I’m having an identity crisis.
While on the surface I know it’s not necessary to pigeon-hole myself, we do have a basic human need to feel like we belong somewhere, be surrounded by people who are likeminded, and ultimately, who get us.
I’ve been getting out and pushing myself lately, trying out some group riding in various guises, and I’m struggling to figure out where I fit in. It seems like whatever I try, there are always aspects I like, some I don’t like, and nothing that strikes me with a moment of ‘this is where I belong’.
In my mind there are around five different categories of cycling:
- Mountain biking
I would also argue that all these types of cycling come with various motivations behind them. My problem at the moment is that by not really fitting in anywhere, I’m struggling to motivate myself.
On Wednesday this week I decided to get out in a group road ride, with Audax Club Bristol. First things first, they all seemed like a great bunch and I totally get the appeal of their rides. However what was promised as a ‘flat 60k social ride’ was so incredibly fast that after about 20k it was just me with a purple face, and two other riders who very kindly held back to make sure I didn’t get left behind and lost forever.
In terms of motivation, these kinds of rides or races are for people who like going fast, and who like competing. Maybe they’re driven by a need to improve their speed, beat their previous time records, and ultimately win races. Or maybe it’s just about riding as quickly as they can.
I like riding fast, but I’m not fast enough for this kind of ride. I’m not sure I want to be, either. I do enjoy getting into a high gear and zooming along an open tarmac road through the middle of the countryside, but I also have a limit. When I reach the point of my bike going so fast that I can’t keep up with it (as Boomer put it so eloquently), that’s when the fear sets in and I stop enjoying the ride.
I like riding on roads, but I don’t own a road bike (and I’m not planning to). So while I’m proud of myself for giving this a go, and completing the ride, I won’t be returning in a hurry. I didn’t belong here.
2. Mountain biking
Well, the less said about this, the better. I did enjoy it. We all know what happened last time I tried.
Full disclosure though, I am tempted to try again. I’d like to think that when it comes to controlling the bike, and getting out the saddle, I do have quite good intuition. I know how to move my body around to best tackle a mixed terrain, and I enjoy trundling along on a big mountain bike with front suspension.
However I also find it terrifying, for obvious reasons. Perhaps I could belong here one day, if I keep practising and building up my confidence. But again, I don’t own a mountain bike, and I’m not planning to. I have the option of hiring one, so there’s potential here.
Okay, here’s where the bike stops being the excuse. I own a cyclocross bike, and I freaking love it. I love that it’s lighter than my previous hybrid, I love that it has a racier positioning, I love that it has disc brakes and I love that it takes fatter, knobbly tyres.
I’ve never tried cyclocross, but I’ve been looking into it recently and it does sound like a lot of fun. What unnerves me is that it requires a lot of techniques that I feel incapable of learning, like the fast mounting and dismounting.
Also, I’m not sure I have the right motivations to get into cyclocross. Again, it’s a type of racing and that need to win just doesn’t drive me that much. But perhaps there’s potential here. I need to find out if there’s a group in Bristol who do introductory sessions.
Now, I’ve included this as a category because it comes with different motivations that match my own. Covering long distances (check) at a comfortable pace (check), exploring, discovering, adventuring. Check, check, check.
So perhaps this is my bag, but this isn’t really something I can do on a regular basis. Perhaps one day I’ll head off on a round-the-world adventure and then I will officially be a ‘tourer’ but in terms of getting out on the bike weekly, this isn’t helping me to find a sense of belonging.
So, yes. I do kind of belong here. I commute by bike, and I occasionally pootle around town or along the bike path. But this can’t be it. I can’t stop here.
I guess I included this category to force a sense of belonging on myself, but this isn’t where I want to be. I just need to figure out where it is I do want to go.
I’m sure with time I’ll discover where my true drive lies. At the moment if I dig deep, I can identify my main motivations for cycling as follows:
- Getting exercise
- Getting outdoors
- Pushing my physical boundaries
- Pushing my mental boundaries
- Covering long distances
- Seeing progress
- Meeting likeminded people
- Learning from others
- Being able to eat more
- Being one less driver on the road
…Where does that put me exactly?