If you’ve read my previous post on quitting the road, you’ll know I’ve had some struggles lately with riding tarmac. Well, there’s some good news.
I’ve been working with a psychologist for the last few months, and with some changes of routine and a decent reset, I’m starting to get some kms done on the road bike again.
So, what are the key factors here?
Well, number one, working with a psychologist allowed me to identify specific triggers that were causing me problems, and either sidestep them or work through them. In the last couple of months I’ve become better at controlling my anxiety situation and not letting hyper-awareness drive me into fight-or-flight states. While doing that, I rode a bit indoors, and took the mountain bikes out off-road a bit, and rode extremely low-traffic cycleway routes for commuting on the MTBs only. An MTB is more stable and relaxed, and the slower speed makes me think differently about route choice and road positioning, during the short unavoidable stretches on road.
I’m also saying a big thank you to The Sufferfest, whose yoga routines dropped into the training app in November. Between the breathing exercises and the stretching, I can now be calmer and more comfortable on the bike, and when you’re not tense, you ride better and you ride calmer. I’m making a vague attempt to follow the 10-week MTB XC training plan, but being December I’m allowing a lot of flexibility in how I follow it, and swapping intervals for road, road for Zwift and Zwift for rest pretty much as moods dictate, with the overriding maxim “Keep Riding“.
I’m still not all the way there by any means. As with all things there are ups and there are downs, but taking care over a few keys things has really helped
1. Committing myself to do a 150km two-day gravel-grind with Vanilla Cycles, putting some measures in place to make sure that actually happened, and then actually going for it properly when out there was a really good curse-breaker. Riding in a supportive bunch and have a proper suffer-ridden first day with everyone running out of water and having a genuine Aussie epic really kicked me back into gear. Sure, the corners were a bit nervy but it wasn’t a race and nobody got hurt. And the bunch was supportive and fun to be around.
2. Getting on the rollers a bit more – both on the MTBs and the Roadie – allowed me to have a more natural ride feel indoors, which meant when I went outdoors, I was more comfortable on the bikes and therefore felt more control over my environment.
3. Choosing a lot of low-traffic alternatives like Sydney’s Bay Run and Cooks River cycleways let me get some minor kilometres down without fear of traffic, and recognising when I’m overly tense let me stay in control of how I start and end rides – don’t start anxious, don’t end anxious.
4. Finally taking the road bike out and riding to Olympic Park in thunderstorm conditions was another proper curse breaker. I hadn’t taken those roads for a long time, and getting out there in adverse conditions was oddly satisfying.
I’ve also switched bike clubs and will be riding with Parklife CC from January on, and more importantly, renewed my MTB racing licence with a view to taking on some Marathons and 4/7hr races in the new year. Having off-road goals, I hope, will help smooth the on-road kilometres out a bit and let me stretch myself away from cars once in a while.
Anyway, long way to go yet, but nice to be on the way back…