All in Your Head

“The advantages? Exercise, no parking problems, gas prices, it’s fun. An automobile is expensive. You have to find a place to park and it’s not fun. So why not ride a bicycle? I recommend it.”

How is it that 20km of flat can be harder than 40km straight uphill? Because cycling is a mental game. Most five year olds can happily ride their bike around the block, and touring really isn’t that different. Sure, you are doing a few more kilometers, and hopefully can cycle a bit faster than them, but it’s the same simple motion. It is always possible to turn your pedals just one more time. Sometimes though, that one push seems much harder than others.

Before starting this trip I was not a cyclist. Sure, I biked around town, but when you live in a place where it only takes a few kilometers to get across town, it doesn’t really count. That’s the great think about cycling, you don’t have to be good at it to do it. All you need to cycle (well, besides the bike) is the right attitude because it’s all in your head. Your legs will always keep pushing, one pedal at a time, so you just need to program your brain so it wants to keep going. Normally the motivation is easy. In fact, cycling has turned into meditation for me. I’ll often find that hours have passed without me even noticing. Once I get into a rhyme, my brain seems to slow down, and I am content zoning out as my legs keep moving. How sitting on a saddle everyday isn’t boring, I have no idea, but at least so far, it hasn’t been at all.

There are times though when my brain is expecting something different than what’s ahead, and that is when the pedaling becomes tough. For instance, when you know a hill is ahead you mentally prepare for it, gear down, and get into a slow grove. When someone tells you it’s “all downhill,” and then there is a climb, that hill suddenly seems like such an unnecessary obstacle. Wind is even more vexing, and unfortunately, whenever I come across a head wind I am straight away grumpy. There is nothing more frustrating than pushing hard, only to realize how slowly you are moving, because the wind is pushing you back.

Though building muscle and cardio fitness obviously makes cycling easier, the only thing you truly need in order to bike tour, or cycle at all, is the right mental attitude. People think it’s amazing that I am cycling such far distances, but anyone can do it. It’s not that I’m physically stronger than most people, in fact, as a small girl most of you out there could easily take me down, it’s just that I actually want to. It’s not strength, but motivation, that stops most people from doing what I do.

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