1. Whether You Think You Can or Can’t, You’re Right.
Sounds cheesy and middle school-esque, I know, but this was the single best self-motivator that helped me when I hit “the wall”. More often than not, your mental attitude can overcome physical limitations (not always, remember to take care of yourself). This, and a whole lot of cursing, helped me pedal up mountains instead of pushing my bike.
2. Dirt Won’t Kill You.
I’m not a germaphobe, but I generally like my food, clothing, and body to be clean. Although uncomfortable at times, being dirty will not kill you. Strangely enough, it gives you a raw and basic feeling that you’re connected to nature and your surroundings. Just saying, don’t let a lack of hot water and soap suds put you in a mood. I did while cycling a few times, and it doesn’t help. In fact, it makes a good proper wash all the more gratifying. We washed our pots and cutlery in lakes, streams, and with rainwater, and guess what: I was fine.
3. Wet Clothes Aren’t a Big Deal
Although uncomfortable for the first 10 minutes, wet clothes are an amazing cooling agent ten minutes into cycling on a hot day. If you’re wearing padded cycling shorts, you’re going to feel like you have a full diaper on, but you get used to that. Plus, the rain is pretty much the only time you’ll get to wash your clothes if you’re camping.
4. Anywhere is Comfortable For Sleeping When You’re Exhausted.
After a hard day’s work, you feel much more entitled to a good sleep. Unfortunately, when free camping, you don’t have much of a choice regarding where you sleep. You cycle until you find a suitable place, and if you don’t find a suitable place, you take what’s there. I’ve slept in overgrown forests, bus stops, wet fields, bleachers, on beaches, and in the parking lot of an abandoned gas station at a ferry port. If you’re tired enough, you’ll find a way.
5. Ma Always Said, “If you keep doing things like that, you’ll end up sleeping under a bridge!”
Well, Ma was right; however, I did it willingly. In fact, I was quite enthusiastic and even relieved when we found bridges to sleep under, because they offer shelter from the rain.
6. Legs Can Only Hurt So Much.
Once your legs experience a certain degree of agony, they do one of two things: become accustomed or go into auto-pilot. Either way, the pain will pass and your legs will start to feel strong and fit… or just keep moving anyway.
7. You Will Probably Fall, and Your Bicycle Will Break Several Times.
I was skeptical about falling; I’ve been riding a bike since I was 5 for God’s sake. The skepticism quickly vanished when I crashed…on the first day. I was bombing it down a hill when a teen on a bike crossed the road and pulled out in front of me. I tried to brake, but it was too late: I swerved to avoid him, hit the curb, and flipped. For a few seconds, I lied there on the ground, bike on top of my chest, the wind completely knocked out of me. After examining a few bumps, bruises, and cuts (and assuring a concerned passerby that I was alright), I got back on Delilah and carried on to catch up with the others. After that, I wasn’t constantly paranoid about crashing. I felt like I had more confidence in my ability to control my bicycle. Moral of the story: you will probably fall. It may hurt. It’s ok. As for your bike breaking, get used to it (especially if you’re using a secondhand bike). Get a puncture repair kit, and you’ll figure the rest out as you go.
8. Three’s A Crowd When Deciphering A Map
Yes, it was our choice to not plan a route. It tested our relationships and our patience when trying to interpret maps, and sometimes I was on the verge of tears because I was so frustrated. In retrospect, it would have been much easier to just vote, majority wins. I’ll remember that next time.
9. Cycling 35 kilometers Before Lunch Warrants a Beer Break
When it’s boiling hot around midday, you’ll be happy that you got up and going at 6 a.m.. You’ll certainly feel less guilty stopping for late morning and afternoon beers. You may feel tired for the first 30 minutes, but your body will become accustomed to going to bed at 9 and being up at 6 (see reason #4). You’ll also obviously appreciate the beer.
10. Anyone Can Cycle.
A wise man once said to me, “All you need to cycle is a bicycle and the desire to do it”. He was right. It may have been easier if we had trained, bought expensive bicycles, planned a route, or spent the night sleeping in comfy hotels, but we didn’t. And we made it. You can, too, if you want to.