pushes forward and you are able to go past limits that before you thought were never possible. For my body, I have to take my mind to an angry competitive state to push those limits.
Here inlies my major problem…
Today, I mountain bike as a release of stress instead of an added stressor. I do not want to get on the bike and have to pedal rides that I don’t want to just for training. I do not want to ride angry just to be at the top of my endurance level. For me to take it to that extreme, I have to take my mind to a place that I am supposed to be relieving through the sport that I choose to call home.
I enjoy the group rides with friends…solo rides to clear the head…and the challenge of making myself a better rider in technical terrain. I do not enjoy finishing second or adding stress in my life to be the best. Some riders can enjoy racing for the spirit in which it is intended. My brain will not let me be happy with second which creates a situation that is always stressful and negative as there will always be someone faster.
During the ride, I found myself starting to ride angry to get my level up to where I thought other people thought I should be riding. About 10 miles in, I was completely cooking myself and more worried about my place in line than being out in the mountains on the first sub 90 degree day we have had in a long time. I was getting more pissed off with each pedal stroke. When my mind finally saw the light, I headed back in and racked up the bike. This is not why I ride anymore and it was being destructive.
I have been there. Looking back on that section of my life where I thought racing was really what I wanted to do, I was not happy riding the bike. I was always stressing my mind and body to achieve higher levels only to find that there was still another level to go. It was a loop that was very hard for me to break. Now…I find different outlets for needing that challenge through riding technical trail. It fulfills that need within my mind to constantly improve without having to go to a place that is ultimately bad for my riding…and my head.
What I Love About Mountain Biking
The #1 thing I love about mountain biking is that there is no wrong way to ride a bike. Whether you are sitting on the podium on the weekend or just starting out trying to get a handle on your local trail, you are doing the kind of riding that is right for you as long as it makes you happy. It doesn’t matter what other riders consider “the right style”. It is up to you and your interpretation to find out what right style is for you.
Like my circumstances, there are times when that is going to change over time. That is ok too. Ex-racers have found there new way of riding in recreational and causal riders have found their home in racing.
I see a lot of encouragement throughout the mountain biking culture to get people to try a specific style of mountain biking that the person calls home. While I am all about trying new things in riding, sometimes we need to realize that the specific mountain biker already has the way they like to ride, so they do not need to try (or they already have) out your way of doing things. It is ok that they do not want to enjoy mountain biking the way you do.
Variety is key to the sport and that variety is why mountain biking is growing like it is today. With more options than we could have imagined back in the 80′s and 90′s, mountain biking has come a long way in making a lot of people enjoy the outdoors and trails in their way.
The important part…make sure your riding style feeds your soul as much as it feeds your need to challenge yourself.