So Guy, what did I learn on your recent 9 Day, solo and unsupported, JOGLE Challenge I hear you ask!
I read a blog a while ago on Mother of all Lists about surviving divorce https://motherofalllists.com/2017/10/27/guest-list-surviving-divorce/ – I really enjoyed reading it, it struck some chords with me, particularly about my own journey. I thought a lot about that while I was cycling on my own on this epic challenge and it inspired me to create my own List. I took up cycling in March this year, so this 900 plus mile John O’Groats to Land’s End challenge has been a bit of a learning experience for me – I learnt a lot about cycling and myself, but it was the cycling things I wanted to share with you and hopefully give you a little smile too.
So here is my List to end all Lists about Cycling, along with the sketches I made while I was writing this list on the train back from Mousehole, Cornwall.
1. When someone tells you how hard, how painful or incredible a ride is, you won’t actually believe them until you are there in the moment. Just remember, one day someone won’t believe you either, so don’t judge them too harshly.
2. Treat multi-day rides like a job – create a routine like you have for your working life and stick to it. Don’t give yourself an opportunity to want to stay in the warm.
3. There is a glorious moment where, shortly after the terror of being overtaken at speed by a large articulated vehicle, said vehicle pulls you along in its drag. It’s almost the same feeling as when you have Star Power in Mario Kart.
4. Even on the flattest section of road you can feel like your cycling through treacle, it is at these moments you should stick your head up and take a moment to appreciate where you are in the world, appreciate all of those things you would never see from a car.
5. Sometimes, however, it is just easier to get your head down and eat the miles.
6. There are times when man and machine are one, when your feet and the cranks are carving perfect circles through the air. It is at those times, that by rights, you should have a giant rainbow flying from your derriere so that everyone can witness your cycling magnificence.
7. There is an invisible line on the most god awful, painful, hard and longest ride when it becomes good again…the line comes at the exact point you stop giving a f@ck and just ride your bike.
8. Always say hello (even if it’s a gesture – a nod, a wave) to your fellow cyclists – it costs you nothing, but politeness pays. Plus we are a little community right?!
9. Having the newest, shiniest, lightest, most expensive or most fashionable bike doesn’t make you a cyclist. What makes you a cyclist is getting out on said bike, with a smile on your face and doing something you love, just for the love of doing it.
10. You are the engine for that machine, so remember to treat yourself with the same love and affection – be sure to clean yourself, apply grease (chamois) to the important parts, pump yourself up (being careful not to overdo the pressure) and put the right fuel in.
11. With cleats and jelly legs it is if, not when, you will gracefully tumble to the floor at a junction or stopping point. Just accept it with the inevitability of life, get up, dust yourself off and act like it was all part of the plan.
12. Cycling in winter, in the UK, will never be as bad as you think it will be – you can only ever get so wet, right?
13. Still, no matter how much you check the forecast and wish it to be different – the weather will be what it will be. Chanel your inner ‘Mel Gibson’, suit up and charge in to that win / rain / snow shouting “You’ll never take our FREEEEEDOM”
14. Don’t underestimate the mental boost a clean pair of clothes can provide – even if they only stay clean for half an hour, the simple act of putting on freshly laundered clothes makes you feel somehow new.
15. Riding with someone who doesn’t have mudguards fitted is a dirty, dirty business. Don’t be that guy.
16. There are few things more demoralising than seeing a ‘Road Closed’ or ‘Diversion’ sign, knowing full well that said diversion is going to take you around and then straight through hell on earth.
17. No matter how meticulously you have planned your route beforehand – when you are out there you will, at some point, question why you routed yourself down the most dangerous, windy and undulating road known to man.
18. Don’t change your route mid-ride, stick to the plan…unless its pouring with rain and you can straight-line it down a dual carriageway and get back faster.
Hills, hills, hills
19. It is important to remember your school physicals lessons – what goes up must, eventually come down – unless you’re in Devon and Cornwall then it will feel like it’s all uphill.
20. Descending, like many of the good things in life, doesn’t last long – so get in the moment and just enjoy it while you’ve got it.
21. Mindfulness will only get you so far up that monster of a hill, bloody-mindedness will get you the rest of the way.
22. With your head held high you can be cycling through the flattest, most beautiful landscape stretching out as far as your eyes can see – don’t be fooled though, because you can guarantee there will be a cheeky hill hiding in there ready to catch you off guard.
23. Talking, or even singing, out loud when you’re cycling alone for any great length of time is not weird and frankly it’s a must. There is no day that can’t be improved by belting out a few bars of Taylor Swift’s Shake it off.
24. Doing it in your own way, in your own time is a liberating, fulfilling experience – but there is nothing quite like the company of another human being. Conversation may be broken between passing traffic or you may at times feel your too fast or too slow – but no matter what you have that friendly voice, a conversation and someone with which to share the load.
25….So those are my truisms, what would you add at number 25?
But, in all seriousness, what’s been the biggest thing I’ve learnt?
The ultimate lesson?
The challenges we set ourselves and the epic journey that we take, they are all in search of that moment when you want to stop, stamp your feet or simply throw your bike in a hedge and cry. Because, it is in that moment we hope to have dug deep enough inside ourselves to find something golden – that beneath it all we can, that we are bigger and stronger than we ever believed.
I set out at the beginning of 2017 to build a bike, learn to ride it (having never ridden a road bike or used clip ins before) and then to cycle it down the length of Great Britain and to hopefully find something golden in myself, to prove to myself and to the world that you are only ever limited by your imagination and your determination to succeed. More on this in my next blog, but my final truism is this;
I try to live my life without regret, because I believe that regrets are a weight around your neck. I have and will continue fail at things in life, but I will never regret those failures – because as long as I made the right decision at the time, I gave it everything I had and I left it all out there, then I know I tried and that is, and always should be, enough.
This recent challenge has reminded me of that simple fact – that I am enough!