What Keeps Me Riding

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I took 14 kids mountain biking today. I arrived at Missoula Parks and Recreation at 7:15am and went home at 6pm. It’s 91 degrees out. The youngest kid was 8, and the oldest was 13. After spending all day at work, pedaling slowly, answering kids’ crazy questions and getting sunburned, the last thing I want to do was bike some more.

In the middle of the season, my mind starts to drift away from training and racing. It’s been about 3 months since my first race of the season and much longer since I started training. Plus lately, I’ve been working on my van in all my free time to set it up as a camper, and right now, that massive project feels a whole lot more compelling than my long-term racing goals. It’s easy to lose focus.

But as hard as training seems right now, not training is worse. I’ve learned that I’m happiest when I give racing everything I have. All I need to do is try.

When I start to fumble in my life, bike-related or otherwise, I tell myself the same things I tell myself in race stages. Look ahead. Breathe. Stay consistent. The things I learn from racing carry me through my day-to-day life. Racing has given me reliable mental tools and a whole lot of grit. It goes the other way, too: When my riding progression helps me in my life, it inspires me to keep riding. The feeling of moving forward makes me motivated, and I believe that capturing that feeling is the key to beating the mid-season doldrums.

After each race, I write what I learned and anything else that’s memorable on the back of my number plate. I don’t keep all the plates, but I keep the ones that feel significant. I believe that this reflection ritual, even if I just scribble a few notes, helps me track my growth as a rider and keeps me motivated to improve at the next race. Also, flipping through them occasionally is both fun and entertaining for someone as nostalgic as I am.

Photo: Alex Taylor Kim

Thinking back, most of my favorite memories have been with my bike. Riding has been my lifeline on bad days and a way of celebrating the good days. It’s a huge part of who I am. As I progress in my riding, I progress as a person.

Even on the days when I don’t really want to ride, I know it’ll be worthwhile. Each ride makes me stronger, physically and mentally, and a lot happier. Through years of riding and racing, I’ve never regretted a ride, and I don’t think that’ll change anytime soon.

So although I don’t feel like riding today, I’ll put on my shoes and start moving. I’ll likely catch a good sunset, and I’ll definitely find some rocks to hop over and some trees to dodge. I know I’ll finish the ride happier than when I started, and it will make me want to get up tomorrow and do it again.

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