For several years I've been counting the minutes until my next solo adventure, in particularly anything biking and wild camping related. Riding a bike is like movement meditation to me, it's my time to unwind, forget about my ever growing to do list and the daily expectations from myself and society.
It forces me to slow down, take a breath and remind myself of what truly makes me happy. There's nothing like taking the time to really explore all thoughts and senses or finding new places by pedal power and waking up under the stars to beautiful views and the obligatory sheep surrounding you. I'm sure if you're reading this you feel similarly, albeit you might not be as hippy dippy as I am.
So what's the problem right?
I've become too complacent and comfortable adventuring myself. The thought of group rides, races, events or meeting people from social media would genuinely be distressing and make me feel sick. Not because I hate people or don't like the company of others. I would say I was a bit of an introverted extrovert. I'm happy to be the lone wolf and the class clown.
It wasn't about not having all the latest gear or the most expensive bike. I knew if I turned up rocking my mix of road, mtb and gravel attire with my very obvious love affair of leopard print I would be setting myself up to be mocked but I didn't give a toss about that. To blend in and conform doesn't sit right with me, but there's always that fleeting thought of being 'too much'. That wasn't it though.
It was the usual, my old faithful, my self limiting beliefs. Worrying about not being 'good enough' has always been a theme throughout my life. I was concerned I would be too slow, not competent enough in my riding abilities or lacking in mechanical knowlegde. I suffered from a bit of Imposter Sydrome too and felt if I wasn't at the top of my game in the bike industry then my MTB qualifications woud be seen as fraudulent (by myself and others).
To be clear, nobody has ever said or done anything to make me feel this way, this was all me. It was easier for me to ride and adventure alone but at times I missed the fun vibes a group of like minded people could bring, I also had just been accepted for my first Ultra Endurance Bikepacking race so I figured I best start getting out of my comfort zones sharp. Momentum was taking me in the right direction.
Changing the narrative
I knew I needed to change the narrative and I've managed it historically in other areas of my life so I set myself to work. I made my overwhelming concerns public and vowed I was on a mission to do something about it, for myself and others in the same self limiting belief prison. Every day I reminded myself that I worked hard to be trained and assessed and I deserve the qualification. I was good enough. It was just a ride. I should give it a go, I was strong...it was a start.
I asked for help
I'm no stranger to the groups on Facebook so I asked if other people felt the same way, if it gets easier or if they had any advice. I was so blown away with the encouraging comments and I realised I was far from alone with these negative thoughts. I decided I would write a blog as a bit of a reminder for myself and a tool for others that relate. If I can do it, you can do it so to speak. I believe social media can be used for more that showcasing the highlights and cyber bullying, I want to continue trying to use these platforms to grow, inspire and encourage where I can. You're a big help in this. Thanks for all your help and support.
There were a huge amount of positive comments and every one of them are greatly appreciated but I could only select a few otherwise this blog would be a book. These resonated with me and I really wanted to share the comments and advice.
"Omg I used to make myself sick with those same questions but it always worked out better than I imagined! Take a deep breath and go have fun. The more you do the more you’ll relax and enjoy"
"YES - so normal, and I definitely do this. I'm always so anxious when riding with new people, and I know I miss out on a lot by being so nervous. So when I feel more confident I jump in there and try to do a lot of self talk about how there's always someone who is going to be slowest. And at least we try it out! It may not be the perfect fit at first, but you'll eventually find a good match"
"U got this. That’s the thing with biking, we are all doing this activity together. You will have support, encouragement and ‘get em girl’ from your fellow riders. Trust me, I have ridden with all kinds of riders and it is always fun, because we are doing a sport we love with others that love it too. Sports unite people! And bikers are even more special. We are a community.. get after it girl and have fun. U will be amazing"
"You’re all bike people…that’s a big thing in common right from the start so it’s going to be great!!"
"They all likely feel the same. Sometimes it takes the edge off to just say it, get it out there/have a laugh about it, and then all can relax"
"I always feel the same way. Chances are the people you’re meeting may feel this way too. Be you! If they’re the right people, they’ll love ya! If not, they’re not your tribe anyway"
"The line between fear and excitement is very fine - and it never stays still. Recognise your fear, but try not to let it overwhelm - it could be next week's excitement"
"Just be yourself and enjoy. If you don't like it pedal home"
"Sounds like the kind of things that are normal for gravel rides around here, you’d fit right in. I get the nervousness though, but just go have fun. You may not keep riding with them, or you might, but if not, you don’t really loose anything you have now, but stand to gain friends (far more likely"
"I super get this. I am very concerned with whether others are having a good time, like my company, am I riding too fast or slow, I find I am trying to be responsible for everyone else’s enjoyment. It’s a tough thing for me.
I have found that the closest I can get to being confident (or stressing out less than I normally would) is to look back on my history, and apply it to the future. History repeats itself, right? My history says that generally speaking, I get along well with people, they see I’m considerate or caring, and most people get my dry humor out of the gate. Some don’t and think I’m a dick until they realize I’m harmless. But my history is going to be fairly consistent with the future.
Rely on your past and apply to now. I have a feeling everything will be just fine with you"
I met my Instagram friend Naomi for a ride in Edinburgh, I was so consumed with worrying thoughts I missed my stop on the train, had to swap trains and was 20 minutes late...we both just laughed when I arrived and within minutes of pedaling all of my anxiety was gone. Genuinely. This is partly to do with Naomi being awesome of course but also because we were both doing something we enjoy.
It was out of the frying pan and into the fire...Next up was my first group ride. I met up with the Glasgow Pedal Collective for a 55km gravel ride, there was 12 in total and every single person was lovely and laughed loads. Here is the link to their group if you're in the Glasgow area.
Last week I met up with the Glasgow Pedal Collective again for a bikepacking bothy adventure, there were some new faces in the mix but we were a fabulous group of 7. It was ridicoulsy fun. I was so happy we were all doing my favourite thing to do, we challenged ourselves, showed some grit, surprised ourselves and had the best time doing it together.
These photos are from my meet ups in January and all I can say is... it will be continuing. I'm meeting another Instagram buddy for the first time next week, I'm planning more bothy adventures both solo and with new adventure buddies, I'm training for the first time in my life for big bikepacking trips and I'm super excited to see what lies ahead.
You're not alone
If you related to my social anxiety, bouts of Imposter Syndrome and a negative narrative I urge you to dip your toe. If you are in the Glasgow area I would love to be part of your journey. I wish more people knew that it's so normal to have these thoughts but it doesn't have to stop you. It's taken me years to be 'ready' but it's better late than never.
So thank you to everyone that showed me love, support and encouragement. It means so much to me and has truly helped spur me on. You're all legends.
Happy riding everyone!
Stay wild & stay weird