I have been riding bikes to escape, spend time with friends, and explore since I can remember. As soon as I was allowed to ride to a friend’s house unaccompanied I did. When I asked to be allowed to go further, that was fine, and I had a physical boundary set by my parents, of main roads I couldn’t cross. But that said nothing of the trails in the bushy valleys.
Mountain bikes, mountain biking, and just about any kind of cycling have been a constant in my life since I first managed to ride down our long driveway without training wheels, when I was about 4 if I recall.
And now, as 2018 is well and truly underway, I’m making a concerted effort to find some personal adventures again for this year. I’m really lucky that mountain bikes are involved with my daily work, but 2017 and even 2016 were a bit light on for mountain bike adventures compared to 2010-2015.
What’s wrong with living out of a car?
For me, a mountain bike adventure doesn’t involve a beard, it doesn’t have to have a tent, and ideally it doesn’t involve panniers or much bike luggage. But it does involve new experiences and challenges, and ideally new friends or stronger bonds with current friends. My kind of mountain bike adventures are stage races – maybe marathon length, maybe not.
And while two cross-country races are lined up for this weekend, it’s a trip to Switzerland for the Snow Bike Festival that’s really got my focus. Sure, it’s an overeas holiday of sorts. But I also get to visit two friends, meet people who are into the same things as me, eat roesti, race my bike in conditions that I don’t experience much – or ever, plus I’ll spend some quality time in the mountains.
Switzerland’s spectacular Snow Bike Festival Photo: Zoone Cronje
And it’s that combination of things I’m looking to combine as much as possible this year, although I suspect I’ll have to swap out the roesti to make it happen.
The daily challenge at a mountain bike stage race throws countless first world problems at you, but beyond that, you do still learn a lot about yourself. When in a leading position, you need to think tactically about how to maintain and defend your lead. At times you need to think and solve problems, but at others you need to think only of the process – being fast and smooth, eating and drinking and keeping your energy up.
Sometimes a stage race is the best time to think analytically.
Some events create bigger challenges, like the Crocodile Trophy did for me last year. In the middle of the week, I just wanted to stop. I wanted to get off my bike and be done. I wanted to go home. And while it wasn’t finishing that day that gave me a ‘feel good feeling’, the last three or four days did, and finishing at Port Douglas.
The men’s elite podium.
Life can be a rollercoaster sometimes. With bigger ups and downs than you can ever expect. But for me, mountain biking has lead to or directly given me some of the highlights of my life, and thrown up some challenges.
After the Crocodile Trophy last year I decided I wanted to make sure I faced those challenges more often. I wanted to travel, ride, race, meet people and live life to the fullest – while on a mountain bike. Mountain biking drives me, it’s given me a job, a wife, a wide network of friends, a garage full of bikes and on reflection – more good memories and than I probably deserve. And next week’s race in Gstaad is just the first step in adding some more.