In light of a recent blog post published by Amanda Batty: "Don't Harsh My Happy, Bro." I feel what was written in the post transpires over into the cycling world very easily. Perhaps too easily.
I'll delve a little more into the topic of projecting the ideal "emotional reactions" and how focusing on that can be a detriment to your experience.
A couple years ago after I had started riding on a regular basis, I posed the question on Facebook if anyone had a ride that they wanted to quit. Maybe they physically were exhausted or mentally/emotionally it just wasn't going well. This thought process sparked a comment which stated that I needed to keep all conversation about cycling positive. I brought negativity into something that brought them great joy and that was upsetting. Never mind the fact that I was a new, fumbling rider who was looking for conversation and assurance that I wasn't the only one to think that way...ever.
It was alluded that if I made cycling sound the least bit hard or difficult, I would deter others from wanting to experience it themselves.
I was a bit drop-jawed at the whole commentary, thinking to myself that this was completely ridiculous. I felt in a way, that I had been lied to. No one told me that I would have struggles when I started out riding. No one told me that I would be challenging myself physically, mentally, and emotionally...and this was all on a PAVED trail. Don't get me started on mountain biking. (Ha! Too late!) For a brief moment I felt alone. I must be the only rider out there to feel
frustrated over their struggles and no one would understand or care. All because it wasn't positive.
I felt that I couldn't be emotionally honest or mention the less-than-stellar experiences on the bike. If I wasn't able to write about how amazingly inspiring or fun my ride was, I had to keep all other thoughts/feelings "hush hush." Why does a crappy ride have to be seen as "negative?" Rather, it could be a moment where conversation could happen candidly and knowledge shared. I feel I have learned the most from the mistakes or mishaps of other riders (and myself)- never once did a perceived "negative experience" turn me away from my bike, never to ride it again.
I do not feel sugar coating the riding experience promotes authenticity, for the sport or life in general. If all we do is talk about the positive things and make no mention of the struggles we sometimes have, I feel it takes away from the journey as a whole. So often we're made to put on a happy face and show emotions that may not be fully true. There is a very real pressure on a large majority of the population to project their "best selves." This can be seen on the bike or off. I am thankful there are still riders out there who are sharing their less-than-ideal experiences on the bike. Talk about the struggles, frustrations, and future hopes. Let riders know that DNFs or DFLs are not the end of the world- that they can happen to anyone and it's okay. It does not mean you are a failure or a bad rider...as the saying goes: "Shit happens."
I am the rider I am because of the experiences- good and bad. The struggles I faced as a new rider were very real. The challenges I encounter now as a more seasoned rider are real as well. Everyone will have ups and downs and I feel it is a disservice to feel one can't freely admit the struggles they face. No one should feel bad or shamed for not loving a ride they went on, those days happen and it will not be the last time.
My time on the bike is when I feel the most honest with myself when it comes to emotions and thoughts. Riding my bike makes me happy and it gives me freedom for my soul- however there are days where I feel that I'm struggling to ride. I'm fumbling around on the trails, putting my foot down everywhere, getting new bruises, and just not on my a-game.
There are days where I have to admit that I just don't have the desire to go and spin my wheels.
There are days where riding my bike feels like the most amazing thing I've ever done in my life. I'm nailing the trails and feeling like a legit badass. I feel powerful and strong, I feel like I can take anything head on which leaves me thinking, "Where did my Wonder Woman cape go?!"
You can't take away the experiences with riding- there will be good ones and bad, ups and downs. This is why I advocate for realness and authenticity with cycling; I haven't been able to hide from myself and my emotions during rides and it's provided me some wonderful insight.
Riding your bike is YOUR story- but one has to remember that there are many stories out there. Don't judge an experience against your own.
We are the authors of our own stories.
We have the powerful ability to come together in support of one another and to embrace the cycling journey.