1) The greater the disparity between passing rider and the rider being passed, the nicer the passing rider will be.
What I’ve learned? No one with a degree of competitiveness likes to be passed. By anyone. Getting out of the way happens a lot in mountain bike events, where the trails are narrow and everyone is on-course at once. When elite racers weave around me like the pylon that I am to them, they are always super nice about it. They usually say something like, “Whenever you have a chance” or “Just coming up on your right”. And I just move over. They know they’re passing. I know they’re passing. Everyone knows they’re passing. So let’s just make this happen. Now, totally different story if the skill and fitness level are a little closer to parity – then it gets a bit more frosty. And, if you’re in the same racing category, with close to the same fitness, and especially if you know each other, then woah man, it’s a battle. That’s the game, of course. Fight for 15th. Or 16th. Or 65th. You know what I mean.
2) You can want something with every fiber of your being, but be completely powerless to have it. That day, anyway.
What I’ve learned? Ever tried to hold onto a stronger rider’s wheel in the wind, or up a gradual incline? At first you’re so close to that wheel that you’re rubbing tires. Then a millimeter of space forms. The millimeter becomes a centimeter. The centimeter a meter. The meter; minutes. Every cell in your body says ‘no’, but you watch that gap form, and then the wind comes in and that’s it. You don’t get to choose. Until next time.
3) It never gets easier, you just go faster.
What I’ve learned? Every single person doing a charity ride, like the Ride to Conquer Cancer, is riding their own individual time trial up Mount Ventoux. It hurts just as much to be in sweatpants on a Walmart Special as it does to be the pro on the carbon fibre team bike. Probably more. The pro just goes a lot faster. There’s something to be said about exposure to suffering, though, and you could argue that the pro is tougher because of prolonged time in that zone. And you’d be right, of course. They can deal better. However, if that’s the case, every person grinding it out on a 40 pound mountain bike is therefore that much more admirable for coping with it, ’cause it hurts them more than you.
4) When riding, there’s always a headwind.
What I’ve learned? Well, that there’s always a headwind. Of course, this could have some sort of double meaning and what I’m really, secretly, saying here is that hard work on a bike is like hard work in life, that the times that matter the most and the times that most define how you do are when it’s the hardest. Grit your teeth and push through in those times, and you’re good. But I’m not really saying that, I actually just meant that it’s always windy when you’re on your bike, for some reason. Like, it actually starts as soon as you decide to not go to the beach, and instead to ride. What’s up with that?
5) After riding, there’s always cake. Or beers. Or cake and beers.
What I’ve learned? It’s all about the cake and beers. Bikes, love, life, you name it. Cake and beers will keep you going.