“Are you racing this weekend?” It seems like everyone wants me to get my race on lately. Living in the very active town of Whistler in British Columbia, Canada most of us are here for the snow, the bikes, or both and at times it seems as though the competitive outweigh the non-competitive.
Races for all levels and disciplines of mountain biking are available here in Whistler. XC Toonie Rides in and around the town take place every Thursday night during Summer, while weekly Phat Wednesdays downhill races are held in the Whistler Bike Park. Riders in both events range from those just wanting to go into the prize draws and have a social beer after the race all the way up to World Cup level racers.
Some locals race in events during Crankworx – a lot of my friends raced in the Enduro World Series this year, a fair few usually race in the Garbanzo and Air DH’s and usually one or two will enter into the dual slalom. Other events, mostly run by WORCA are dotted around the summer, with Enduro clearly the popular favourite at the moment.
Essentially, there are plenty of opportunities for me to race and I have had more than enough free time to train lately, but I’m just not interested in competing. You see, I like mountain biking, and while I like to pin it hard down trails and go for a lung-busting “cardio ride” from time to time, I also like to stop and take in the awesome views or stop and watch when I see a squirrel or a bear. My rides are pretty ad hoc, and I like it that way.
I have seen friends forced to put in some decent distance training when they don’t particularly want to (bad weather, long hours at work, etc) purely because they have an upcoming race that they don’t want to get thrashed in. Being beaten by someone who they should have placed better than has really put a downer on their enjoyment of the sport too.
Now you could call me out and say “don’t you use Strava?”. Yep, I’m guilty of logging most of my rides on the world wide race track. I ditched the handlebar mounted computer years ago. I’ve always been a bit of an IT nerd, so the less computers that come out riding with me the better. I do however, like recording my rides on Strava purely just so I know what sort of distance and elevation my ride was – but my rule is that the phone stays in my pack or pocket unless it comes out quickly for a photo.
Jared Rando put it perfectly when he wrote “The last thing I want in the back of my mind when I’m riding is where I’m going to rank on the next trail I hit, or how fast I can do a climb.” In Ryan Leech’s last ProVisions piece, he wrote “While I love what Strava has given to our sport and our riders, I worry about what it is taking away. If you get lost in a world full of climbing elevation and downhill segments stats, you’ll have created what Ken Wilber calls, a ‘flatland’ world for yourself. This is ‘scientific materialism’, and it’s an easy world to get sucked in to based on what our society values, measurable results.”
This isn’t to say that racing is bad or caring about Strava segments is wrong, it’s just not for me. I don’t race because time on the bike is time for me to relax, mentally. Competition has never “clicked” for me, I prefer to go out for a pedal and challenge myself – to be the best I can be on my bike. That, is why I don’t race.