In this age of GPS tracking, power meters and heart-rate monitors it is easy to become sidetracked into a world of statistics and graphs.
However, we would challenge anyone to say that the thing they remember most about a ride is the time they spent putting out a consistent 400 watts or at over 200 beats per minute.
There are so many things that can happen on a ride, be that as a result of the people you are with; the people you come into contact with; or as a result of the sheer chaos the world around us. These unplanned events are the bedrock of the stories that lodge themselves in our memories.
That’s not to say there is anything wrong with fawning over our performance data after a ride. It’s often a ritual that connects many of us Strava or Training Peaks users, but whilst that thrill may last a few hours it’s not the be-all and end-all.
What was happening when your heart hit the scary end of 200 beats per minute? Where were you? How did you feel after it? Did everyone you were with make it up that monstrous climb in one go?
Forgive us while we briefly switch to first-person mode…
In the time that I’ve spent absorbing myself in road cycling I’ve been lucky enough to have a friend and mentor pushing me, often beyond my own comfort zone. Dave has always been a step or three ahead of me in terms of covering big distances, but during late 2015 and early 2016 he took my under his wing and well, thrashed the living daylights out of me.
In the March of 2016 we came up with the idea of a ride between the two Kymins. There’s one in Penarth and one in Monmouth, but Cardiff to Monmouth is not a particularly interesting ride, so it became a 200km ride that took in the fearsome Llangynidr as well.
Was it the distance that I remember on that ride? No, nor was it the ride along the B4233. No, I remember riding the Newport Transporter Bridge; stopping to take photos at the Kymin; getting fish & chips at a great little chippy in Abergavenny before mainlining a 500g bag of wine gums then crawling up Llangynidr in the fading light and ending up in Beaufort, completely wrecked and utterly bewildered by everything.
To top it off, no sorry Dave you’re not living this one down, the seemingly unnecessary climb out of Pontlottyn into the darkness of the hills above. This one, to be precise…
It may have been the path less travelled; perhaps we could have stuck to the A469, but we wouldn’t be laughing about it a year later if we had.
We’re not saying that you should go out of your way to make your rides memorable, particularly if they end up being memorable for all the wrong reasons. No, we’re saying that it is the journey; the unplanned events; the navigation errors; the people we meet and the things we see that allow rides to live long in our minds.
If you feel as though you are getting into a rut, or it all seems too serious and that you start to dread getting out on the bike, perhaps you are doing it wrong. Go out and ride, but take your time over it; stop for photos; stop to talk to people; stop for coffee where you’ve never stopped before; get an ordinance survey map and look for roads you’ve never looked at before; leave your heart-rate monitor at home; take your sleeping bag and a bivvy and sleep on a hill under the stars. Just do something different.
You’re bound to have a story or two to tell. You may remember our Tales from the Velothon series where Steve, Gareth and Tomos told us all about their day spent tackling the 140km course around South Wales. However, we’d love to hear about some of your less structured adventures; your bike packing adventures; the time when you got horribly lost; the time when you had a major mechanical problem miles from home.
Fire away in the comments, if you like. Better yet, we have a Guest Post form in case you would like to really get into the details. Stories are arguably what life is all about. Who is to say that you can’t use a bicycle to write them.