I trained not to win races, although that would have been nice, but rather to be strong enough to ride and compete whilst having a ‘normal life’. And when I say ‘normal’ I mean being able to go out racing or riding without having to spend the rest of the time with my head slumped on the kitchen table (I have strong memories of training camps where as the week progressed some heads fell deeper into their cornflakes whilst I would strive to seek the nightlife or check out a Roman ruin in addition to pedalling).
To have good physical and mental health allows you the breathing space to be happy and active, despite whatever angst might lurk around the corner.
For me the early years of my cycling love came easy, I worked my week and loaded it to be balanced in favour of my bike(s). I became fit, really strong although not able to win outright but nonetheless able to ride from London to Bristol with little doubt I could do it and still go to a party that same evening. Climbing hills were a delight and even now I still marvel that I could once ride up Downe Lane on the North Downs (25% plus in spots).
I am no longer that fit, I lost confidence in my body and there’s the rub! After many years of illness I am not physically the person I once was. Time away from anything physical (or other) leads to a form of self-imposed disconnection and it took me a while to realise that the reason I would put on my cycling kit and then decide not to ride or resisted making arrangements to go out socially was because I had a vulnerable mind-set which felt a bit like when you have a broken arm (or similar) and you feel uneasy being amongst a crowd for fear of being bumped. That’s not good mental health.
I’m an optimistic type and I push against dystopian views because they are far too easy to express, whilst ‘pulling yourself together’ requires optimism and you to make a leap of faith in yourself and in those around you, which can be hard, but ultimately, it’s the better option. So now I am riding my bike more often once again. Just this week I rode in a part of central London for the first time in quite a while and was surprised at the many new cycle schemes that have been put in place, requiring me to amend my usual navigation through the back streets to make use of the Cycle Super Highways.
The point here is that I am gradually regaining my confidence after losing it to illness and the rest. I am also rekindling the joy of tinkering with my bikes and I have the mental and physical energy to spend quality time on something such as building up a bike with new stuff even to the point of lining up the Campagnolo logos as shown here with my trusty Specialized Crux now freshly adorned with Campagnolo Record 11 Speed.
The last time I rode earnestly with Campagnolo was on my now lost cyclo cross and adventure bike from the early 2000’s which featured a mix of Campagnolo and Shimano. I mashed the Record rear mech at old Eastway in London during a cyclo cross race and it then went full Shimano.
Thanks to Sam at Look Mum No Hands for his ever forgiving assistance.
I wish you good mental health and do venture forth, even if only very slowly.