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The Importance of Environment

The Importance of Environment

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While all evidence points to the contrary, the 20th century’s greatest twatwaffle LE Gunderson may have got something at least half right after all. Of course it’s about the bike, otherwise we’d be runners. But there are other factors that contribute to what makes us Cyclists which can often be overlooked completely. Not the clothes we wear, or the training we do, or the races we love. The people we ride with and the places we ride in help define our Cycling experience.

I’m reminded of this every Tuesday. I know there’s a ride on; there always is. Depending on what kind of day I’ve had, I may or may not be looking forward to it, especially at this time of year when the temperature drops and darkness has already cloaked the sky long before rubber meets tarmac. Motivation can go straight out the window, where it quickly shivers and tries to come back inside. No deal, that portal is shut tight. But it usually sneaks back in through the door when the other protagonists enter through it and mill around, happily chatting while waiting for me to get my shit together. What is wrong with these people?

The act of layering up to ride in the dark in peak hour in a capital city is one usually borne out of necessity, rather than recreational pleasure. Commuters do it every day, right? We do it because it’s what we do. Throughout summer, it’s no problem; chuck on shorts and jersey, cruise around checking out the packed esplanade, work up a sweat then enjoy a beer or two before heading home. The ride is more a conduit for the act of hanging out with mates and socialising. Take away the sun, the light and the warmth, and the ride itself holds a more important post. We could just shelve this ride for the winter, leave it as a summer thing to do, and just use the weekends as our chance to drink coffee, pedal, drink beer, repeat.

But I digress; getting back to cycling in the city at night, this is a huge factor in why this ride endures the middle months of the year. The city we live in contributes hugely to keeping us motivated. The first ten minutes may be spent alongside cars on some of the main arteries, but soon we are unshackled from frustrated drivers and are almost alone on the road, in silent darkness, looking back at one of the most picturesque skylines in the world. It’s always at this point that someone says exactly what I’m thinking; “what a night” or “goddamn, I love this city”. If we were just plodding along a highway we wouldn’t be saying anything remotely similar.

The city, and the people I ride with, makes all the difference. My environment is sorted, it’s just left to me and my bike to fill in the blanks.

 

// La Vie Velominatus // Reverence // The Rides

  1. @ChrisO

    “But it’s a dry heat!” I feel you, though. Here in Florida we’re coming into full-on “ride wet from minute 3″ season. I’ll still take it over riding in the cold wind!

  2. “Motivation can go straight out the window, where it quickly shivers and tries to come back inside.”

    Classic.  My “mental” cycling season officially began last weekend.  100km ride in 35C.  The first ride with the beginnings of summer thirst – went through two bidons of fluid.  Finally getting to try out the DeFeet ICE base layer.  Review to follow once I put it through a few more rides.

  3. Tuesday must be ride night. On the weeks when I’m not travelling back from a meeting somewhere I’ve started going out with the headbangers chain gang ride. The pace is decidedly ‘keep up or fuck off’, it generally results in me feeling ruined but I’ve yet to be amongst those dropped. And the scenery is nice too; rolling hills and greenery. If only I had the capacity to enjoy it whilst feeding more V to the pedals.

  4. Me? I love Tuesday nights in Vancouver:

    http://escapevelocity.bc.ca/tuesday

    Wednesdays are good too. Structured training at the velodrome. Velodromes, track bikes, skin suits and all of that are compliant with the Rules, right?

    In the winter on Fridays we have races at the velodrome too.
    http://www.burnabyvelodrome.ca/friday_night_racing.php

    The only reason I lost weight rather than gained it is because of that damned velodrome. Was there for 1.5 hours last night as the weather rapidly deteriorated outside.

  5. Awesome article, one of your best, Bretto. You remind me that I’m a fucking hack and you’re actually a writer.

    Its funny, I train alone 99% of the time; my work schedule, responsibilities here, and family (in that order) mean I ride when I carve a hole for it in my schedule, which is not usually when a group ride is planned.

    Group training with friends is also something I admonished long ago when I got serious about sport due to the inherent competitive nature, or even the fact that you’ll naturally wind up riding at different speeds, or get tired at different times, or want a coffee at different times.

    Even now that I’m not serious about sport from a “become a pro” perspective, I’m still inclined to do all my serious training alone – less distractions, 100% focus on what I need or want, when I need or want it. But its also hard; I have to find the motivation in only one source: me. It amplifies my love for it, it amplifies my disdain for it.

    But I love the group ride for the social aspect and just to kick it with others, but I’ll rarely get into the competitive side of them – save it for Race Day, I used to say. Convenient now that Race Day is usually just a few days a year, not every week. Old habits die hard. Which isn’t to say I won’t go hard in a group ride; its just that I’ll only go hard when I feel like it.

    That said, a week like Keepers Tour is beyond awesome. Riding with people who are first strangers and then friends is a journey I wouldn’t miss for anything in the world. Bretto and I just commented today on the daily withdrawl we’re still going through.

    Whether your environment is you or strangers, or friends, bikes manage to always be the needle carrying the thread between them.

    VLVV.

  6. I pulled on booties this morning because it was raining quite hard. Didn’t make me miss getting all dressed up for winter riding.

    The VMH kinda twisted my arm into taking part in a charity/fun relay race happening on Saturday. I’ll be the cyclist leg, during which I also have to pit stop to eat some local food.

    Pretty weird fascination with food in the U.S. these days – t.v. shows are either about losing weight because you ate so fucking much for so fucking long, or about how to cook like a professional (stop referring to chicken and fish “protein,” you stupid arsehole with a food blog), or a challenge to see how much you can eat. Can’t I just eat afterwards? I’d enjoy it more instead of having to chug it down.

  7. I stumbled across this site a few days ago and have been really enjoying reading all the stuff on here. This is great article, reminded me how much I love riding around this city…from the downtown out to the country and back. I already loved riding here, then they got the 2015 World Championships…I’m not sure there are words to express how exciting that was.

  8. @Fins

    And, just like Louisville with CX Worlds, I’m sure Richmond will do great as well. Its a great location – I’ve been there a few times – and if the organizers are as sinister as I hope they are, they can make a pretty tough route.

    Cheers, and welcome to our community!

  9. @frank Interested you think it will be tough. I’ve actually been thinking it will be more of sprinters’ worlds. Depends on where they put the finish line of course, but from the meeting I’ve been to I understand they are going going to keep it a circuit exclusively within the city limits. If they’re really sinister you’re right they could make it a little tough, but most of the hills around here are glorified rollers as far as pros are concerned (I think). The only major hill I think they will use is 7-8% and less than a km long.

  10. Great, Brett.

  11. Environment is indeed very important, as I found out when I moved from a certain country in the Northern hemisphere to Down Under. And it’s not just about the number of rideable days in a year (after all, based on my reading of Rule #9, it’s a constant number approaching 365), it’s about other things so eloquently pointed out in the article: the place and the people.

  12. It’s a place you can’t beat on a good day, we are lucky to have great topography for riding both on and off road, I can be riding semi rural roads in a half an hour ride from the city there are plenty of solid 2km climbs, nothing epically long but great climbs with views of mountains and oceans harbours and islands, the half hour through the countryside today before I returned to suburbia I encountered exactly three cars mid morning on a weekday, then there are the trails….

  13. @piwakawaka

    You’re in Wellington?

  14. @brett born and raised…

  15. @piwakawaka

    @brett born and raised…

    Did you have anything to do with the Rule #56 sign on the sespresso machine in iRide?

  16. @piwakawaka

    Well, you should be riding with us!

  17. @Bianchi Denti

    @piwakawaka

    @brett born and raised…

    Did you have anything to do with the Rule #56 sign on the sespresso machine in iRide?

    Ah, “espresso”machine.

  18. @piwakawaka

    Ah, I think I just worked out who you are! You’re in the coffee business too, right?

  19. @brett Salvation Coffee

  20. @Velodeluded At first glance, I was afraid that “some” were writing poetry here. Thank you for not writing poetry here.

  21. @piwakawaka

    @brett Salvation Coffee

    Yep, gotcha…

  22. @Fins

    @frank Interested you think it will be tough. I’ve actually been thinking it will be more of sprinters’ worlds. Depends on where they put the finish line of course, but from the meeting I’ve been to I understand they are going going to keep it a circuit exclusively within the city limits. If they’re really sinister you’re right they could make it a little tough, but most of the hills around here are glorified rollers as far as pros are concerned (I think). The only major hill I think they will use is 7-8% and less than a km long.

    So how much floor space do you have for the Velominati to crash on during the Worlds?

  23. Yep.

    Wholeheartedly agree, environment is crucial to ride aesthetics and personal motivation. Example: lived in Tsawwassen, could leave my apartment and be on quiet, farmy roads inside 3 minutes. Herons flapping out of ditches, a handful of like-minded tough old bastards out giving me a nod/wave/hello, and essentially zero life threatening incidents in 8 years.  Result: always out there, crushing it, all the time.

    Since moving, I’ve yet to really enjoy a morning ride. The nearest intersection is heralded by sirens at least twice a week, summonsed to pry victims from wrecks and kitty litter spilled oil, and it’s just a tiny feeder road meeting a minor traffic tributary. I dread putting myself in harms way here in the morning. Every vehicle seems piloted by an idiot. Evening rides are better, but still, I have to wait until the coast is clear, like a fucking rodent avoiding hawks who kill without hunger. Such a drag. Result: sitting here, typing, pissed off.

  24. @seemunkee Well I’ve already turned the living room into a bike parking area/workshop so that’ll be useful. You all are hardmen so I’m sure you won’t mind the find wooden floors of the rest of the house

  25. @minion

    @Marcus You see those lumpy things in the photo? They’re called “hills”. Apparently there was one in Australia once but you dug it up and sold it to China.

    Nope, we’ve kept them all in Tassie. Much as I enjoyed Wellington with rides heading over Haywards and the like they don’t match a Mt Wellington loop.

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