Gravel Cycling in the Wind

lone tree in the flint hills

Since setting the clocks back last fall, my mileage has dwindled. I don’t know about you but I’ve gained some weight and am a bit out of shape as life has gotten in the way of riding. Short days, cold weather and no exercise is a great way to make myself feel like crap. Once I get out of shape and the weather outside is less than comfortable it gets more difficult to get myself motivated to ride. But if I don’t ride, I feel less motivated and talk myself out of riding and the vicious winter cycle of getting out of shape begins. Enough. I’m going riding.

The wind howled outside. “I am going to ride,” I told myself. My will forced me to continue to get ready. My body and most of my mind wanted to make some coffee and hang out. I had plenty of chores to do at home. “Just a short ride today,” I told myself. I’ll ride 20 miles so I can meet a friend for lunch and tomorrow I will get in a bigger ride in the morning. I know I will feel good as soon as I am out there pedaling. Some days I have to force myself to get started.

Once I got onto the gravel, I realized it was crazy windy. I made sure to pedal into the wind and have it at my back for the ride home. The fat bike is definitely at a disadvantage. It was blowing hard enough to throw me into the next rut over and there was nothing I could do about it. Cycling in the Kansas wind is always a joy. If it keeps blowing like this the Dirty Kanza 200 racers are going to have a great time.
Aero Bars on Gravel

It looks so serene and peaceful with the beautiful clouds and blue skies doesn’t it? Pictures can be so deceiving.

flint hills gravel

I fought for every inch of gravel. Every now and then I would get a wind break and it felt like someone pushed me from behind without the full force of the wind trying to stop me. I had to stop and shoot a quick video to give you an idea of how it was blowing.

Kansas Winds from Eric Benjamin on Vimeo.

 

lone tree in the flint hills

Riding in the wind is great for building discipline and getting an amazing workout. I get through it by putting my head down and finding a cadence I can keep steady. I do not look at my speed if I can help it. If I focus on my speed it can start to make me crazy. Instead, I focus on my cadence and keeping my mind on moving forward, no matter how slow. I look forward to having the wind at my back or sometimes just finishing the ride.

Cycling in the wind is a lot like going through a hard life challenge. Sometimes it seems like I’m barely moving forward. I can focus on the gusts that stop me in my tracks or blow me onto the other side of the road. I can focus on how slow I am going and therefore how long it will take me to simply get another mile. I can focus on how out of shape I feel, how much I hate the wind, how much I would rather live in Southern California and ride by the beach in shorts. In short I can focus on the circumstances at hand and hate every minute of it or I can focus on how great of a workout this is. I can focus on how well this is getting me ready for the Land Run 100, how great it will feel making it through these torturous miles, how amazing it will feel when the wind is at my back and/or how blessed I am to be able to be riding at all. I can focus on keeping my cadence steady and how every pedal stroke is moving me closer to my goal. The circumstances of my life do not define me no matter how bad or good they are. And the circumstances of the wind around me do not define the outcome of this bike ride. I do.

clouds kansas

I put my head down and I try to make friends with the wind. I think about The Alchemist (just finished it this weekend) and I imagine becoming the wind and moving forward even faster, or I visualize a passageway through the wind. No, I don’t have special powers controlling the wind, but getting my mind off the fact that I am moving at 8mph is quite helpful. Once I focus on how bad things are, how bad I feel, how windy it is, etc., my mind can go to dark places that it may not be able to come out of. That is when I quit a race or call off a tour, or in real life quit working –  just before reaching success. It is always hardest just before success is reached. Cycling in the Kansas wind is a great way to build will power that can be used on and off the bike.

Fatbike Gravel Grinder

 

flint hills gravel

When I turned and rode with the wind on the trip home, it more than made up for the trip out. I still get a great workout riding with the wind because I want to go as fast as I can. I feel pretty much like superman on a bike at that point. Going 25 to 35 mph on gravel is a blast.

flint hills gravel

kansas prairieThree deer run through the field. Difficult to see at this resolution but they are the three dots to the right of the tree.

 As I passed the grisly looking tree below, bent over by years and years of winds from the south, a thought came to me. I took a picture and came home to put the thought and image together. I love the truths revealed to me in nature. If you want, click on the picture to purchase a copy from my store. It is a great little reminder to quit looking at your life circumstances as if they define who you are. You can change who you are with every choice, every thought you make. Choose wisely.

windThe winds of circumstance. Purchase a copy here.

Feed Your Monkey!
Eric

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