Spring has most assuredly sprung, the country lanes are filled with blossom petals so deep it’s like riding through the aftermath of all the weddings in the world ever.
It’s the time of year when usually I’ll be looking at upping my mileage, with a thought tickling the back of my head that such-and-such an event is coming up and I’d better think about getting some REAL training in or it’s going to hurt.
Last year I rode a number of events, not least of which were RideLondon 100 and London to Paris. From Spring onwards my days were filled with worries that I wasn’t getting enough miles in, I’d be at the back for the whole of the four day ride to the Eiffel Tower and I’d hate every minute of it all.
As it turns out, I did train enough for it to be tough but enjoyable, and I definitely wasn’t last. The upshot was, though, that while I had goals to train for which gave me focus in my riding, it also meant that the breadth and variety of my cycling habits suffered.
Personally, I love cycling in all its forms - I mountain bike, I road ride, I cycle to the café and the pub, I tour and have even been known from time to time to have a stab at a time trial with some modicum of success. Yes, to a degree that makes me a Jaq of all trades, mistress of none, but it makes me smile, and laugh, and it keeps my head calm, peaceful and happy.
Variety is the spice of life, they say... well, I like my cycling spicy. For the last two years, I’ve been so focused on training for these road events that my touring bike has barely been out of the shed and my mountain bike was so neglected it developed a slow puncture.
This year, I’m not signing up to any events.
Every time my email inbox pings with information on another exciting sportive my palms start to itch, but I keep reminding myself that last week I had some amazing sunset mountain bike rides that I just wouldn’t have been off-road fit enough to enjoy last year, and yet I also bombed out a 25 mile hilly route on my hybrid and a glorious spin round those blossom filled lanes on my road bike. I’m planning some mini tours too this summer.
I’m falling back in love with the way all types of cycling make me feel, not just knocking out the miles, so I can, erm, knock out the miles better.
I know that many people, myself included, love the focus and drive that planned events give, the encouragement to ride more, and there are times this year where perhaps I’ve ridden less than last year. But the key fact is, I’ve smiled more. Doubtless, next year (to be honest, possibly later this year) I’ll be signing up to a score of amazing group rides that will challenge me in all the right ways and take me through to a tired but happy autumn.
This year though, I’ll not be sporting a number. I’ll be the one wearing a dress, riding my vintage mixte to the café, hurtling round the lanes on my road bike or throwing myself down some handbuilt - whatever takes my fancy at the time. Catch you later.
5 alternatives to organised events to keep you inspired
1. 30 days of biking - a Twitter led global project started in the US. Quite simple – you “pledge” to ride every day of April. Nobody cares if you do or don’t. It’s your choice. [It's a bit late now for this year, but why not challenge yourself to a different month? - Ed.]
2. Touring - long or short, an adventure on two wheels is a great thing to keep you motivated to stay fit. There’s something so special about a linear ride that finishes somewhere new.
3. Microadventures - a concept coined by Alastair Humphreys which suggests that we can all achieve more adventure in our lives, even if it’s only riding to the outskirts of the town we live in and camping under the stars for the night.
4. Bike Orienteering – yes, strictly speaking it’s an organized event, but your navigation and how far you ride are usually all down to you.
5. Online Goals- if you use a GPS or computer gadget, at the beginning of the year, set yourself a target for the number of miles you’d like to clock up during the next 12 months. It’s amazing how motivating it can be.
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