Make The Moment Last
I’ve never heard of Ben Hogan. I’d assumed that he was the lesser famous brother of Hulk, but apparently he was big in the world of golf. Apart from admiring the odd bunker lip for its take-off potential, and a love of bad jumpers, I’ve never really been into the self-professed Game of Kings (I thought that was chess…), but I came across one of Mr Hogan’s sayings about the sport recently and it did resonate. (Oh, and it does just count as a sport in my book. You – occasionally – raise a sweat doing it, and you get to wear special shoes to do it in.)
Mr Hogan famously said: “The most important shot in golf, is the next one.”
But is that how we look at our bike riding? How often do we dwell on the last good ride we had while looking out at the drizzle coming down, or think about the corner we cocked up just now or the jump we wussed out of?
If we started thinking about the next corner, or the next drop, or the next ride, then would we be better off? ‘Look where you want to go’ and all that? There’s a problem with that too; we all know that tomorrow never comes and if we only live for the weekend, or that next weekend away, then we’re never going to be happy with where we are right now.
Then again, if we start being all Zen about it and concentrate on being here, right here, right now, then are we going to want to look forward to anything? Or are we ever going to get round to basking in the memories of that last mountain holiday? Besides, if you’re only ever thinking about the now in your ride, you’re going to be surprised rather a lot. Steep climb? Another hill before home? Unannounced drop-off round that next corner? Ever tried walking while staring at your shoes? Hard isn’t it? And you’re more likely to run into lampposts…
A better approach to riding and to life is where you’re constantly sweeping from far ahead, through the middle distance, to you, with the occasional glance behind (to see if your pals are still there). You can’t have a better day if you’ve already forgotten yesterday. You can’t ride your loop better than last time if you’re already wondering about how you’ll do better next time.
The ‘Be Here Now’ movement is all well and good, but I’d encourage you to expand your definition of ‘now’ to be a little bigger than the present, or a little bigger than the area directly in front of your front tyre.
A moment needn’t be fleeting; a spike of awesome that hits once and is gone again, leaving you chasing a taste of it evermore. While you can ride that next corner well in isolation, mountain biking is more than a discreet collection of individual moves. Riding that next corner well is made better when you know what comes after it, and after that again. It’s even better again when you know you have a spring of rides behind you that have helped sharpen reflexes and hone your skills.
The state of ‘flow’ that mountain bikers achieve can’t be done corner to corner. It rises with every smooth turn railed and every technical move conquered. The buzz and flow of a ride starts with the pre-ride cup of tea dressed in your shorts in the morning, and doesn’t even begin to taper until long after you’ve bid your buddies goodbye.
Live in the now, only make sure that ‘now’ is a lot bigger than it needs to be. You’ll fill it anyway.