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Dear Frank: To ride or not to ride

Dear Frank - to ride or not to ride
Frank Strack
28 Oct 2015

That is the question pondered by Frank Strack, the bard of the Velominati.

Dear Frank

I didn’t feel like riding my bike this weekend. Is there something wrong with me?

Steve, by email

Dear Steve

Yes. But I’m going to need a lot more context to tell you precisely what’s wrong with you. You might not be Dutch, so that’s a start. You could try being more Dutch. Also, are you getting enough vitamin D? If you live in a rainy place like England or Seattle, where I live, you might need to take supplements or travel to Hawaii to get your mind right. 

I would concede that as much as I love Cycling, I find myself not wanting to ride a bike quite frequently. Our lives are busy, and the pull from familial and social life weighs constantly on our priorities to keep from riding. Cycling is hard, after all, and not riding is easy.

Whether I’m riding before or after work, the daily pressure of my profession weighs heavily. Riding early means putting off checking emails and returning calls while I slip into the early morning light. These rides come at the price of dredging myself from a warm bed in the early morning hours, when the sun is but creeping above the treetops to bathe the streets in a chilly pale light. 

Riding in the afternoon means kitting up after arriving home, postponing the precious little time I have to spend with my family. Work, as well as the trials of daily life, draws its pound of flesh from us, distorting the energy we require to ride. I find the daily trials will have an unpredictable effect on my riding – sometimes a hard day at the office will have me raring for a good fight on the bike, yearning to kick my own head in and burn off unheeded aggression. Other days, I resent the notion of suffering on the bike and look on it as a means for a relaxing spin. 

I am a better man when I ride my bicycle. I understand the balance of life more fully and leave many of the troubles and stresses of my life behind me when I come home from a ride. It’s often hard to remember these things in those moments when it feels so much easier to stay home curled up in bed or enjoying the comforts of my family. But normally as soon as I am out there with the wind in my face and feel the rhythm of the pedals, I am glad that I’m out and wonder at how I resisted this beautiful experience.

But not always. Sometimes the rhythm doesn’t seduce me, or the heaviness in my legs doesn’t go away. Sometimes this feeling persists for a day or two, sometimes longer. 

This can be for a number of reasons, from overtraining to burnout to simply being in a rut. Overtraining is the only one among those that is of concern. Training is designed to break the muscles down and, by giving them rest, rebuild them to get stronger over time. Overtraining means you’re not giving the muscles the rest needed to recover and grow so they actually get weaker over time. Training isn’t about riding every day until your eyeballs pop out – it’s about structure and discipline, and sometimes sticking to your training plan and taking it easy, even when the guns feel ready to fire.

But burning out or being in a rut is much less serious and quite easy to remedy. I could point you to Rule #5 again, just to remind you to stop faffing about and go ride your bike already. Or, you could try a new route, ride with some different mates, or take to the dirt for a bit – I often find that riding off-road, far from civilisation, rekindles my spirit in ways that riding on the road rarely does. 

I’m not getting paid to ride my bike, and I’m assuming you aren’t either. Which means that Cycling is something we do for its inherent enjoyment, if also for the betterment of ourselves as people. But it comes at a price: we must always sacrifice something to enjoy that small bit of enlightenment that comes as part of being a Cyclist, we must always pull ourselves from the comforts of our home and family and submit to the bicycle and its binary world of beauty and suffering. 

Frank Strack is the creator, and curator, of The Rules. For futher illumination see velominati.com and find a copy of his book The Rules in all good bookshops. You can email your questions for Frank to cyclist@dennis.co.uk

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