It’s hard to flick through the pages of a cycling publication without passing features about going faster / harder / longer. After all, these are the goals that most are heading towards, right? Well, not me. In fact, I think there’s a very good case for slowing down.
Now obviously I’m not talking to racers here, nor am I talking to the fitness-obsessed among you, but bear with me as this is something that could still benefit a lot of people.
A lot of us regularly push our commutes or regular rides to the point of discomfort and sometimes at the price of enjoyment. Plenty of us have been doing it for so long that we don’t even know we are; swapping smiles for sweating and putting the clock before our happiness. So, whether you find yourself locked into a speeding subconscious through apps like Strava or just punching it on the flat when nobody else is around, ask yourself this, what’s the rush?
The sensation of speed and maintaining speed does, of course, bring its own pleasure, yet it’s one that is separated from the simple freedom of cycling. The simple freedoms being the sort that you enjoyed way back when you first started to ride, the sort of things that made you reach for those same handlebars again. Slow down and you may find yourself appreciating things you've not yet noticed about your surroundings too, while clear thoughts of the day ahead can creep in should you allow them to.
Cutting your effort means you needn't bring the same kit either. If the weather's fine then why not do away with the lycra for a day? And why not allow for a few extra minutes and opt for flat pedals and casual shoes while you're at it? The whole experience can be surprisingly liberating.
The same can even be said for mountain biking, where so many riders will bosh out a loop as quickly as they can, yet I’d wager they would have enjoyed it far more had they gone out at 80 percent instead. In fact, sometimes the best way of nailing a tricky section is to go in slower than you’d think and to really take in your surroundings.
I used to find the same with cars, choosing a somewhat silly (but rather rapid) Japanese coupe to get from point to point. Now though, I’ve mellowed to a leisurely saloon with a four-speed automatic and suspension tuned almost entirely for comfort. Though it’s important to mention that I’d never have liked to have driven the fast car slowly. And that raises another point; do you need a slower bike?
Just last month, I was strolling through the streets of Antwerp, Belgium and found myself fascinated by the generally relaxed pace of the city’s cycle commuters. Their upright, extensively accessorised and almost painfully practical town bikes are a far cry from the fashionable road cyclists of BikeRadar’s hometown Bristol. In contrast, Bristol’s bike paths are frequently the topic of discussion due to the high speeds that some cyclists choose to travel at. The Police have even taken the matter into their own hands in the past, re-educating riders who are exceeding 20mph along the city’s popular railway cycle paths.
So, next time you head out remember, there’s no shame in taking things easy. In fact, I thoroughly recommend it.