A solo bike trip is not only about discovering landscapes, pitching tents and pushing those pedals, it is also offers quality time with oneself.
A great opportunity for introspection.
I just fell in a big mud puddle. I am completely drenched and muddy.
After eighteen hours pedalling, I was looking for a place to bivy that night. It had been raining the whole evening, and after some hours soaked, I was just starting to dry.
Back to start again, in the middle of nowhere, dozens of kilometres far from the closest inhabited place.
It wasn’t a dream scenario. “What am I doing here?” – I think all cyclists have ever wondered this.
Anger, doubts, desire to give up
But the reality is that I cannot give up. There are no many options. The only one is to run away from there.
However, where I could find different options was in the way of managing that situation.
Deep breath, I think about how funny will be remembering all this in some days, and I ride my bike again. The mental mechanism started to work.
I had discovered Mindfulness three years before, by chance, through a scientific article. I thought it was silly.
Only some days after that, I heard an interview on the radio with a Mindfulness expert talking about its uses. That same day I began to investigate. I was hooked.
Mindfulness could be defined as the practice of paying attention, of being aware of your experiences in the present moment with interest, curiosity, and without judgment.
It is not about emptying your mind and not thinking about anything, but about calming it to see clearly.
I began with some books, some courses, and above all: practice, lots of hours of practice.
I soon realised that apart of calming the monkey mind that I used to wear over my shoulders, I started being able to knead much better some kind of emotions or moods.
In addition, I discovered that it was much easier to do all the practices riding on my bike instead of lying on a mat, or sitting on my knees. Pedalling was for me the best way to not to fall asleep practising.
I couldn´t ask for more, that had a lot of possibilities.
One of the most important milestones of that process was a 1000km brevet, which in a way, I wanted to mark as a final exam of this first learning cycle.
The strongest attraction of this challenge was to cross something like a threshold that I felt in my mind, what I called “the door”, that step you should take once despair, boredom, pain or weakness attacked you and forced your mind to take control of the situation and start the dialogue, the management, that would allow you to continue.
It was a state of mind that I wanted to experience, it was the final exam of a long process during these last years.
The learning was done, but I needed to put it into practice and feel what I was capable of.
However, as the kilometres passed, I had the feeling that there was no door, that there was no such a feared and searched threshold, but a mental state much more linear, much more continuous, in which my mind had taken control from the first kilometre and adjusted its machinery automatically, molding its operation to the feelings as they happened, without waiting for any of them to become problematic.
Dialogue was continuous.
From that day, my mind and body asked for more.
They asked for that kind of isolation, that kind of dialogue, that retreat with myself.
I was also feeling that as I learned and experienced uses of Mindfulness, this same evolution was asking me for more in the areas I was using it. These advances were witnesses, or rather the cause, of my steps from road bike, long distance, gravel, to bikepacking. I was living it as a natural evolution, as a request of my mind and body, as an expression of what was happening in my life.
In addition, every day I was discovering new uses to everything I was learning: decision-making, fear management, pain, food habits, or laziness, possibly this last one being the most difficult to work on.
The word “training” had disappeared from my vocabulary.
Riding my bike was becoming therapy, a friendly dialogue with myself.
Short rides during the week, even those of less than one hour, were at the beginning moments of practice, but later they became something like gift moments, minutes that added life to my day to day.
Longer rides on weekends gradually were giving way to solo bikepacking routes, from home, during the whole weekend, to enjoy my own company, something I felt I had lost in the hustle of my daily life.
It was curious, after more than twenty years of cycling, now I had the great feeling of being enjoying my bike more than ever.
Returning to that night…
In the middle of nowhere, shivering, surrounded by mud wherever I looked (even if I looked at myself), I felt sleepy and completely alone.
However, I was pedalling again.
I didn’t feel all that situation as a bad moment or as a crisis, and I didn’t even care about the final outcome of that night.
I knew that everything would be fine, that everything would flow.
It was one of the best trips of my life.
Which products do you use for your drivetrain? WD40 to degrease? Water to rince the WD40? Oil to lube your chain?
Besides of being highly flammable, solvents -like WD40 or dearomatized oil- show potential risks for health and the environment. They need to be used in a well-ventilated room, at least wearing gloves.
Plus there is a risk of contaminating your brake pads and rotors, and losing all brake power!
Oil tends to mix with dust, mud and rain. It gets sticky, dry and needs quite some efforts to clean.
Raise your hand if you enjoy cleaning your chain!
Stuck with habits, we do not question these products and continue using them…
Still, new products are now available, healthier, easier to use and harmless.
They are biodegradable and do not catch mud nor dust.
These lubes make maintenance easy: when needed, no need for gloves, water, ventilated room or rug that will end up tossed.
No need to clean it (maybe a quick scrub once in a while), just re-apply some and that’s it!
Keep cycling simple!
What about you? What products do you use for your bike?