Column: Are You Brave Enough For Big Love?

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Adam Batty has a challenge for you: Group rides are 1300 times better than solo rides. You knew that, but do you have the courage to tell your riding pals how much they mean to you? Strap in for this loved-up ride from our floweriest writer yet. 

I can only speak for myself here, but I do feel like there is a lot that goes unsaid on our group rides. Certain vibes permeate the air but float by unmentioned. These are strong but silent messages of love that have potential to take our riding to the next level.

To set the context of this ode to my buddies, a bit of a qualifying statement is needed. I enjoy cycling on my own and indulging in introspection. I also believe that the most fun parts of cycling are the buzzing down hills bits, the jumpy-jumps, and the mind-bending shapes one throws through sketchy switchbacks. Theoretically, the fun derived from these bits is not reliant on others being there. I could enjoy them just as much on my own without my dearest skid buddies.

However, obviously, my lovely friends make rides much more awesome. They lube my spiritual chain with high-quality friend oil. When together, our group members extend their divine emotional aerials and send out endless secretive loving vibes to everyone within a 15-metre radius.

Cycling is a big chunk of my life, and I choose to spend these chunks with others for whom cycling is also a big chunk of their lives; My riding buddies. We don’t get together to file taxes, hang out laundry, or renew insurance policies. We do get together to do the thing we love though; all-terrain cycling. This coming together multiplies the radness of our shared beloved sport, like some sort of happiness calculator. The screen reads ‘paramount vibes’. Our unspoken bond over a common passion emanates throughout the trails. This is the reason why group rides are 1,300 times better than solo rides, and why I love riding with a group of mates.

These unspoken love messages were clearly in the air on a recent group ride around the Peak District. The friendly car park chat was spewing from our mouths and being lapped up by all in the fine weather. We were sharing hot flasks and passing the coffee to the left-hand side. Throughout this, plans for a day-long adventure were being enthusiastically discussed. These good times continued throughout the ride. We chatted as we rolled along and caught up on life. We shared the struggle of getting up tough climbs. We whizzed down the descents with added excitement from friendly competition. Plenty of fist bumps and high fives were served up. We feasted on a banquet of glove on glove contact until we felt sick.

This joy transformed the group. We were previously individual riders on a group ride, but we are now an interconnected super-human vibe machine. It was clear to see that everyone had a pot of contentment and love bubbling away just under the surface. Nobody mentioned it, but you could just tell.

I felt the need to acknowledge this. To tell my buds that I appreciate how good we have it. To talk about how great it is to spend all day playing on bicycles. I felt that the whole group was feeling as I was, but these vibes remained ineffable. The unspoken love was still unspoken.

The thing is though, this big love-in is all speculation on my part. I have at no point asked my riding buddies ‘Excuse me, friend, do we have a mutual and platonic unspoken love that is magnified through a shared passion?’. Therefore, I cannot be certain that these good times are being facilitated through multiple vibe collisions on group rides. They could in fact just be a soul-destroying delusion on my part. I could be imagining these connections that increase the fun factor. The friend lube on my spiritual chain could, in fact, be WD40 stripping away any morsel of moisture or imagined brotherly love.

I also appreciate that group dynamics are a tricky thing to fathom and it may be that I am projecting my feelings on to my fellow riders. It is impossible to tell what others are experiencing. Some of the group may be having a tough time. Some may be worrying about things more important than bikes. This ride may just have been a ride to fill time in their day and nothing more than that. Not a love-in. Not a brotherly appreciation society annual conference.

The whole point of this sonnet [Sorry, it’s more than 14 lines – Shakespeare Ed] is that these sentiments will remain unspoken until I share my platonic love. I may well share these feelings and the group dismisses my emotional advances. I could find out that I am the only one experiencing this sensual festival but positivity could indeed bring others out of a slump. Alternatively, I could find out that the mutual love in is indeed mutual and it could take out group dynamic to the next level of matey bliss. A dynamic that produces endless positivity where corners are forever being railed to a soundtrack of laughs, cheers, and collective gratitude.

After this reflection, it seems clear that there is one rad stunt I need to try out during the next ride. That is to challenge myself to love my fellow riders more and put this theory to the test. To turn my unspoken peer passion into a tangible sensation that can be summoned on any ride.


Singletrack Editor

Chipps wasn’t around for the dawn of mountain biking in the UK, but he likes to claim that he arrived in time for second breakfast (about the time he shows up for work, then…) starting in the bike trade in 1990 and becoming a full time mountain bike journalist at the start of 1994. Over the subsequent quarter century, he has seen mountain bike culture flourish and diversify and bike technology go from rigid steel frames to fully suspended carbon fibre (and sometimes back to rigid steel as well.)

His riding style is best described as ‘medium, wheels on the ground, trail riding’ though he’s been spotted doing everything from endurance downhill racing to 24 hour cross country racing. He favours mid-travel trail bikes and claims to be wheel-size, gear, brake and tyre agnostic. In fact, his garage spans most bicycle flavours, taking in steel hardtails, carbon trail bikes, even a mountain bike tandem, along with road, touring and gravel/cyclocross bikes.

While he’s happy to chat about bikes all day, his real interest is in the people and places that bikes can introduce you to and he talks as fondly about the trails he’s ridden and riders he’s met as the bikes that took him there.

Comments (5)

    Great if you like other human beings, but otherwise…

    Who knew mountain biking could be so homo-erotic!

    (sorry ladies, i’m assuming most guys ride with other guys in the main….. 😉

    To be fair. I love my riding mates. Strangely i dont think of them as mates because i dont see them outside riding. But id like to but i cant talk to any of them about anything other than a bike just in case they want to go for a drink or something.

    Riding with mates is brilliant. but we dont need to tell anyone that.

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