Mountain bikers are social creatures. Rarely do you find social media posts of someone slogging it out alone in the backcountry on a weekend while everyone else is riding with their homies and posting all sorts of pics ... pre-ride coffee and bagels, mid-ride water break, and post-ride at the pub. Mountain biking and mayhem go well together and the bigger the posse the more the mayhem. But what do you do when you need to simply peel away from everyone and ride alone?
Sure, one of the things we love the most about mountain biking are the memories shared with our crew as we slay singletrack and then eat enormous burritos afterwards all the while sharing stories of falls, bailouts, and near catastrophes. But there are simply times when we want to ride alone ... when we crave solitude. If we're honest we never get to ride as much as we'd like nor as much as we may communicate on social media. So when we do ride we savor these precious experiences like we do in the mornings when we cling to our coffee hoping that the caffeine would kick in sooner rather than later.
I end up out on the trail a couple of times a week. Once usually midweek and then again on the weekend. My midweek lunch time ride is when I crave and live out this solitude. Since it is over an extended lunch I can't venture too far away from humanity, but I enjoy the time alone.
Sometimes we're afraid of solitude. Not the kind where we fear a devastating injury miles from the trailhead, but the kind where in our sensory-overloaded society it means we have to think. When we ride alone we have ample time to reflect, process, and reminisce. On the descents I do my best not to think (too busy reacting and dodging) but on the slow methodical climbs my mind wanders. By midweek my mind races to the next deadline, upcoming projects, email correspondence left unattended, stressful conversations, and so on. But when I ride alone I don't let my mind go to work. Instead, I dream. I wonder. I wander.
Sometimes I daydream of silly things like new bike parts (who doesn't???) but most of the time the reprieve of solitude has me reflecting on great times and memories. While there are many reasons why we love to ride from exercise to competition to camaraderie we should add another to the list ... solitude. To get out alone. To remember why we love to ride. To let the only sounds be that of the whooshing air on the descents or our belabored breathing on the climbs.
Unplug. Don't log into your Strava. Ride alone. Reflect. Remember. Enjoy. (But don't forget to tell someone where you're going "just in case."). Wonder. Wander.
Photo credit: Robin Munshaw (@wildland.media)