As I stood at the kitchen sink late last night, washing up the last of the dishes after everyone had gone to bed, I was struck for reasons unknown by the lack of real honesty in my daily life, both in others around me and in myself and it made me sad. I was tired, physically and mentally and I suddenly felt the accumulated fatigue of so many years being someone, not entirely myself and interacting with others doing the same. Even as I felt the bitter taste of this realisation in my mouth, I guessed that most people did it, sculpt themselves into shapes that allow them to negotiate the paths of their daily lives with minimal fuss, noise and disruption. I thought about how people sometimes presented themselves to me, clearly full of shit or at least delusional, yet I didn’t call them out on it because I just didn’t have the energy, or wanted to avoid a scene or both most likely.
For reasons I didn’t understand at the time, my mind then jumped across to cycling and filled with images of my regular riding mates and I slogging it out up the nearby hills on a Saturday morning. All of us, huffing and puffing, striving to get the most out of our bikes and bodies. It must look pretty strange and pointless to a non-cyclist, watching this procession of largely middle-aged people, almost killing themselves riding up hills. We certainly weren’t getting paid, there were no trophies or ribbons to be won, not even bragging rights. I often feel real pangs of fear as we approach some of the hills, knowing well how much it is going to hurt.
So why do so many of us do it, week in and week out? If you thought ‘for fitness’ you’d be partly right but fitness is really just a by-product of regular cycling and even if it’s a primary motivator when you first begin, it becomes less so once you are reasonably ‘fit’. You might think then that it’s ‘personal satisfaction’ of achieving goals, particularly extremely difficult ones. This is definitely a factor and until last night, I would have left it there, reasonably satisfied that you’d summed the addiction up, but yet still aware of a nagging gap in the logic, and this is the part I had not been able to articulate before.
I think that what motivates people, particularly people my age, to ride at the absolute limit of their capacity, despite the extreme discomfort of it, is that we see in others and express in ourselves, real honesty in these moments. For reasons I can only assume are deeply instinctual, I crave honesty and I find it on those hills on a Saturday morning. After it had sunk in, I shed a few tears into the dishwater as I found it very moving. In those moments, my weekday facade is gone, there’s no talking, posturing or manipulation going on, you just see me, simply and exactly how I truly am. And I see the others around me exactly as they truly are and this fills me with happiness.