FEATURE — As winter set in, I found myself heading to the gym to train for an event that’s months away. I don’t hate the gym by any means, but it is a far cry from hopping on my trusty two-wheeled steed and mountain biking my cares away!
With short days and cold weather being the norm, it has to be done in order to keep from suffering too badly in races and to make a good showing (i.e. have fun) in the year’s coming events. Training can feel at times like drudgery when compared to the light-hearted, less intense rides at the end of fall.
Recently, though, I attended the Single Speed Cyclocross World Championships, where an almost insane amount of fun was being had by even those who were vying for a podium position. It was definitely an “adult” type of event since drinking “sports” beer and taking whiskey shots from squirt guns not only happened but was encouraged.
Silliness abounded on course, with a green Jell-O pit, a fire barrier and a fifth-wheel trailer that had a hole cut in the back that racers had to run through to complete a lap. What struck me, though, was that no one seemed to take themselves too seriously, despite the course changing randomly and rules, at times, being completely ignored.
I’ve not heard so much laughing from people who were definitely putting in some hard laps. And there were a bunch of folks who had no chance of winning but were riding around in the mud and sand in costumes, being nutty just for the pure joy of it all.
At its heart, cycling is about having fun. When we rode bikes as kids, we didn’t worry about our times on Strava. We rode because it felt so cool, it gave us freedom and we just plain liked it. Some would say that pushing your hardest through a race is not fun, but the endorphin high afterwards is the fun payoff. Actually, most bike rides are not even races or training.
When you put racing aside, you can see many aspects of riding that are designed to produce fun. Group rides, for instance, are just as much about socializing as riding, with frequent stops to chat or share the stoke of the last section of trail.
Then there are bike festivals, a fun time where like-minded bike people converge on an area to sample some new trails, eat food, talk shop, have some laughs and play games, such as hooking a log to a bike and seeing who can pull it the farthest.
Having a tough day at work can be smoothed out with a nice, leisurely lunch-hour ride. The feel of tires smooshing through the fallen autumn leaves can be quite relaxing, and a little bit of fun at lunch can do worlds of good for your attitude during the rest of the work day.
One of my favorite fun rides is the “picnic” ride. Stop by your favorite sandwich shop, pack a can of your preferred beverage and maybe some yummy snacks, and head for the hills. Ride to a beautiful spot (not hard to find in our area) and sit down for a lunch break.
These days, we live in a world where the news is mostly bad and outlooks can be bleak. We all need to be able to decompress, relax and really just get away from it all to keep our sanity intact. The good news is that there’s an answer: Ride bikes. Have fun!
This article was first published in St. George Health & Wellness magazine and updated for current publication.