real life cycling

How to be a faster cyclist (warning: may contain emotion)

I think we have probably agreed by this point that the mind is a powerful thing. That to be a faster cyclist you need to be in good physical shape, but without the mental icing on the cake you’re nothing.

Or maybe it’s more like a trifle?

Your body is all lady fingers and jelly, while your mind is equal parts custard and cream. It’s pointless layering up with Waitrose finest sponge biscuits and home-made fresh-picked blackcurrant jelly if you’re gonna top it off with Birds custard powder and squirty cream.

That, right there, is a lopsided trifle and/or cyclist.

Not convinced by the metaphor? Looking for a real-world example? Ok, brace yourself…we’re gonna talk emotion.

If, like me, you were born in the 1970’s in the north of England, the feeling of emotions as child was probably not encouraged. Stoical acceptance and some variation of the Empire-conquering mill-working stiff upper lip was very much still in vogue. Still is, for many.

Perhaps it’s only now, as you adjust to the fluid, fluffy landscape of 2021, that you have started to open up that box. If you haven’t, then STEP AWAY FROM THE BOX. A whimsical blog post is NOT the place for that kind of life-altering act. I am not qualified.

Still here?

Ok. Here’s the big news. It turns out that you can crack a small wedge into the icy heart-shaped stone in your chest and prize it open. In there, you’ll find all manner of emotions whirling around. I’m not clear on the science, but some claim as many as four.

It’s mind-bending stuff.

Access these on a whim and you’ll find yourself bawling spontaneously to contrived and formulaic movies and, in extreme cases, smashing a box set of Nick Knowles DIY SOS of an evening like some kind of emotio-holic.

Access these in a controlled cycling-based environment, on the other hand, and the power of ‘feeling’ can magically override the build-up of lactic acid, super charge your energy delivery system, and spew out that vapour trail of PB’s that you just knew were in you.

Picture the scene:

You’re battering away on the home trainer. Your pedal stroke is laboured. You’re tired, plodding, and contemplating climbing off the bike and throwing it in the nearest canal so pitiful is your performance. You know you’re in great physical shape but the mysterious contents of your cranium are playing sabotage.

We’ve all been there.

What you need is a mental boost. Perhaps a spot of emotional doping? Whack a pair of earbuds in, stick on a favourite, up-tempo old tune – preferably from your late teens, when your emotional receptivity and the societal straight-jacket of the north of England were at their simultaneous peak – and soak it up.

The effect is unstoppable.

Whether you went for ‘I Am The Resurrection’ by the Stone Roses or ‘Let’s Party’ by Jive Bunny is between you and your musical taste. I will not judge. The point is it means something to you, deeply embedded emotions froth forth, and a bottomless well of performance reveals itself like a widescreen mountain view on a previously foggy day.

The effect can be remarkable.

Same legs, lungs and heart, totally different mindset. The custard is lovingly hand thickened over the stove, the cream is from Devon, cow-fresh, and sprinkles have appeared on top. Not mind over matter, but mind and matter. With a healthy dose of heart.

A boost to your cycling performance that’s only ever-so-slightly undermined by the fact that you are now seriously considering making trifle.

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