How is it that I can love listening to a particular band, yet my friend hates them? Or that I can dislike food that is someone’s favourite dish? Or that I can laugh at a comedian who barely raises a titter from others in the office?
We’re all different and our wants and likes and dislikes are a complicated blend of upbringing and experiences and aspirations, mixed in with a healthy dose of what our friends are doing, what we’ve enjoyed in the past, and what we’d like to do in the future.
I recently did a classic ride that a friend had suggested as an absolute must-do, bucket-list kind of a ride. It involved a lot of Lakeland-style hikeabike, for a suitably rocky singletrack descent. And repeat. The pair of us barely ticked over ten miles in three hours.
While it was scenic and challenging, it was so very different to the kind of riding I normally do and I realised that I much prefer to ride up whatever I’m riding down the other side of. Probably something to do with living here in Yorkshire where the climbs are steep, but nearly always rideable. Does it make his ride not-great? Of course not, and I accept that he just likes that kind of stuff – and likes to earn his descents on the back of an hour or so of hoofing his bike up a hill. I’m more of a ‘ride up, swoop down’ kind of rider.
I’ve had a similar clash of pictures of the perfect ride with friends on the south coast, where their idea of a good day out is an endless rolling panorama of chalky singletrack over lush, green hills. Nothing technically challenging, but then also, there’s no reason to stop and rest, eat Haribo, chat and look at the view. When I last rode there, we (but mostly they) skipped and danced on the pedals for nearly 40 miles that day. And while my wheels hadn’t left the ground and I’d not had to carry or push a metre, I was absolutely hollowed out by the end of it.
I have other friends who delight in getting up in the dark and banging out 100 off-road miles before lunch, while there are others whose idea of heaven is a day at the bike park, where they’ll probably clock up four miles over the afternoon, but with a similar amount of vertical air time.
The humble bicycle is just so versatile that it can do all of these things, and do them well. And in a few cases, the same rider – often on the same bike – can do the same. It seems that riders often find a corner of cycling that they like (or that they’re good at) and stop there. If they’re keen or ambitious, they’ll work at perfecting that bit of their sport: if they’re not, then they’ll just remain competent. Other riders, though, try to exploit the best bits of every part of our sport. They might pick a bike, or a ride, depending on the weather or the trails. Local trails got too boring? Ride them at night. Or ride them on your cyclocross bike, or on your 1995 cross-country race bike. Want to put a huge point-to-point ride together? Grab a road bike or an enduro bike and scout out all the linking sections, or borrow an e-bike to get the route straight before you get out the hardtail on the big day.
And while this expanse of choice can be overwhelming, it’s important to realise that you don’t need to be good at everything. Just try everything and then find out what you enjoy doing and be at peace with that choice, or those choices. Bikes and bike riding are universally great, and as long as you’re riding bikes and smiling, then you’ve made the right decision.
This editorial featured in Singletrack issue 126 – You can buy a copy direct from us below.
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