“Just one thing is clear to me, there’s always more than what appears to be. When the light’s just right I swear I see…Man, it’s poetry.” -Walt Wilkins
Earlier this year, I got it in my head that I wanted to be a gravel racer. I’d ridden some organized events and gone a lot faster than I thought I would without training and I started wondering how fast I might be able to go if I took my cycling a little more seriously. I even started looking at gravel racing bikes like Salsa’s Warbird. The thought was firmly embedded in my mind. This is what I was going to do.
Bad idea. As it turned out, I didn’t get faster at all. In fact, I slowed down. What was once joy was quickly becoming hard work and drudgery. I wasn’t frustrated by it as much as I was curious about what was going on. I didn’t understand, at least not at first. Now I do. It was the natural world doing its thing to protect me from myself.
If this makes sense to you, congratulations. You’re in a very special zone…a place most people never get to experience. If it doesn’t make sense to you, it’s likely because you haven’t properly calibrated the speed of your life to that of the natural world. Your bike can help you with this if you let it.
Think of it this way. All day, every day, we received hundreds of messages about how to do more in less time. These messages are insidious, as they are always presented to us in a manner that makes us think it is good to cram more activities into our days. It’s not. The message is usually delivered by people who want us to do more for them. They get something from it. What we get is usually heartbreak. Nature is all about balance, and if we insist on pushing against that, well, nature will find other ways to even the scales.
This didn’t come to me as a bolt of lightning like it would on television or in the movies, but rather in a much more sublime way. This is always how it is with me. Without really understanding why, I purchased a Surly Karate Monkey frameset a few weeks back. The Karate Monkey is a beautiful bike, but it’s about as far from a gravel race bike as you can get. It’s built for fun, not speed.
In hindsight, this was a protective move even if I didn’t understand it at the time. Since then, I’ve stopped worrying about how fast I’m going. I still plan to ride the gravel races on my calendar for this summer…I just don’t care when I finish. The end result is that cycling is a lot more fun again. I feel fresher at the end of my rides. I’m actually going faster, too.