Singletrack Issue 119: Ride Less, Be Happier

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Adam concocts a recipe for happiness.

Like a public bathroom mirror I am covered in the handprints of strangers, but I have also been doing a lot of reflecting. Reflecting on a snowy and wet winter with limited opportunities for adventure, and how these limited opportunities for adventure can get you down.

Imagine the act of riding your bicycle is a delicious and exotic fruit. Its sweetness makes your pupils dilate. Its nectar makes your toes tingle. The little hairs on its skin have been shaped into a stylish hairdo. However, it grows on the world’s highest, and wobbliest, tree. The opportunities to enjoy it are limited, but when you do it is ever so sweet. This tree is not real. It is a metaphor. A delicious one. One that summarises my winter riding habits. Put on a napkin, and I will explain.

Both weather and motivation levels have been below optimal recently. Add a house move, decorating, and a busy 9–5 into the mix and you’ve got a recipe for a minimal bicycle adventure pie. Subsequently, as the frequency of rides decreases, the desire for radness and fulfilment disproportionately increases. For example, if I haven’t been out for riding for three weeks I somehow think I can buck the trend of limited opportunities and squeeze in a mid-week mega-adventure to make up for the lack of riding. This inevitably doesn’t happen. Riding frequency remains low and the juicy (probably super) fruit, with all its recognised health benefits, starts to seem further up the tree than before. Harder to grasp, but more appealing. It weirdly looks like it has got a cool little hat now too.

Something needed to be done about this! My craving for fruity, be-hatted flesh was driving me into deep caves of despair. I needed to find different ways to gain satisfaction and more accessible radness. After a bit of careful reflection at the end of the wet winter and early spring, it felt like I had stumbled upon a solution to my minimal adventure problem. This solution was, simply, ride less, and stop trying.

This came to me after I started to ponder. Why is getting out on my mountain bike so important to me? What actually makes me crave the sweet exotic fruit? It was the multiple feels it installed within me. The adrenaline buzz from the fast descents. The mental gratification from learning to find flow through new techniques. The body-bashing positivity of exercise and activity. The escapism of freewheeling through bogglingly beautiful outdoors-ness. The hands-on grubbery of fixing bent and broken bike bits. A whole catalogue of 0% finance feel-good factor.

When I broke it down into its component parts it was clear that the goodness it gave me was not exclusive to mountain biking. There are lots of other things that can give you the same buzz and, ultimately, result in the same end goal of being a happy, healthy, human. Therefore, I got creative and started to think about all of my happiness sources. Exploring all of the things I enjoy doing and scribbling them in a handy guide. I figured this might be a useful mental toolbox to fix the mountain bike-shaped holes that appear when adventures fall off the radar. When I can’t get out, but my brain box keeps telling me I should. Something I can refer back to when the winter blues set in.

I understand that a radness and adventure deficiency is not a life-threatening condition, and there are bigger problems in the world. However, I do believe there is a lot of value exploring your sources of happiness, knowing what you enjoy, and having a go-to blueprint for good times. Not pinning all your hopes of self-satisfaction on one goal or act. Whatever floats your boat.

After the scribbling was done, I had a visualisation of all the things that give me similar sensations, feelings, or levels of satisfaction that mountain biking does. All the things that make me happy. A radness distraction tool. A drizzle downer displacement device.

To go back to the exotic fruit metaphor, this process has helped me pick out loads of extra colourful fruit on the tree. Fruit that is equally as delicious, that I previously thought were turds in plastic bags. Most importantly, these new fruits are a lot easier to reach and on a sturdier tree. It has even made me consider ditching the mountain bike in winter months and sticking to quick fix ways to get my buzz until the sun comes out. Next time the weather gets crappy or time gets tight, I’ll take the pressure off myself and reach for the nearest bit of fruity goodness, ride less, and be happier.

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