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WORDS: Jonathan Bacon
“Just like Beggar’s Canyon back home!”
And that is it really. My approach to cycling psychology. My go-to technique when needs must. I’ve read Shrosbee and Carmichael and a fair few others and written plans and weighed myself. I’ve attached myself to a heart rate monitor, although never a Powertap, and I’m guilty of fiddling with various nutritional nonsenses but, really, it all comes back to the Death Star.
Staines, 1977 and I was clearly a small boy in receptive mode. Life tends to somewhat randomly pick the ‘stuff that sticks’ – you can often remember the oddest details from the strangest happenings, whilst a whole heap of useful stuff slips through your grey matter and off to heaven knows where – and this was a day for something to stick. Something useful. A phrase that became a technique. And now I’ve the 34 year old philosophy of a nine-year-old – as good for me now as it’s always been. Simple to apply and often very effective, it has made me the cyclist I am. I think that’s a good thing. It seems to work.
I ride my bike. It’s fitted in around work and family and procrastination. I think I count as a cyclist. It’s a version of training. I sometimes “Go long! Son” and sometimes I aim for short and sweet with a little bit of speed. I might attack a climb, or sprint for a town sign. What I’m always doing though is collecting ‘approximations’, ‘scaleable exploits’, ‘equivalent exertions’ – cycling achievements I can apply in tougher circumstances – Beggar’s Canyons. To ride a hundred miles you ride one, then another. And to ride an Alpine pass you ride a hill, then another (that might well be connected to the first) and for all of these situations I look to arm myself with a parochial process (from the Church of Me) that I can use. If I can get my head around a challenge I can often get my body to follow.
The familiar and the local travels with me – I’m not for a moment denying the uniqueness of the places I’m visiting, the differences and diversity are always an education – but if I need to ride, to meet a challenge, I have to have my reference points. It’s just like Beggar’s Canyon back home…
The coast road climb up to the pub, the headwind on the seafront, the horrible section of bypass I can’t avoid, the time it rained horizontal ice shards, the Spitfire escort in the dark, the can’t-see-straight energy slump that sunday, the shit-late-to-get-the-kids-time-trial, the patella-spitting steepness of that road in the woods – these have all been appropriated across the world. The Alps, the Rockies, parts of Dorset – the races and adventures only work because I can take my ‘been there done (something a bit like) that’ pedi mind tricks with me. I’m sure it’s a common enough technique for a whole host of people but obviously it has to be a personal thing. I can’t lend you my false-summit-experiences-out-by-the-industrial-estate anymore than you can lend me your…
And I wouldn’t know what to do with it.
Each to their own then. I’m not quite a force to be reckoned with, but I’ve one of my own to call on. It’s worked so far, my local goes global (to the power ten) transplanting. I guess one day soon I won’t get a match or perhaps a rejection part-way through but I’m flexible and I’ve a fair assortment of arrows in my quiver. I will compare and contrast and learn from it all – the successes and failures. Quivering wreck or decorated hero – I like riding my bike. I’ve a way of doing it. I like where it takes me.
“OK kid, now let’s blow this thing and go home”
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