The two things they never tell you about cycling

There are two things that they never tell you about cycling before you are seriously bitten by the bug. First of all no matter what you think, your bike is never finished. There’s always something that you could spend money on be it an upgrade or repair, or even the possibility of a new bike to cover up the perceived problems of your current ride, this is the addiction side of the hobby. Secondly if you have a major “off”, you’ll never quite recover to where you were before it happened, be it physically or mentally.

So, why does this seem relevant to me on a Wednesday morning? Well, the former seems to have helped me with recovery of the latter, if only because I’ve started to cycle

A couple of years ago I had a major off. Cycling along I hit a set of unexpected stairs – not steps – without time to stop myself. I (barely) had time to unclip from the pedals before being catapulted over the bars seriously bruising my back as I bounced down the stairs, and to add insult to injury being run over by my bike that followed me down the stairs. The injury hurt (as in really hurt – not the most painful cycling injury I’ve had but very nearly there) but more than that it dented my confidence. Whereas previously I’d happily cycle down steps I found myself pulling up short of them, gingerly approaching them before dismounting and walking down. Steps remain the most difficult thing for me to approach psychologically (on a bike), and of course the lack of speed on the approach was making it even more difficult to get over the issue. This hasn’t been helped by the fact that whilst I’ve been able to ride more recently, the majority of my riding has been commuting related meaning that I’ve not been confronted with the same issue again. This isn’t uncommon, a friend who had a really bad accident a few years ago still admits to being overly cautious on descents. “Get back on the bike” doesn’t always work, especially where an actual bike is involved it would seem.

So, that’s the second part dealt with – where does the first come in?

So, on a whim I decided sometime after that to switch from having front suspension (I’m still unsure as to full suspension bikes, no doubt if I tried one I’d love it, but…) to a rigid fork for – well, I’m not really sure of the reason. The riding I was doing at the time and the terrain suited it, it was great fun (it made some things a lot more difficult, but I also learnt a lot about bike placement) but when I moved north it became apparent that a lack of suspension wasn’t going to cut it on the local trails so I got my old suspension fork back. This also tied in nicely with my bi-annual “Strip the bike and rebuild it” weekend – a planned maintenance thing rather than anything else – and the fact that I was having the frame re-sprayed (a curious way of satisfying the new fix) and by the end of it almost felt like I had a new bike. Tied in with the fact I’d been able to start riding in a way that wasn’t commuting related and suddenly I was starting to enjoy cycling more, the bug had re-bitten it seemed.

So cycling along this morning, barely a care in the world (okay, trying to think of what I needed to get done at work) the steps were there before I’d even really had time to register them, and then, they’d gone. I hadn’t had time to think about them (or more accurately remember the pain of that “off”) and suddenly there was a second set and they were gone as well. The third set looked a little bigger so I took a detour to avoid them, but hey, small and steady here please! All of this with the massive / heavy commuters satchel throwing my weight everywhere rather than the more trail friendly Camlebak I’m more used to.

And why? All because I’d been concentrating on having fun riding, and all because I’d fiddled around with the bike to make it feel new, renewing my interest in cycling. There’s nothing profound about it, just something that seemed new had renewed an interest leading me to take a more carefree approach to my riding. This isn’t to say that I’ll be throwing myself down steps with gay abandon, but that somehow the “new bike-ness” element seems to have actually given me a little confidence. We’ll just have to see if I can throw off the remaining caution regarding stairs.

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