So, at the end of February a went up to Manchester for the second of the BikesandBrains (I will end up typing ‘Bikes and Brians’ at some point, no doubt) evenings after an amazing first event at Look Mum No Hands last November.
The Rapha Cycle Club is a very different venue, and has a different vibe, so I was interested to see how the original format would go. My head was thick with cold, so if you listen to the recording and find my chat bumbling off into verbal cul-de-sacs… that’s why.
I was honoured to be joined by Christine Evans, Tom Hill, and my Elite Cycling clubmate Juliet Sprake.
My bit was not dissimilar to the LMNH event – if you have listened to the Wheelsuckers Podcast and listen to the Rapha Manchester recording you’ll notice this!
Jules talked about various ‘p’ words (pause, pressure, permission) that had come up in relation to her recent cycling experience, particularly associated with track cycling and her training for National Masters Track Champs in Newport and World Masters Track Champs in Manchester during 2016. She also described having to move on from that and rediscover what cycling meant to her.
Tom talked very openly about a period of severe depression and suicidality. He also touched on something I’ve experienced – a moment of absurdity in the midst of extreme depressive state. He described sitting by a familiar offroad trail, at the point when existence no longer had any appeal – but gathering himself briefly to acknowledge a passing walker. A re-focus, and a ‘what the hell am I doing moment’. He wrote at length in an article for the hard copy of Singletrack which was later published online. Do have a read.
Christine talked about the benefits of finding a group to ride with but also how it can be very difficult when people are at different fitnesses and abilities. She described being competitive and the alarm of finding yourself at the back on hills after injury and being unable to train, and all the accompanying cognitive interference – some of the ‘potholes’ both literal and figurative. She also described her decision to start drawing after rides and kindly brought a couple of sketchbooks for everyone to look at.
I think we all touched on how cycling was a ‘medicine’ for us. A medicine that might not work 100% of the time, or even work in a predictable and consistent way. It does seem, however, to work in a way like little else. I saw a link to this article on sm a few days ago. As fervently as I feel about the benefits of cycling for mental and physical health reasons it made me think once again about the way studies are presented for popular consumption. It also made my think about all those wiry audaxer mile-eaters who’ll probably be cycling until they draw their last breath. 🙂
You can listen to recording of the evening at Rapha Manchester here . I say ‘um’ and ‘er’ a lot.
Thanks to Christine and Tom for travelling to Manchester to contribute to the evening, and especially to Jules who came up from London. Further thanks go to Holly and Dean at Rapha Manchester for hosting the event – I’d love to return in a little while as you suggested! Finally, a nod to my friend James Lyon who started the ball rolling to facilitate the event.
You can find my fellow contributors here: