Three things have happened to me this week that have fundamentally changed how I feel about the issue of never giving up.
But I'd like to begin this post with an apology to all Broken Riders out there. This is my first blog post since March, when I gave up writing blog posts. Which is kind of ironic, given that the subject of this blog post is about never giving up..!
Anyway, as I said in the headline there, three things have happened to me this week that have fundamentally changed how I feel about the issue of never giving up, particularly in respect of riding my bike.
On Monday, I met a customer of ours called Carl Morton. Carl has been a big supporter of Broken Riders since we began, and he's probably bought almost everything we do. Our designs seem to resonate with his attitude to life, particularly the "get back on and have another go" aspect. I was meeting Carl as he finished the first leg of his long distance charity ride. He's currently riding from London to Brighton (which is where we met on Monday evening as he rolled in to town after a mammoth slog into a headwind driving in up the English Channel), then from Brighton back to his home in Derby. He's mainly using Sustrans routes and trying to stay off road as much as possible, and riding to raise money for the Royal British Legion as a mark of respect for those who lost their lives a hundred years ago in WWI.
What makes Carl so special is not that he's using his own holiday time from work to do a ride for a charity (many others do, and for many noble causes - well done you lot!), but that he's doing this ride solo and he suffers from epilepsy. When we met he played this aspect down, saying that as long as he took his medication he'd be OK. But I couldn't help thinking what an amazingly brave guy Carl was. Despite his illness, and knowing full well that his body was going to be pushed to extremes on this ride, he was still willing to get on his bike, take time out of his life and go ride to raise money for others. When I asked him what his biggest fear about the journey was, he replied "giving up". He's determined, no matter how rough it gets, to "never give up", and to complete the journey in order to satisfy his honour and the honour of those he's raising money for. Carl, we salute you!
Please take a little time out to follow Carl's blog, or follow his route. If you can, donate a small amount to his charity page. the links are here:
Next up, the second thing that happen to me this week which changed how I feel about never giving up happened on Wednesday evening, during an after work ride out at Bedgebury Forest in Kent. I've never been very good at jumping on my bike. Like many fellow Broken Riders, most of my stacks have been encountered when I attempt to land my bike after hitting a jump and getting it very, very wrong. However, these numerous, often painful, crashes have never deterred me from having another go. Also, I've been recently intently watching lots of videos of riders jumping on their bikes, both racers and those riding for fun. But rather than sitting in front of the laptop in awe of what they're doing, thinking "I could never do that", I've been trying to analyse the series of movements that make up the jumps.
I'd been feeling a bit ill since the weekend with a cold, but I decided a ride would help to 'sweat it out'. So out on the trail, I found a sweet section of singletrack with some very well built, but reasonably small, jumps (there's a rule of thumb here: when learning to jump, every metre high jump feels about 4 metres high!). First time round, I got it all completely wrong and almost found myself heading to A&E as I landed front wheel heavy, bouncing forwards but somehow managing to save it!
My first thought was "fuck it, I'll move on to the next section of trail", which is what I've pretty much done since I started riding mountain bikes 15 years ago. I've always spared my self the pain of embarrassment and moved on, meaning that when I come across the same section on the next ride, I mess up again as I haven't addressed any of the issues involved However, this time was different. Carl's spirit of determination had affected me, and so I had another go. And this time, I thought more about what I was doing, where the bike was going once in the air. I focused on pushing into the take off ramp to give me air, and then on pointing the bike toward the landing, becoming aware of my body position as I made the transition from take off to landing. Baam! I nailed the jumped, albeit only half a metre high, perfectly. Suddenly everything made sense; all the video watching, all the articles read, all my mates' tips about jumping, everything fitted into place. So I had another go, and another. I even managed a 'mini' tail whip on the last jump!
Photo courtesy of RedBull
Now, I'm not saying that I'm now the next Kelly McGarry, but this definitely feels like a significant step up in my mountain bike skills level - and all because I never gave up. I felt proud of myself, and look forward to nailing other jumps that have previously eluded me, hopefully without the obligatory trip to the nearest A&E!
The third thing that happened to me this week, and which really cemented by belief that adopting an attitude of 'never giving up' can make significant changes to many things we encounter in life, happened to me a the breakfast table this morning. "What?!" do I hear you say? Yes, it's true - I was inspired even over my muesli. I was reading the latest edition of Singetrack magazine, and on page 11 there's an amazing article about by Iona Evans about her gruelling ordeal in one of the most hard core of mountain bike endurance rides, the Highland Trail 550.
Despite having an injured ankle on departure, riding most of the journey by herself, and knowing that she was way behind the rest of the pack in the ride, Iona never gave up, and had the motivation to get her mind and body through the ride to complete 560 miles and finish an adventure that only a handful of riders have managed. Throughout the whole article, what struck me was Iona's determination to never give up, to look for numerous sources of motivation (from cups of coffee made for her by friendly village shop owners, to just being wanting to crest a hill to find a breeze and get ride of the midges!), and to finish her ordeal without the promise of any financial reward from prize money (the Highland Trail 550 offers no prize money for first place), but just to because she'd be able to say she'd done it. A truly inspirational read which I feel every rider could benefit from. Check it out: Singletrack Magazine issue 91, out now.
If you're interested in putting your body and mind through sheer torment, battling with midges and pushing your bike up unrideable climbs so that you can say you're in a very small group of elite riders who've completed the Highland Trail 550, then check out these websites:
So there they are, three sources of inspiration, all in one week. Two are from external sources, and one from myself. And that's just in one week! There are so many, many more out there. From tales of extraordinary resilience, to motivational websites put together by unsung heroes just to inspire other to never give up. Maybe you'll be able to find your own source of inspiration to keep you motivated the next time you feel like giving up?
Remember, Broken Riders never give up, they just get back on and have another go.