Riding bikes is a wonderful thing. For some of us it’s a way to relax. For others it’s a primary mode of transportation, or perhaps our primary workout. I’ve been known to come up with some of my most creative ideas when pedaling my bike up a nasty mountain climb, or slaloming my way through morning traffic. That’s the beauty of this machine – it can be something truly different for everyone. But just like most things in life, too much of any one thing can sometimes be overwhelming, and biking is no exception.
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as too much riding. If you’re training for a big race or a big ride, tempering your training with appropriate rest and recovery is paramount. If you commute to work every single day, you’re bound to wake up on an occasional freezing day and think to yourself, ‘I am just not into this.’ For people who have simple access to incredible riding there’s often an unspoken guilt on days you don’t ride, because it almost feels like you’re wasting a perfect location. Burnout is real, and it can be incredibly detrimental to your riding.
The simplest way I’ve found to kick burnout to the curb is to just take a break. As easy as that sounds, for some of us it’s really hard to walk away from the bike for a little while. There are the days where the weather is glorious and you crave that feeling of the wind catching your hair beneath your helmet. You see others out on the road or the trails and think, ‘That should be me!’ Slow your roll, friends. A few days away can do wonders for your bike psyche.
Recently I took a short backpacking trip with a few friends deep into the middle of nowhere. Zero cell service. No bikes allowed. Pack in pack out everything we’d need for 4 days. I ride religiously – probably five or six days every week, so taking four days off for me is a pretty big deal. But I needed it. I was getting to the point where even doing the simple loop on the mountain that my house sits on was just unappealing. Plus, I figured hiking with a 40-pound pack on my back would be quite excellent cross training. I’m a pretty fit individual, but this would be different muscles, different breathing, and a different type of excursion.
The six of us began the 10-mile hike into the Enchantments on a hot June day. Among us were four avid mountain bikers, a long-distance runner, and a super experienced mountaineer. We’d never trekked together. We’d never even really hung out together. The only thing we knew to expect was long days and tired legs.
Throughout our trip we learned a lot about each other and about ourselves. We teamed up to share food and supplies. We boosted each other up steep rock faces. We skinny dipped in frigid alpine lakes – frequently. Talk about a fast way to get comfortable with strangers! We stayed up giggling under the stars like little kids at a sleep over. We did day hikes to pristine peaks and snow covered lakes. We dodged mountain goats that stalked us. We watched the most incredible sunrises from our tents and reminisced about the day’s adventures as the sun slowly dropped behind the cliffs to the west. We took so many deep breaths of delicious mountain air. And you know what? As much as we loved those moments, we all missed parts of our lives back home. Perhaps being away from the comforts of every day life brings a renewed perspective on the things that are just considered normal.
The final day, on our way back down the mountain we were giddy to get to our cars in the parking lot. The anticipation for margaritas was high. Our legs were tired from smashing down steep grades for multiple days, our shoulders sore from carrying our overstuffed packs. We laughed about some of the funnier moments of the week. As I hiked out I thought about how good it would feel to get back on my bike. To stretch my legs in the way they’ve grown to love. I was excited to climb (which, believe me, is a very rare sentiment). The runner mentioned how good it would feel to get back in the rhythm of a long journey with no backpack. The other bikers talked about where they would ride the next day. Squamish? Whistler? Bellingham? So many options!
We went on the trip hoping to make some good memories and get away from everyday life. Personally, I was looking to reignite something that seemed missing in my world. What we got on top of that was an amazing experience, incredible camaraderie, and the most stunning scenery we could have hoped for. The best part for me? A renewed fire to get back to get back after it on two wheels. The next time you’re feeling a little burnt out on the bike, make an effort to just get away from it for a few days. Put it out of sight, out of mind, and out of routine for a few days. You may be surprised at how good it feels to get back on it after just a few days away.