I’d be the first to admit to being a people person. I love to chat, and have happily nattered by my way round many a long ride. The camaraderie of group riding, particularly Breeze rides, is something that makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. It’s pretty special when slightly anxious frowns early on a Sunday transform into smiles and laughter by the time it’s wound round to cake o’clock.
Cycling with my husband is also something I enjoy regularly, and wouldn’t change for the world. We bought our first bikes as adults together, and we’re still best riding buddies when it comes to anything from pub rides to epic adventures. Tears and grumpiness may chase laughter when exhaustion kicks in (on both sides!) but he’s the one who knows my limits best and can produce that crucial snack or hug, as required, to keep me smiling.
Taking all this into consideration, it may surprise you to hear that my favourite thing of all is to ride my bike on my own. There are so many reasons that this is true, but all of them essentially boil down to just one thing - being mistress of my own destiny.
On a day to day basis, each and every one of us - women in particular - find our time is fractured and allocated to things that are not necessarily of our own choosing. We have jobs, duties, commitments, responsibilities, all a drain on our energy and precious hours. That’s not to say that any of these are things we would choose to ignore, even if we could, but they do require us to set aside our own needs and desires.
The minute I set foot outside, dressed in my bike gear, I’ve left behind any responsibilities. I’m my own boss, with nobody else to worry about. Chances are I’ve snatched enough time to plot a likely sounding route on the GPS, so I have an idea where I’m going, or I’ll head for a much-loved classic that I know well.
From the first pedal strokes, however, I know that if I decide to change that route, I can do so on a whim. If my legs feel strong I can seek out some hills, or if the sun comes out I can deviate to enjoy the sensation of it on my face for longer as I ride. And wherever I ride, I can do it as fast or as slow as I like. Having a GPS does make riding alone less stressful, but depending on how long you’ve been riding your local routes you’ll have a pretty good idea of what joins together and what doesn’t anyway!
Impromptu stops are another bonus to flying solo. There’s little worse than riding along with a slightly itchy foot, or with a wrinkle in your shorts where you really don’t want one. Instead of having to bellow to your fellow riders that you’re going to need to stop, or just soldiering on regardless, you can just pull in immediately.
It’s a frequent summer habit of mine suddenly to veer off to the side of the road to rescue a bumble bee that’s been concussed by a passing car. That’s a hard thing to justify to your fellow riders if you’re out in a group.
Of course, pee stops actually become slightly trickier with nobody else to watch your bike. I’ve frequently been known to carry my bike into public toilets, raising an eyebrow or two!
Solo mountain biking is just as much fun as road, especially when it comes to being able to sit on a grassy hillside and enjoy the fruits of those uphill labours in the form of a stunning view across the valley, listening to the birdsong without feeling the need for polite conversation.
Aside from the ability to control your own destination, exertion levels and choice of where to stop and start without consulting anyone else, riding alone also bestows a great opportunity for processing thoughts and sorting through problems.
I have never been more well-balanced than when every working day finished with a 12 mile rural ride home on my own. It’s amazing how all those stresses and worries melted away as the pedals turned, without any real effort at all.
There is a downside to cycling alone. Unless you’ve mastered the art of riding one handed, holding a selfie-stick with the other (which is not recommended for a long and healthy life), any photos you take are mostly going to be of landscapes or of your bicycle looking pretty somewhere, rather than of you actually on or with your bike.
But if my bike is a definite part of me, which it most assuredly is, then surely that’s the best possible kind of selfie?
5 Tips to Enjoying Riding Alone
1. Plan your route: it’s more relaxing and enjoyable to ride alone on a route you either know well or have plotted into your GPS. It’s also more satisfying to deviate from it then!
2. Tell someone you’re going out: not crucial, but you’ll feel much more relaxed knowing that should it all go horribly pear shaped, and you end up irretrievably lost or with an epic mechanical, somebody will start to worry if it gets to midnight and you’re still not home…..
3. Pack sensibly: take a tool kit, spare inner tube, snack, phone and some money. As with planning a route, it’ll make for a more relaxed ride.
4. Take photos: taking pictures on your phone is an excellent way of remembering a great ride and a good opportunity to make friends envious on social media. It’s also an excuse to stop if you fancy it.
5. Stick within your comfort zone: this is particularly key for off-road- you don’t want to be trying out that hardcore drop-off you’ve always been too nervous to try before, even if it’s tempting when there’s nobody else to see it go wrong. Go as fast or as hard as you like, but bear in mind, there’s only you there to pick up the pieces.
Lara will be contributing monthly articles exclusively here on the VeloVixen blog - for more from her, follow her on Twitter at @TheBikeLifeLara.
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