We all ride our bikes for different reason; health benefits, the social aspect, enjoyment, competitive etc.
Often we start for one reason and once the ball starts rolling we explore the different aspects of the sport.
Some people might start as they enjoy the freedom of the sport which may develop into joining a club to socialise with people of a similar mind set. Others might start in an effort to improve their health and end up getting involved in the racing.
Personally I’ve been through the ranks in cycling. I started riding my bike as a teenager for the excitement that came with exploring places that I had never been before; no structured training, Garmins, racing etc. I did everything in-between and now I ride my bike competitively full time; intervals, power meters, race programs, pinning numbers etc.
Which part of cycling do I enjoy the most? To be honest, it’s hard to choose!
Going out and riding your bike, unplanned and without structure or stress has its obvious perks. However, the hustle and bustle of racing and the tired legs after a hard training session in preparation for a race can be oddly satisfying too.
I’ve often laid awake at night thinking of what aspect of cycling I will favour when I’m finished with competitive full time cycling.
Some riders decide to stay with competitive cycling and race domestic events, while others give up competitive cycling all together and ride when they feel like it.
Personally I think I’ll settle somewhere in the middle. I love riding my bike so I will never completely pack it but I also don’t want the stress of racing.
The middle ground is often overlooked by cyclists in my eyes. There seems to be a focus on competing to the best of your ability or just no riding at all.
The middle ground is something I did for years before I started racing seriously and in my eyes it was probably the time that I most enjoyed riding my bike.
What is this middle ground?
It’s a combination of riding your bike for the pure enjoyment with a touch of competition.
Look no further than your local club league to find that; a group of local riders, riding around local roads, one evening every week during the summer months. Throw in one other mid-week ride, a coffee ride and/or club spin on the weekend and you’re looking at a very enjoyable week on the bike.
It’s relaxed and fun. Results don’t matter, it’s only a few hours every week and doesn’t require a huge amount of training to be competitive.
To be honest I think it’s a part of cycling that every rider should experience. You learn loads due to the mix of abilities in the races, you are often required to marshal once or twice during the year (a great opportunity to see how hard it is to run a race and respect how much organisation goes into it) but most importantly the relaxed atmosphere means its great craic.
The different groups are given handicaps meaning if you’re not on great form you can downgrade to prevent getting your ass kicked and going home sulky.
At the moment I’m giving competitive cycling a lash and enjoying every minute of it. Some of you might be trying to reach some of your goals too.
However, in years to come I don’t fancy training super hard to feature in open races but I do want to race and have fun. I think that middle ground offered by the club league is unbeatable and is something that should be taken advantage of by more amateur cyclists.
Trust me, its great craic!
Do what makes you enjoy riding your bike!