Staying stoked to ride

Hi Lee,
This might not be a question that you can identify with since it seems you’re always so excited to ride (at least from your articles it seems so) BUT I figured I’d ask anyway and see what you think: lately, riding just hasn’t been as fun. It has been much more of a challenge to motivate myself to go ride (there are a number of factors/excuses including 1) long time riding buddy no longer riding 2) busy at work and school 3) don’t want to drive to ride b/c of gas prices and local stuff is getting boring 4) can’t justify any cool new parts to buy, etc.). Anyway, what ideas do you have? What are your thoughts? What keeps you stoked to ride? Thanks a bunch.
– Dub

Cool experience 1: Epic climb to epic singletrack, Mammoth, Calif.

What a great question. I’ve been riding bikes on and off for over 30 years. I’ve been an adult cyclist since 1988 — about 18 years now. Over that time my relationship with the bike (and myself) has continually changed. In roughly chronological order, here are some things that kept me riding. Some were healthier than others.

Self satisfaction. When I started riding I was a fat fellow. I’d already failed at numerous diets, and I’d resigned myself to a perpetually large ass. But mountain bikes seemed so fun and easy. It turns out they were NOT easy, but they were fun, and riding made me feel good.

Obsession. Over time I dropped from 200+ pounds to 180 then 160 and finally down to 154. I was intoxicated by every new muscle, every new hint of rippedness. But no matter how lean I got, it was never enough. I have a photo of me in Hawaii, leaning against a rail with a full 8-pack (way more ripped than a fatso 6-pack), and I’m covering my waist with my elbows, ’cause I felt fat. In college when I porked up from 6.0 to 6.6 percent body fat, I totally freaked out and rode even more. In hindsight, that sounds like exercise bulimia.

Commitment. I became a hardcore bike commuter. I said it was for environmental reasons, but honestly I don’t have the patience to sit in a car, and all those miles were helping me get fit and kick my buddies’ asses. For over 15 years I rode 2-20 miles each way to school or work. Riding for transportation is probably the best, most consistent way to get miles. When you leave your newspaper job at midnight, and you want to get home, there’s your bike sucker!

Cool experience 2: Ripping local singletrack, Santa Cruz Mountains, Calif.

Fun. Somewhere along the line, I began to enjoy it for its own sake. Road riding was pure pain, but I began to dig mountain biking. I loved the places I went and the feeling of riding trails. I really sucked back then, but it was super fun.

Competitiveness. I’d never been an athlete — my parents told me I’d always be fat and that I’d never be an athlete (that shit still haunts me) — but as I rode more a competitor began to emerge. I entered races, did well and started to identify myself as a racer. Talk about obsession. I’d do anything to win, even in Sport. And that meant riding to work every day, doing sprints and busting out epics every weekend. When I became a downhiller, the epics switched to gnarly skill sessions. Racing inspired me to go faster, higher and farther than I might on my own (which was already too far).

Back to fun. These days I really try to keep things balanced. I used to ride so much I had bad knees and chronic fatigue syndromes. When doctors told me “there is no medical reason to ride 20 hours a week,” I told them to screw off. But they were right. Now I’m less into torturing myself and more into finding flow. I love all sorts of riding, and within the various styles I find fitness, work, helping others, a bit of competitiveness and lots of fun.

Cool experience 3: North Shore, Vancouver, BC

Create your own stoke

When you lose your passion to ride (or work, or stay with your spouse), what’s stale isn’t the riding — it’s your relationship to your riding. Bear with me here. Outside things don’t make us happy or sad or pissed; our response to those things make us feel the way we do. This is a really big deal in life, and in bike riding too. The key is to reframe what you’re doing, to experience it in a new way and find new significance. You can:

Set new goals. Lose weight. Go faster. Go farther. Learn a new trick. The ultimate: Build your physical and mental skills to the point where you can reach flow states at will. That’s like having a heroine dispenser in your house. I have one.

Try something new. Ride in new places, with new people, for different reasons. Try the local cruiser ride, or ride with some kids. Ride to do other activities. Commute. Go fishing. Ride to a neat restaurant. Ride to a swimming hole. Ride local. Urban. Dirt jumps. Skate parks. Pump Track Nation!

Change your relationship with your bike. Is it a taskmaster? Take it easy for a while. Have you been getting lazy? Sign up for a race.

Cool experience 4: Pump track, my back yard

Take some time off. There’s nothing wrong with shifting to something else for a while. I’ve always stayed in decent bike shape, but I love playing with other sports like skiing, moto and inline skating (yes, I’m a Fruit Booter!). Even though there are times I can’t bear to sit on a bike seat, I’m so committed I’ll never give it up. I guess I can thank my parents for that.

I didn’t mean to get so spacy. I hope this helps!

— Lee

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