The things we love are easy to take for granted. Assuming that we’ll always have easy access to them is quintessentially human; after all, because we’re creatures of habit, we don’t expect change even though we’re aware of the possibility.
In a world of luxuries, it’s easy to take for granted the privilege of owning an expensive mountain bike with a complex supply chain, the car that we drive to the trails, and the time to do so. Even more simply, we expect to be freely able (when we have the time) to go for a ride. Who would have thought that we might not be able to drive to our favourite trailhead and ride the trails we love with the people we like, whenever we like?
That’s why it’s so easy to make something like mountain biking into the core of our sanity. For those who ride, mountain biking is, at the same time: an escape from demands and worries; an opportunity to go somewhere beautiful; a chance to meet and engage with excellent people; a platform to challenge ourselves, learn new skills, and overcome our fears; a way to keep fit; and the ultimate act of mindfulness – we’re seldom as present as we are when descending something steep and technical.
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That’s how we stay sane, and once something has become a primary part of how we cope with the challenges of daily life, it’s extremely hard to replace at the drop of a hat. Mountain biking is a form of certainty, and without regular access to that certainty, it’s hard to stay anchored.
Anger at the loss of what we love, and the desire to blame others for it is as normal and human as it is to crave the things we love. Of course, we’re upset when access to what matter most is restricted. The desire to assert our preferences, combined with the frustration at being denied them, is a potent mix.
Not having what we want also makes it easier for us to forget that we’re living through a worldwide pandemic involving a really scary, highly infectious disease.
It makes us think, feel and, potentially, act in ways that might give us short-term pleasure (i.e., sneaking out for a ride) and, simultaneously, makes it easier for us to conveniently tell ourselves the stories of “she’ll be right” and “I deserve it”.
Not having what we want also makes it easier for us to forget that we’re living through a worldwide pandemic involving a really scary, highly infectious disease. It’s looking like, for those who even only mildly infected, there might be lifelong effects, including permanent heart and lung damage. Potentially exposing another person to those consequences, in order to indulge our desire to feel good right now, is pretty hard to defend.
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Perhaps this is a good time to remind ourselves that mountain biking is, at its core, about cooperating with others. Helping others is not a loss of freedom or a restriction of rights, it’s working together to allow for more possibility in the future (rather than having something right now).
This means accepting that the thing we love isn’t necessarily available to us right now. It also means that the things we value about mountain biking: the cooperation and engagement, the skills development, the challenge, and the presence of mind, are still available to us. Remembering that those values are still accessible is how to stay sane in an uncertain world.
the values that underpin your relationship with mountain biking haven’t gone away. Mountain biking is the expression of those values, not the values themselves.
Right now, everybody has something clichéd to say about “making the most of lockdowns”. I’m not going to give you another stereotyped bon mot about learning a new language, or teaching yourself to knit mountain bike covers from shredded toilet paper. What I will remind you of, is that the values that underpin your relationship with mountain biking haven’t gone away. Mountain biking is the expression of those values, not the values themselves.
In other words, being curious, learning new things, challenging yourself, being present, overcoming fears, being fit, strong, and healthy, and cooperating with others, are all actions that are still accessible. Perhaps not as succinctly or with the purity of mountain biking, but available nonetheless. It’s the choice to pursue these actions that help to keep us grounded, not the specific manifestation of the action.
Dreaming of a better tomorrow is great. But it’s easy to fall victim to the “everything will be better when” illusion. One day, I hope borders will reopen, bike parks will be accessible, trails will be full of riders, and we’ll be able to make mountain biking that beautiful centre of our lives. Until then, right now, the values that brought you to mountain biking are still yours, you just need to act on them slightly differently.
Photo credit: Lucas Davies on Unsplash
Main article image credit: ©Patrice Schreyer