The Hardest Part About Cycle Touring: The Mental Game

“Your legs aren’t giving up, your head is.”

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People often ask what the hardest part about cycle touring is, but in reality, the hardest part can change with every country, or even daily, depending on where your mind is at. In general, the hardest part in Georgia was the heat as it was often over 40C, whereas in India, the most difficult part was the people. Here in Patagonia, the hardest part is going to be (and has been) the wind, as there is nothing more frustrating than pedaling as hard as you can on the flats only to see your speedometer hovering at a measly 8km/h.

Though headwinds, heat, hills, and really rough roads wear you down physically, more than anything else they wear you down mentally as by the end of the day, it’s always your mind which has given up before your body. I tend to do better (mentality, and therefore physically as well) if I know what’s up ahead, and since so many people had warned us about the dreadful headwinds in this region, I never got to a breaking point of frustration which has happened in other situations. Instead, we dealt with the wind by taking long lunch breaks where we discussed anything but the wind so that we were all in high spirits when we set out again, and by slowly pedaling onwards no matter how desperate it felt. The very hardest section was our last fifty kilometers as we were low on water, out of food, and against the strongest headwinds we had ever seen. We had already been pedaling hard for a week without a day off, and with only fifty kilometers left to go, we found ourselves pushing as hard as we could on our smallest gears even on the downhills.

The four of us (Kevin and I, plus our friends Mike and Emily who will be with us for a while more) were discussing on one of our hardest days how everything always looks better in the photos. In a photo all you see is the beautiful camping spot, or the gorgeous lunch break, but what you may not see is the rocky road you just climbed for three days to get there, or the horrifying winds which threaten to make you go insane. Though I think these challenges are part of what make cycling touring what it is, it is sometimes more enjoyable to look back in retrospect when you are no longer dealing with whatever elements nature has decided to throw at you.

For a photo of the day and other updates follow me on facebook here, and for some awkwardly cropped photos from our journey, follow us on Instagram @awanderingphoto!

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