Growing up in British Columbia, I was raised in the seat of a mountain bike, where I was free to roam the trails, mountains, parks, and fields surrounding my town. Riding on the road was just a necessity to get to the next trail. I never really considered riding road bikes until I was well into my adult life and finding myself looking for more satisfaction from my rides, and, well, my life.
I began riding road almost as a joke out of boredom. It has since grown to be my most significant source of inspiration and restitution. When I’m feeling like I need to clear my head or work my lungs, I head out on the road. I still ride my MTB almost daily, but it’s the open roads that have grown to nurture my soul and teach me about life.
1. I don’t like always knowing where I’m going
This took me a while to understand and it wasn’t until I started riding road that I finally realized that I didn’t like knowing where I was going. Sure, this seems a little odd to say as road riding means you’re stuck to, well, the roads, but it couldn’t be more different.
Having the ability to put either knobby tires or slicks on my road bike, I began to just explore. I had more of a time-spent-riding in mind rather than a destination. When I was only riding mountain bikes, I often found myself leaving home to go ride that one trail, or maybe a couple trails — either way I felt bound to specific destinations, which felt very un-MTB. Riding road, I began to ride aimlessly. I would decide which direction to turn at the intersections and not before them. It became about riding for a set time and nothing more. This brought back flashbacks of a childhood spent on two wheels where I would ride from sunrise to sundown on the trails, the roads, through fields, up over the mountains, and back home for dinner. I should know by now that it is, and always has been, about the journey and not the destination.
2. Less is, for sure, more
I’ve spent much of my adult life fussing about the newest tech that will be hitting the trails in the coming years, where full carbon rigs with air suspension have skyrocketed well past $10K MSRP and my bank account is continually empty. Recently, I bought a late model Kona Jake for $700 and my rides have been limitless in scope. I found myself riding a lot of the easier MTB trails on my Jake, along with gravel roads and pathways. Before, I would be riding them on my full carbon Trek Slash and kind of hating it and hating my life.
Riding road has allowed me to appreciate what you can do with less if you set your mind to it. Instead of rushing out to purchase a whole quiver of expensive tools to do a multitude of jobs, I learned to try harder to do a multitude of jobs with one tool — my road bike.
3. Take chances and have faith that everything will work out
Road bikes can be pretty unforgiving. The lack of suspension, narrow and slick tires, and steep geometry means you can easily have a bad crash. We’ve all been there, whether it’s a steep corner you should have slowed down for, or a rogue patch of shoulder gravel that’s caught your tires by surprise, and we’re left white-knuckled and holding on for dear life. To this date, I have not had any bad crashes under these circumstances, making my fear itself more of a threat than anything.
Much like life, when you hold on through these unforeseen scares, things almost always work out. Living in fear of crashing may lead you to not ride as fast, or as far, or you may never ride at all... and what kind of life would that be?
4. Hard work merits big rewards
Whether you train to race or just adventure-ride down gravel roads, riding road is hard work. I quickly learned that if you’re not working hard on your road bike, then you’re having a boring ride. Hard work will get you to places you never thought possible when you just started out bike riding. Hard work will also keep you satisfied on your bike and in your life. Cruising along tends to get me quite bored, and that leads to complacency in and out of the saddle, causing me to ride less. As in life, just coasting isn’t an option. Winning races takes hard work, as does making it to the top of the Col du Tourmalet, but without putting in the work you will never enjoy the view from the top.
5. Suffering can be your greatest asset
When I first started riding road, I seriously questioned why the hell I was doing this to myself. The endless rides, horrible weather, and flat tires miles from home made me suffer. Yet it was this suffering that allowed me to become a better rider — a better person. Much of life is not pleasant and for long periods of time we suffer; knowing how to endure this suffering is one of life’s biggest, yet most rewarding challenges.
Spending hours in your drop bars with aching shoulders, tired lungs, and worn-out legs may not appeal to most off the bat, but for those who’ve struggled through it all, we know why we do it. Nothing in life is free and it’s those who persevere that make it the furthest. Thanks to my road bike I now know this.