If I were a pessimist, or a realist for that matter, I wonder if I might have started any of the various activities which have brought me the most pleasure and satisfaction. Though I have Cycling in my mind when I make that statement, this principle expands beyond the vast and il-defined borders of La Vie Velominatus: everything worth doing takes time, work, and commitment in equal measure, and that fact can be daunting and intimidating.
Invariably, it is my poor estimation of effort combined with my vague memory of pain and discomfort which affords me the greatest character trait I possess: optimism. In the face of all reasonable likelihood of failure, in spite of the hopeless amount of work something might prove to be, I invariably believe that success is not only possible, but inevitable. (This trait might also be classified as arrogance or stupidity, but I don’t like the sounds of those as much because they would require more introspection, and that sounds like work.)
It is with this frame of mind that I cheerfully tackle most any activity, in my life and on the bicycle. While I haven’t conducted a poll of any kind, I have informally received sufficient unsolicited and often shouted feedback to allow me to surmise that this approach is not always as liberating for those participating in the activity as it is for me. Be that as it may, and as has oft been observed in these archives, our chosen sport is one rife with suffering afforded by long days in the saddle which allow us to suffer more intensely and for longer days in the saddle in the future. Every element of this sport revolves about axes of sacrifice, dedication, and patience. Training, certainly. Diet and weight loss as well. Even learning the subtleties of maintaining our equipment properly takes years in the tutelage of a Cycling Sensei. These are long journeys that build on small gains over time; there is no magic potion that one can imbibe to be transformed from portly oaf into elite cyclist – much less so a Velominatus.
If, on a winter morning, I had the slightest appreciation of the intensity of the cold I would feel eight or ten hours into the ride, I might never set out on it; it is my optimism that I will enjoy the ride that allows me to experience the insular nothingness of The Tunnel.
If, as I point my bicycle towards the hills instead of the plains, I had a clear memory of the suffering it caused me previously, I might never become a better climber; it is my optimism that I can overcome my size and weight to master the terrain I love the most and am comprehensively il-suited to travel.
If, at eight years old, I’d had the slightest idea that I would be almost 30 years into my journey and only just beginning to develop some of the most rudimentary elements of experience, strength, knowledge and passion that Cycling delivers to us, I would perhaps never had started. Yet it was my optimism that these things would come that has allowed me to experience this wonderful journey.
Optimism is what allows the mortal to start down the path laid by the immortal. Vive la Vie Velominatus.