The racing snake vs. cycle touring mindset

The last few years I’ve always trained for races obsessively – South Africa especially has a strong racing snake culture. Without trying to slam the racing culture I’ve been toggling with the idea of training for a race vs training for a tour, or should I say having a cycle touring mindset vs racing.

With the introduction of Strava, Zwift, indoor trainers and many more advances in technology. There is no excuse not to train on a bad weather day or when you don’t know what to do. As a cyclist, we literally don’t have any excuses not to get on a bike. But, and I don’t say but likely. I found everything became about the data, training, that program, the hours, my schedule, prepping obsessing and totally forgetting why.

Having a reason to train 

A goal has always been important. Whether to maintain my fitness or get a ‘summer’ body, but on its own never been enough. Its been ingrained in me to go for something more, a race. It goes on the calendar and I’ll make sure as hell I train my arse off. But what happened to the experience? What happened to taking in the scenery? South Africa boasts one the densest plant species kingdom surrounding cape town in the world! Cape Town, the trendiest and most beautiful city in the world (voted by many a traveller!). 

Why do we race? 

The races I ride are situated in areas that I don’t and couldn’t access unless I entered a race. But what do I do? Obsess about times, wattage, power outage, heart rate, energy consumption, have my head down on the ground pushing through pain and agony and in many ways (don’t deny this I know you’ve thought it too) all I want is for this effing race to be over! So I can say I did it. What did I remember about it after all that? Did I stop and take a look around? Do we really? Or would that interfere with my egotistical need to beat the clock? Feel shame because I stopped? On a race? Hell no!

The race post mortem 

Then I wonder why I am so exhausted? Why don’t I want to train after being out in nature? Am I wiped out from adrenaline, fear of coming last in my age group or being embarrassed about crossing the line behind someone I know I could have beaten?

Maybe I’m the only one on the planet that’s felt this way but I highly doubt it. Being injured and out of action for a while has taught me a lot, it’s reminded me that yes, I love to train for something, but not for the record.  I’m getting older and memories are becoming more important to me. Cycling takes me to some of the most fascinating, remote destinations in the world what am I doing trying to race through them with the fastest time?

So what’s the alternative? 

I want to use my fitness, passion and youth to remember my experiences. Not when I’m 80 and realise I rushed through life and try and do these things in agony and regret passing these opportunities by. Now, owning a touring company is part of the reason that has made me think about this but not entirely, funny enough when I got involved in Vivid Bike Tours I still struggled with the notion that I wasn’t in a race. I wanted to prove that I was a good rider and want to enter more races.

Then I read a book My African Conquest: From Cape to Cairo at 80, by Julia Albu. An 80-year-old woman who travels Africa in her 20-year-old Toyota. It got me thinking. Where am I rushing to? Shit, what am I doing? I have the opportunity to travel parts of Africa some people can only dream of, and what a waste if all I’m doing is to get it over with as quickly as possible, what a stupid concept! a sign to slow down

So many parts of our lives are pushing us to our maximum ability and capacity, riding in itself is an adventure that can take you pretty much anywhere. So I’ve decided its time to get on the bike to get ‘off the bike’. Look around and enjoy it! Today I did that and I saw things I’ve never noticed on routes I have ridden for over 20 years. I saw innovation and entrepreneurship from local vendors. Some of the best spots to take a selfie for Instagram. Truckloads of tourists coming to admire the rainbow nation we get to call home.

The culture of cycle touring begins

So I put it to you, think about what you’re really doing out there? We only get these types of moments once in our life. We may as well make them count Strava isn’t going to be at your side when you’re taking your last moments in life, but those vivid memories will. 😉 just food for thought. 

And, if you ever fancy giving cycle touring a try instead of pacing through races and life then check out Vivid Bike Tours