It’s time to go for a ride, actually it was time to go for a ride about half an hour ago, but I’ve only now finished procrastinating. Just answered those e-mails, just done that little bit of washing up, had another coffee, just played with the cat, just taken the t-shirts off the washing line, folded socks, just checked e-mail, just, just, just…. Anything but ride.
I sit dressed and about to click my shoes on, but I stare at them with something that’s not quite revulsion, I’m slightly chilly with a thin miasma of nervous sweat, and my tummy feels awkward. I’m going for a ride on my own and I’m scared. It’s been like this since I can remember. I’m just going for a ride on my own and I’m dreading it.
Just a ride, no pressure, no training, no intervals, no targets, no timings, no placings, no podiums, no medals - just a ride. A bimble on my own, riding bikes is fun, no-one to see anything, no-one to judge, except me. This sticks me to the sofa feeling slightly sick.
It’s different to race nerves. Completely. In a race there’s probably going to be someone I can beat, and I can gracefully accept being beaten, as I will have done my best but they are simply better. Race nerves are the anticipatory worry of wondering if all that’s gone before has been enough. Pre-ride nerves are nothing but that anticipation, just that on its own. On a solo ride I only have myself to beat, all that time to wonder if I am enough. And in the same way I am happy to go riding with friends, some will be slower than me, some will be faster and better than I, and riding with the latter will punch me in the thighs and push me to ride my bike more.
Which is where I find myself now, motionless on the sofa, all dressed up and not wanting to go. I know that this dread feeling is usually gone by the first corner - I’m on my bike, I’ve settled into the saddle, it’s all fun. Lalalalalalalala. Sometimes it’s self-harming for an hour or so until my body has warmed up and my brain has calmed down, and I only feel relaxed and almost happy once I’ve climbed a hill to some satisfactory self-imposed standard or done a bit of up to par rouleuring. Once in a while it never leaves and the entire ride is an exercise in anxiety and loathing, when only trying to go faster and increasing the pain will slow the downward spiral enough and groveling up the last hill of the day is an demonstration of self-fulfilling prophecy.
It’s time to go for a ride against my toughest opponent.
Jo Burt has spent the majority of his life riding bikes, drawing bikes and writing about bikes. When he’s not scribbling pictures for the whole gamut of cycling media he writes words about them for road.cc and when he’s not doing either of those he’s pedaling. Then in whatever spare minutes there are in between he’s agonizing over getting his socks, cycling cap and bar-tape to coordinate just so. And is quietly disappointed that yours doesn’t. He rides and races road bikes a bit, cyclo-cross bikes a lot and mountainbikes a fair bit too. Would rather be up a mountain.