If you were to write down the things that define yourself, what would make the list – and what would come first? Some people proudly define themselves by their job title, some by their relationship status. Others define themselves by their political or apolitical beliefs.
Until five years ago, I would have put ‘mountain biking’ first on my list because, even when I wasn’t riding, I was thinking about bicycles. This will come as no surprise to those who know me – I’ve long been accused of living too much in my head. Those who don’t know me, however, may be surprised to hear that I’m rather proud of this accusation.
We all daydream to some extent. Some of us are daydreaming about being reality TV stars or pop singers (is there a difference nowadays?), or of being Oscar recipients or Nobel Prize winners. Me? I’m mostly daydreaming of endless dusty singletrack and bikes perfectly realised in aesthetic form and engineering function.
But it’s more than thinking about bikes – it’s riding them, too. Mountain biking has always got me through the trials of life. No one has summed this up better than the great philosopher Andrew Dodd, who in 2008 said: “When I’m sad, riding makes me happy. When I’m angry, it calms me down. When I need to think, it clears my head. There’s nothing that inspires me to ride – it’s riding that inspires me to live.”
So, why is mountain biking no longer at the top of my list? Because, five years ago, I got married to a lovely and beautiful woman. What’s more, recently I was lucky enough to become a father. Now I define myself first as a proud part in my family’s past, present and future. Sure, I still love riding my bike and daydreaming about shiny new ones, but these days nothing chills me out more than seeing my daughter smile.
But perhaps my family will allow me one other daydream: wondering if my daughter will have the same love affair that her grandfather and I have had with two-wheeled, human-powered machines.