“You’re a grown man, why do you still ride pushbikes?”
“You should get one with an engine, mate”
Amongst many others, these are two sentences I’ve heard from people over the years. Why do I ride? Why do you ride? Why do we go out, week after week, rain or shine?
We do it because we love it, it’s as simple as that.
Diamondback Bicycles released an edit recently of team rider Mike Hopkins traversing some stunning trails on their new level link bike, which partly inspired this post. The riding, the scenery, the music and the words all captivated me:
Credit – Diamondback Bicycles/Mike Hopkins
I ride to escape; I ride for fun. I ride for a smile and to keep myself in shape. I ride to be social, I ride to make friends. I ride for sheer passion. This isn’t a poem, by the way.
Cycling to me, is one of the best ways to unwind after a long day; there is nothing else I’ve tried that comes close to the exhilaration I get from nailing a particular section and finding your flow so well that you conquer all paths ahead of you.
As a homeworker (read: hermit), cycling also keeps me connected with like-minded people; friends, acquaintances and riding buddies, old mates and new. We share a common passion, we look after each other and strangers on the trails. I have met so many people through cycling that I now have the privilege of calling ‘friend’, from weekend warrior to company owners, from oldest friends to trail builders and team riders, each with their own story to tell of why they love getting loose and rowdy on the trails. Here’s what a few of them had to say about why they ride:
Dan Hodge – Engineering Director and creative genius at Bird Cycleworks:
‘Although these days it seems like a struggle just finding the time to ride, it’s always a delight when I do. Getting out on the bike clears my head and allows me to think about nothing but the trail in front of me for a few hours; every time I ride my bike I come back with tired legs but a refreshed mind. There’s a moment on every ride when I get into the flow of the trail and become totally absorbed by it – left berm, right berm, jump, pedal, brake, breathe, look, repeat. I love pushing the limits of grip available from my tyres, the amount of oxygen available in my lungs and finding the best line for every corner. Then there’s the people I ride with. Most of my friends are mountain bikers, I rarely ride alone and find that a mutual passion for biking means you always have something to talk about, trips to plan, technique and trails to discuss. In short, mountain biking is my life, I live and breathe it every day and have no idea what I would do with myself if it wasn’t for biking.’
Chris Laney – Fellow Swinley & Surrey Hills shredder:
‘What got me into riding a bike started some 40+ years ago. Growing up, I rode BMX as a sponsored rider and did freestyle demos around the country. I simply loved being on 2 wheels and in the air! I found Pubs, and had a 20-year hiatus until I was 45, when a mate who had got into riding mountain bikes said “come with us and have a go”! He knew I’d love it due to my past. This was also the same time as my wife had just been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a very hard time as we’d just got married too. The diagnosis was hard to take and triggered depression in me. Happily, my wife has fought to get back to health, but I still struggled with the depression. My wife said “go for a ride with your mates, you used to love riding!” This turned out to be one of the best decisions I ever made. I was hooked, and I felt the mist of my “Black Dog” lifting. The more I rode the better I was feeling. My wife kept saying “keep at it as you clearly love it!” My wife is everything to me and her blessing meant the world to me, and the benefit of helping my depression is massive. I’ve met some great people over the last couple of years riding too. Every time I swing a leg over a bike I just grin!’
George Launchbury – Night rider extraordinaire and all round trail ripper:
‘For me Mountain Biking is about a sense of identity. I like ‘being’ a Mountain Biker. There’s so much to immerse yourself in, especially as a time-poor parent. Smashing a trail centre with mates, a contemplative solo ride in the country, fixing/maintaining/upgrading your bike, watching the racing on TV, keeping up with the latest kit and news. The fact that you will literally never run out of skills to learn, places to ride, or new kit to try out. It’s great that it also keeps you fit and strong, but that comes for free with all the other stuff.’
Me? I ride for the calm. The reason I steer clear of road cycling (apart from looking like Chewbacca in tights) is because there is too much going on. Cars buzzing past you so closely you can smell the driver’s aftershave, expectations of riding in the gutter, soaking up potholes, broken glass and roadkill and, to me, the sheer monotony of concrete is not appealing in the least, although the speeds some of the road riders can get to is super impressive. If you love road cycling, then chapeau, but it’s not for me at all.
Get me out to the countryside, to the sounds of birds chirping, wind chasing through branches, squirrels rustling in the undergrowth and the buzz of tyres meeting dirt. The scents of woodland, fresh grass and loose earth is all I need (I’ll leave out fox shit and fertilizer) to relax, unwind and pin my favourite lines and learn new ones alike.
Exploration is also an aspect of mountain biking I adore. We’ve all done it; riding along, you spot a little offshoot. ‘Ooo, I wonder where that goes?’. You head off into the unknown, potentially disovering a prime new line which you’ll be grinning about for ages and adding to your regular repertoire.
Fitness and keeping in shape is important to me too. When I was going to the gym, it felt like hard work, like I had to force myself to go, to put up with hundreds of bodies packed into a sweaty enclosure. Hand me a bike and point me in the direction of a trail and, although I know it’s exercise, it doesn’t feel that way; it feels awesome.
If you’re not a biker, I highly recommend giving it a shot. Swinley Forest for example, is great for all levels of riders with a wealth of trails (Green, Blue and Red, plus a new Freeride line in the works), and the Swinley Bike Hub hire out a superb fleet of bikes for a great price (you can also rent a helmet if required). Go down, get a bike and get out on the trails, I guarantee you’ll have some laughs and end the day with a smile.
Reverting to fitness quickly, I felt it worth sharing a personal achievement that I’m rather happy about. Just over the past few months of night rides and weekend sessions, coupled with watching what I eat a little more (although I’m still on first name terms with my local curry house!), I’ve seen my weight drop from just under 100kg, right down to 85kg. At 6’1”, I have to say I’m feeling better than ever and motivated to keep the weight off and the miles high. Riding mates have played a huge part in remaining determined, so, if we’ve ever shared a trail on a ride, thank you.
My riding has improved due to this too; the more time in the saddle, the more weight drops off, the more technique I gain and the trails become second nature, rather than an unfamiliar, daunting beast. Strava has also been a great way of keeping track of what I’m doing, although I do try not to compare myself with others on there… most of the time, anyway. Nothing wrong with a bit of healthy competition though…
Cycling pushes limits, grows confidence, keeps you healthy and creates new friendships. It’s what I do, it’s what I love. Hell, it’s what we all love, that’s why we’re here and why Stealth Riders exists.
What do you love most about riding? Why do you do it? Let me know in the comments below!
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Until next time, cheers.
Ian @ Stealth Riders