My experience of entering the world of cycling, and why I’m now thoroughly addicted to it, hopefully providing an insight into the rewarding lifestyle it can become.
It’s not uncommon for me to show up to work on any given day with some new bruises, or spend a few hours on a weekend cleaning mud from my bike… and car, and shoes, and clothes.
If you’ve ridden off-road, you’ll easily relate to these less desirable aspects of the hobby. But from those around me who don’t share my love of mountain biking, these aspects often prompt the question; "Why do you ride?"
In asking this question, they’ve now involuntarily subjected themselves to a colorful spiel of all my favourite aspects of cycling, mountain biking in particular, as I attempt to explain its captivating benefits. Having finished my presentation, including pictures, describing the community of people I ride with, the picturesque forest trails, and the breathtaking mountain views, I still feel dissatisfied that I’ve adequately conveyed how mountain biking has shown me the most challenging and revitalising experiences I’ve ever encountered.
So I want to share my experience of entering the world of cycling, and why I’m now thoroughly addicted to it, hopefully providing an insight into the rewarding lifestyle it can become.
As a kid, I explored my small home town on a bike before I was 12... Another 12 years later, years spent not even thinking about cycling as a potential hobby, a friend convinced me to try out mountain biking.
At that stage I didn’t have much of a preference for what I wanted in a bike except that it had to ‘look pretty’ (admittedly, this is still a high priority on my bike checklist). Cycling can be a daunting hobby to break into, from the very first moment of walking into a bike shop and being confronted with an array of options for which bike to get, not to mention the tools and accessories for flat tyres, mechanicals, and safety.
If you’re lucky enough to overcome that hurdle and successfully get yourself on a suitable bike, you’re then faced with the challenge of teaching your legs how to pedal, especially on those first few hill climbs. I absorbed the information and after much consideration, I decided on an entry-level hardtail mountain bike.
On my first ride, that old phrase, ‘just like riding a bike’ seemed an utter lie as I wobbled down the driveway and needed the entire cul-de-sac to turn around. Soon enough I was nervously hitting my first off-road trail. I would hesitate for minutes at a time before riding over anything technical, even so much as a few tree roots, and squealed in terror as I rode at a snail’s pace around every corner. But with every ride I could see myself improving, learning how to ride over the various obstacles, and climbing hills without cursing at them.
Well, most of them. I quickly became addicted to the feeling of escaping suburbia and city madness for the crackle of leaves under the tyres, and the thrill of riding faster and smoother over technical terrain as my confidence and skills increased.
Fast forward another two years and I’m now entering endurance mountain bike races, riding every weekend, and braving the occasional mid-week night ride. I’ve also been lucky enough to have ridden on some of the best-rated trails in the world in Scotland, Wales and New Zealand.
I’m not competitive, and I’m certainly not striving to be the next world champ, but mountain biking becomes far more than just a hobby - it’s a lifestyle.
The constant challenge of riding over unruly terrain, testing physical and mental barriers, becomes addictive. Every time I skim successfully across a technical section of bumpy rocks, I feel so thrilled that I’ve just accomplished something that once looked impossible to me.
I’m motivated by feeling my fitness level improve with every hill climb, and constantly inspired to set new goals to work toward. Whether to reach a higher and better mountain view, to better my time on a particular trail, or even just to stay upright on a technical section that tests my skills, the feelings of pride and elation I get when I reach those goals keeps me smiling and eager to keep riding.
Aside from the fun of the ride itself, an aspect of the cycling lifestyle I grew to love most was much more personal. It was sharing a love of the outdoors with similarly minded people who are always eager to welcome others to the way of life.
The people I’ve met since I’ve taken up cycling have been a tremendous influence on my progression and my attitude to life in general. This was the part of cycling I’d never been told about, but, most significantly, riding has introduced me to a world of people who are not only as passionate about cycling as I, but who seem to have a fiery enthusiasm for enriching their life with the places, people and challenges that cycling can lead to.
I feel privileged to be part of such an inspiring community of high-spirited adventurers. Cycling has introduced me to a hidden world of adventure and exploration, challenges and personal accomplishment, friendly riders willing to pass on their skills and stories, and exhilarating fun.
I would encourage people of any age to get out there and give it a try - whether it’s the fitness and competition of races and training rides, the friendly social side of heading out on a casual Sunday morning ride, the peaceful atmosphere of pedalling through quiet forest trails, or the ultimate thrill of sailing over jumps and technical downhills, there really is something for everyone to enjoy.
Then when questioned, "why do you ride?", you’ll no doubt also feel that initial hesitation as you try to figure out how to put all of the above into a simple response.