Over the past month I’ve been conscious of a growing weariness to mountain biking as the relatively high number of miles (for me at least) has gradually accumulated. It’s nothing so profound as the ennui I’ve experienced in the past, but it’s worth recognising all the same.
The problem with riding a lot is boredom. After all, the routes stay basically the same and this takes its toll over time. This year in particular has seen me riding regularly off-road to work, into Redhill via Alsation, Headley and the North Downs Way. It’s a great mile-munching route but despite the odd occasion—such as when I saw the girl doing yoga—it’s proved very repetitive, since there’s no easy way to vary the route choice.
On top of that, if you’re riding a lot you also have to accept that there will be times when you’re riding on your own. This is not something I enjoy, although it is good preparation for Dusk til Dawn. Being able to get into your zone for an hour at a time without the entertainment from chatting to a companion is great for that. But mentally it’s a lonely road to ride and you have to be quite strong to deal with that; it’s not just the pain of riding flat out for an hour, it’s the pain of boredom and isolation.
What I’m saying is that sometimes you need a break. Mountain biking as a sport can wear you out physically – most obviously when broken bones are involved. More often than not though the things that stop people riding are far less tangible of which I think boredom and lack of motivation are the key things. We aren’t designed for repetitive work, as our experience in the workplace shows.
Some people try to jump start things with challenging themselves further, faster, scarier. Learning to properly jump or corner a bike are skills that can save you time and again. The downside is if you get it wrong it hurts, a lot.
Other riders like to push themselves to ride what I would frankly describe as scary stuff. It’s a great personal achievement that I would like to have for myself but the downside is if you get it wrong it hurts, a lot.
For me, I find I push myself to go faster uphills, especially if I’m on my own. The downside is this hurts, a lot; but at least you can’t fall off going uphill!
Still other riders like to buy newer, shinier, blingier, niche-ier kit in what I often suspect is a similar attempt at staving off the ennui that is forever hovering out there waiting to pounce. The grass may not be greener but it certainly looks more interesting, which is why I have three bikes for a start!
The truth is as riders we’re all a mixture of these things, and the emphasis shifts to one end of the scale or another depending on the individual. I’m not getting at anyone, I’m just suggesting we’re all trying to solve the same basic issue.
It’s a terrible thing to acknowledge when we live in such a great mountain biking area isn’t it? But I reckon there’s no shame in it.
There’s one solution that seems counter-intuitive and that is to rest. By which I mean step back, try and forget about bikes, try and forget about constant exercise, perhaps do something that has nothing to do with bikes at all like solving a pressing work issue or starting a personal project that’s been nagging you for ages. Whatever it takes really, just step away from the bike.
I’ve recently tailed my riding off, due to a family holiday and various other commitments that have got in the way and I think the rest has done me good. My August mileage has definitely been lower than recent months and I’ve missed a few weekend rides as well and may well miss the odd one over the next month or so.
I’m hoping the rest will pay off in a renewed interest in riding. The signs so far are patchy; yesterday’s ride with Jem, Colin, Lee and Keith was spot on for me, a relaxed canter with good company. Today’s ride to work not so much – a painful, mental challenge although incidentally the morning sunrise was stunning.
I’m also due to start trying my hand at riding the Dark Side in the next few weeks which will turn things on their head again. That goes back to the new kit/novelty approach to re-energising I think; will it also spawn a new cycling wardrobe?!
To sum up, my tips for combating the dreaded riding fatigue are:
- Recognise there’s a problem
- Try and work out what’s causing it – physical, mental or both?
- Don’t be afraid to stop – it helps you physically, allows you to break bad habits and takes the pressure away, as well as providing some perspective
- Re-start when you’re ready and try to break away from whatever was causing the problem before
And if all else fails, get the credit card out!!