7 Things Wikipedia Can't Tell You About Cycling
In this day and age, it's easy to be lulled in by the numbers. Heart rate stats, distance and elevation you've ridden... even gear ratio, parts compatibility and bike fit measurements.
Everything is smart watches, and measured to within an inch of its life.
We rely on the internet for research, and to tell us what we need to know. But there was a time (not that long ago) where none of that mattered.
You got a bike for Christmas - or you picked an outgrown one from an older sibling or cousin - and you just got on it and rode.
Alone, with your friends, in the sun, in the rain... it didn't matter. In that spirit, here are a few things that Wikipedia can't tell you about riding bikes.
1. How You Feel After A Tough Climb
This will either bring back great memories or nightmares about choking back bile and tears... but however you feel about the hill itself, there's almost nothing that can compare to the pure sense of elation when you crest the top of a hard climb.
It doesn't matter if you were 10 years old on a BMX, or whether you've got the latest road bike. It doesn't matter if you ride on the tarmac, gravel, dirt or somewhere in between.
Slogging it up a hill is slogging it up a hill. And when you get there, exhausted, breathing so heavily you think you might actually throw up a kidney, and you see the top around the next corner... that sense of "I freaking did it!" is unrivalled.
2. Tan Lines Will Become A Thing
When I was a teenager, tan lines were to be avoided at all costs. In fact, the type of bathing suit you wore all summer would ultimately determine the clothes you would wear for the next few months. Tan lines? How embarrassing!
Another thing about cycling you can't learn from the internet is how proud you will become of your tan lines.
These babies are carefully cultivated over months, years even. Despite the sun damage part, tan lines are a mark of the outdoors. They represent the hours you spent on your bike, talking, laughing, meeting new people... forgetting your stress and worries as you explore new horizons.
Incidentally, tan lines are also an effective way to identify other cyclists while they are in casual summer clothing.
3. The Story Your Scars Will Tell
As with all things, not every ride will be perfect. You'll get bad weather, mechanical mishaps, dodgy snacks, surprise visits from aunt flow, and yes - you'll fall.
Maybe it'll be at the traffic lights after you've just learned to clip in. Or maybe you'll hit the deck mountain biking... whether it's a hard or soft landing, your scars all come with a story.
"That was the time I tried to follow [insert name] over a rock but didn't realise you had to lift your back wheel."
"This one was the time I slid out on that wet corner on the road bike."
Some of them you won't want to share with anyone. Some you'll want to laugh about straight after they happen. However they're cultivated, you'll discover that your scars somehow become a vessel for carrying entire memories.
And what is life, if it isn't about making memories?
4. You'll Need Extra Wardrobe Space
When I first started cycling, I was pretty certain I would just ride in sports gear. Cycling clothing looked weird, and I certainly wasn't squeezing myself into a pair of those whadayacallums. Without underwear? I don't think so.
And then, it happened. I was out riding and saw the most magnificant looking group of women wearing these incredible looking kits. The colours!! They all looked so fit and great and suddenly, a hunger was born in me.
The amount of extra wardrobe space you'll need for your cycling kit is staggering, especially if you dabble in multiple types of bike riding like me. And there's not only the kits themselves, there's the accessories. The socks, the caps, the gloves, the base layers and jackets and wind vests and wet weather gear... not to mention the helmets and lights and shoes (oh my)...
Honestly, just prepare to need at least 2.5 times the wardrobe space you used to have. All of the wonderful pieces of cycling gear you buy will need a home! Remember when you had a spare room for guests?
Remember when your garage was for your car?? Ha!
5. You Can Achieve Anything (Really)
The first time I knew that my bike could help me achieve anything I wanted was my first solo ride. I had learned to ride as an adult, and pretty much fudged my way through everything... there was much anxiety and crashing and going slowly on bike paths and learning how to use the gears and brakes.
But one day, I decided I would set out on a ride on my own. It was an 'out and back' ride I'd seen others do from my car, beside a coastline so I figured, at least I can't get lost. Water on the right on the way out, water on the left on the way back.
I packed enough food for a family of 7 into an old school back pack I found, got into my gear and set off. It was everything. The feeling of achievement, of freedom, of independence. It took me 3 hours to ride 70km - not bad for a newbie, and I knew that I could achieve anything I set my mind to.
Whether you have a story like mine, or whether you finished a big event you trained for you understand what I'm getting at. It's the purest form of pride. It doesn't matter what the achievement is.
You set a goal. You nailed it. You can do ANYTHING!
6. How Quickly Every Trip Becomes a Bike Trip
I remember a time - before I started riding, but after I met my mountain biking husband - where every trip we took, he would bring the bikes and plan out bike rides. I was used to planning holidays based on factors like temperature and usual amount of rain that time of year, being able to relax on the beach or proximity to the pub.
At first, I was annoyed! Like, "can't we go anywhere without bikes?", to which he would encourage me to give it a try. Eventually, I gave in, of course, and now... I get it.
I'm the first one these days to research cycling routes and destinations to make sure that every potential trip or holiday involves bikes. It doesn't matter whether it's local or somewhere on the other side of the world. If it's safe to do so, we're riding there.
(Ok, a lot of trips also include close proximity to the pub).
7. How Thrilling (But Scary As F***) New Things Can Be
For me, just getting on a bike classified as 'doing something new'. It was terrifying to be a newbie as an adult, yet thrilling. The great thing about cycling is that there are always new things to try. As you get fitter or more experienced, you can push the boundaries and find new things to be thrilled and scared about.
No matter what level you're at, what you ride, or what new horizons you're pursuing, the feeling of uncertainty is the same! You have no idea what it’s going to be like until you do it.
And there's no magic bullet or 'right time' for a lot of new things... much like life in general. There's no egg timer to tell you when you're ready for something new. Like a baby bird trusting it's feathers and instinct will take it high into the sky, sometimes you just need to leap, and have faith.