I have recently posed the question of why do I ride a mountain bike?
I guess there are plenty of other sports I could be interested in and the natural progression from childhood would be to own and compete in the endurance discipline on a horse. Horses, however, are very expensive, time-consuming and unpredictable and my husband has offered up a divorce if I bought one. This leaves me with a little option if I wish to compete in endurance events. I suppose I could try swimming but I have a fear of open, deep water and I am by no means accomplished at this sport and it would take hours just to complete a couple of kilometers. I have tried running sporadically but with the Fibromyalgia this sport doesn't work for me
as I end up in agony with my knees and why run when I can cycle! I have also tried to stand up paddle boarding but we live too far away from any water and they are not easy objects to maneuver or store out of the water. I also scuba dive (in the summer) but this is equipment, weather, time and money dependant and very difficult with a baby.
The first time I picked up a mountain bike in the UK I was hooked despite freezing temperatures, rain and the mud I always found it thoroughly enjoyable and made me feel like a child again. I could disappear on my bike for hours alone or with friends and go exploring. We would ride all day (with the obligatory tea stop at the cafe) and always end up somewhere new. As I progressed in the UK I entered a few local races and loved the camaraderie and the social atmosphere of these events. I raced once in Wales and it felt like a survival challenge and very exciting (wind, fog and copious amounts of mud at one point there were a hundred muddy mountain bikers trying to walk up a hill and we all helped each other up). Without realising it I had made friends and got fit and strong at the same time.
On arriving in Australia the pain flared - nine months later to be diagnosed with Fibromyalgia - and I was not allowed to ride for nine months. The social aspect and making friends from mountain biking vanished and I was left feeling lonely and isolated with excruciating pain and not knowing where the problem was and if anything would ease it ever again. Then the specialist diagnosed Fibromyalgia and I was encouraged to exercise and start the long, arduous process of getting fit. The first thing to do was ride short distances and build it up and lose 20+kg to ease the strain on my body. I started being more social, finding others to ride with and exploring our region. I made lifelong friends from this and will always be grateful to them for their encouragement and support.
In the simplest of terms, I will always be indebted to my bike.
With the past behind me and being able to maintain fitness and then build on these I took some lessons and increased skills and confidence and began to race again (I had believed that with the pain and Fibromyalgia I would only ever be able to be a recreational rider and I tried to lose the competitive streak - needless to say, it didn't work!)
I then started endurance and 24-hour racing and found I loved it. I love the mental challenge it's not just about how fit and strong you can be it's more the mental mindset and daring to push yourself to your limits and the darkest parts of your personality and coming out the other side. I like chatting to the other racers out there especially in the middle of the night as everybody has an interesting story to tell (especially the single speed riders as we seem to maintain the same pace as each other). I enjoy having a part to my life that my work colleagues don't know much about and find it amusing when they say I am crazy - I think they are crazy for not wanting to ride!
All in all, I love my bike because:
It gives me additional meaning outside of my work and family and I have made wonderful friends from it
I have built a strong, fit body and strong mental state through maintaining consistency with the riding when no other sport is right for me (riding is low intensity where it matters with the Fibromyalgia and the pain is negligible)
The endorphins from careening around and down the mountainside cut out the pain by blocking and changing the pain receptor pathways
I get to tackle obstacles and jumps (albeit small ones!) and go wheeee over them without anybody giving me a second glance!
I can compete competitively and competently with my peers and sometimes make the podium and I can dream of winning!
As long as I am able to I will continue to ride both on the road and off-road.