I enjoy riding bikes for the act of riding bikes. Simple boy. If I never enter another race, or challenge of some sort again, I will always ride bikes. It has become a fundamental part of who I am.
Thanks to my various injuries this year, competitive riding has very much taken a back seat. In fact, until a round of the Yorkshire Cyclocross series at the start of October, I hadn’t raced since March. All of my big aims for the year were written off. Disappointing at the time, but I dealt with it, put up with the frustration, and just looked forward to swinging my leg over a bike again. Never mind racing, just pedalling was something to get excited about.
And when I could ride again, I was largely very sensible. I shelved events like the Three Peaks that I would only just be recovered for (but by no means “in shape” for). This meant I was able to just ride. I indulged in a few more rides with friends than I have been able to do for a while. I shared some epic pushes into the mountains of the Lakes with Jenn. Lots of commuting into work, not going the shortest way, but not really pushing the miles either.
That first CX race bike was great. I was slow. My body hated the intensity of 1hr flat out riding. But, I was competing. I was riding harder than I had for months, and while I wouldn’t have said it during the race, in hindsight I loved it. In reality CX races will never be my forte. I will always prefer going exploring on my bike to fast intervals. I’m not very good at “training”. I am good at having lots of fun on a bike, a lot of the time.
But, to do this, I still need a goal; a reason for getting out of bed early, to ride in the dark and cold. It isn’t always fun. Being on a bike isn’t always reason enough, particularly not when I’m tucked up nice and warm. However, to do some of the more challenging races and events I find “fun”, I need to be at a reasonable level of fitness. If I want to excel (given my own, modest, ability), I need to train. There is a virtuous circle in there somewhere:
Enter something big, exciting, scary
Realise I need to train
Get fitter, but also get my riding fix, even when I wouldn’t normally be motivated to get out the door
Get to do the big scary exciting stuff
Look for more adventures
To this end, I’ve been putting in a lot of thought into what I want to do, and what I want to get out of any events I do enter. There are literally hundreds of great sounding races going on every weekend of the year… realistically I can’t do all of them – and I don’t want to. Racing is still just one facet of a huge world of riding that I want to enjoy. So, I need to pick a few that mean a little bit more to me, that excite me the most, that will inspire me to turn up on the start line in the best shape I can be.
For 2014, that is just three races.
April – The HOKA Highland Fling – a trail ultra marathon along the southern half of the West Highland Way. 50ish miles of running (and most likely walking). It is going to be difficult to balance getting sufficient training miles in on both foot and pedal, but I’m hoping there will be some cross-benefits.
May – The biggie. Highland Trail – 560 miles of riding through Scottish wilderness.
October – The 24hr Solo World Championships – the WEMBA World Champs are coming to Fort William. It is too good an opportunity to miss out on, and I still have unfinished business with 24 hour racing. I’ve not put together a race I’m completely satisfied with.
I will go to other races, and when I’m on the start line, I will be as committed to doing well as I always am, but they will not be objectives in themselves. They will be purely about having fun, maybe useful training, and just riding my bike.
I am incredibly fortunate to be sponsored by two brilliant companies.
Garage Bikesgo from strength to strength out of their small shop in Morley. I’m lucky enough to say that Al and Sarah are now great friends, and their support means that my bike is always in perfect working order on the start line. I can also head to the shop and get a coffee and friendly chat any time I fancy. Their passion for riding, and supporting the local riding scene is amazing. The Local Bike Shop is under increasing pressure from online retailers, but if they all follow Al and Sarah’s approach to customer service, there will always be a place for the LBS on the high street.
Kinesis BikesKinesis Bikes don’t have a huge and overwhelming range of bikes. They don’t update their range on an annual cycle, regardless of whether it’s needed or not. They do design their bikes with a purpose. Every bike in their small range has been designed, tested, tweaked in the UK before going to market. Most importantly, from my point of view, their bikes are fun to ride. The Crosslight Pro 6 has been everything from a road bike to a trail bike to its intended purpose of a CX race bike while I’ve owned it, and it has done everything superbly. The Maxlight FF29 is light, nimble and efficient. It is everything I want from a race-oriented bike, and much more. I’m a bike tart. I lust over the latest and newest shiny bikes and kit. In reality though, I am utterly happy with these two bikes. I will be using the FF29 for both the Highland Trail and 24hr solo, and can’t think of a better tool for the job (except for a Maxlight Sync Ti maybe, but then that wouldn’t be a nice bright green…).