Cycling is a contradiction, a double edged sword that requires careful handling if you don’t want to get cut. On the one hand, it’s a performance driven activity, fuelled by personal bests, lap times, energy gels and Strava. On the other, it’s a social affair that incorporates friends, views, cake stops …. and not Strava. While neither of these ‘extremes’ are wrong, going too far one way or the other can have a negative effect on your cycling enjoyment as a whole.
We’re all comparatively slow when we first start cycling but the more hills you wheeze and splutter your way up, the easier it becomes. You discover that 7 miles doesn’t actually constitute a big ride and that you don’t require a backpack full of specialised sports nutrition to cycle 12 miles of gravelly forest track. Your fitness continues to increase with each mile under your tyres and with it your technical ability. Before too long, you discover that you can ride both up and down most things that lie in your way. The quick increases you saw at the beginning of your cycling career are long gone. Tangible improvements now require serious hard work, structured training and if I’m completely honest, probably more effort than most of us can really be bothered with.
Your in-box is in continual flux, come and ride here, come and ride there … you’re spoilt for choice. Weekends are spent with different people, in varied places, discovering new trails and reacquainting yourself with the old. Your fitness may have plateaued some time ago but the miles keep it stable, you don’t get faster, you don’t get slower, you’re just like 70% of the cycling population – thoroughly middle of the pack and happy.
Too far to the right.
Some aren’t content with their place in the middle of the group though. Maybe it’s the endorphins or perhaps it’s an over-developed competitive streak or something to do with breast feeding? I don’t know but whatever it is, they’re not satisfied – they want more. Rides begin to feature ‘intervals’, forgetting to turn the gps on the very second you first press down on the pedal, produces sickening panic. Strava becomes a hunting ground, someone else holding a KOM on ‘your patch’ is taken as a personal insult that you must avenge straightaway. The miles increase, your pace rockets, it’s all working, you’re fitter and faster than you’ve ever been.
On your ‘rest days’, you paddle round the house in you compression tights, sipping protein shakes and keeping a watchful eye on your hard won segments. The phone doesn’t ring, nor does your mail server alert you to anything arriving through the ether. It seems like everyone you used to ride with has stopped going out, in fact the only time you ever see another rider is on a start line. You decide to take the initiative and send an email proposing a ride but the replies aren’t quite what you’d hoped for – everyone’s busy. What a shame, they’ll miss a great ride. It’s a route you’ve used before for training, 90 miles and 6000m of ascent, you once rode it in 6 hours, 32 minutes and 15 seconds … although in fairness, you weren’t able to walk for the following 3 days.
Too far to the left.
So, what happens if you go too far the other way? That’s easy ……. everyone will ride with you!