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OPINION

Solitude and life lessons: riding 600km solo, unsupported and ultra-light from Malaga to Mallorca, part 3

Monika Sattler's picture
In the final stretch of her mammoth journey, Monika learns to appreciate her own company and shares her best tips for taking on your own solo cycling adventure...

This article originally appeared on radmonika.com

In normal life, I'm a very sociable person. I love meeting people and making new connections... but during this kind of trip, I've come to find that the opposite is true. 

Riding 600km solo, unsupported and ultra-light from Malaga to Mallorca: Part 1
Some unexpected gravel and racing against the sunset: Malaga to Mallorca, part 2

I love my solitude. Riding for this entire trip with no music or any other distractions means my mind has time to process things. Memories come up and go; whatever my mind wants to think about, I let it do. At the beginning of the trip, wild, strong thoughts were emerging but as the days go by, the mind comes down and relaxes. It's like meditation.

Maybe because I don’t want to get out of this relaxed mindset, I prefer to be alone so my head doesn't get any input that it needs to process again. When I did my first solo trip four years ago, I was worried that I'd get bored and lonely by myself; but I realised that the opposite happens. I actually become more 'sociable' with my own self and start to appreciate my own company. I don’t need distractions to be content with myself. It might take one day before entering this state of mind but afterwards, I never feel lonely because I'm in my own very best company. So, by avoiding talking to other people, it's not that I'm not interested in others but it is more that I don’t want to leave this meditative state!

My communication to the outside world is reduced to telling my parents were I currently am. No phone calls, and on social media, one-directional updates only...

rad monika blog part 3 pic 3

As I was hoping, the next day started riding alongside a beautiful sunrise... there's no better way to start a day! This day was similar to day two: an entertaining mixture of hike-a-bike, gravel section surprises and turnarounds. The interesting thing is that you quickly get used to the situation you;re faced with. Once you experience the worst possible, the bad doesn’t seem that bad anymore. It was all about adapting to changing situations, dealing with the unpredictable and making creative decisions along the way... and taking it all in good spirits. Yes, there are moments where I was fed up from getting stuck on unrideable roads; but instead of complaining (to whom anyway!), it was about finding a workable solution for this immediate situation with the focus on the goal: getting to Mallorca. It's very true that the lessons I've learned through adventure riding are very applicable to work and everyday normal life.

After day three and 195km I reached Elche, 20km away from Alicante and 130km from Denia. This would be my last hotel stop before taking the ferry tomorrow back to Palma. Being completely 'in the zone' now, I was actually sad it would all be over soon. Even though it had been only three days, I quickly developed a daily routine that I had to give up again tomorrow. The next day, navigation to Denia was easy.

When I saw the town sign, it hit me what I just did. 638km in 3 days and 2 hours. What a ride! I lost the feeling of time. Monday felt far away. So many things have happened since then. So many experiences collected, memories created and situations mastered. A great feeling of accomplishment was sinking in. It is amazing what you can do once you decide to do it. This trip once again showed to me that cycling is a lot more than physical exertion, it is about discovery of ourselves and our surroundings and can be incredibly meditative.

When I saw the town sign, it hit me what I just did... 638km in 3 days and 2 hours, what a ride! I lost the feeling of time, Monday felt far away. So many things have happened since then. So many experiences collected, memories created and situations mastered. A great feeling of accomplishment was sinking in, and it is amazing what you can do once you decide to do it. This trip once again showed me that cycling is a lot more than physical exertion; it's about discovery of ourselves and our surroundings, and can be incredibly meditative.

rad monika blog part 3 pic 1

Tips for your first adventure ride

It sounds scary just to ride off with your bike to an unknown area, but it's actually easier than it seems. For those who are thinking of doing such a trip, I'd suggest a country you are familiar with in regards to language and cycling on their roads. A weekend trip would be a perfect start to get your feet wet; just ride for one day in one direction, stay in a hotel and ride back the next day. That gives yoi the opportunity to plan what you need to take for such a trip, and the best way to carry all your equipment and belongings. 

For me, it takes one day to get adapted to riding all day and to be present. Everyone has their own way but I wouldn't be surprised if you feel better on the second day rather than the first. I also have a few friends and family members who always know where I am through Whatsapp's live location tool, which I think is important for my own safety. (Extra tip: I shut off all Bluetooth connection as that drains phone battery!)

As a woman riding solo, I'm not worried but I make sure that I don’t find myself on shady roads and I don’t ride in the dark (unless I know it's safe). I also seek out decent hotels. On all my trips (600km from Madrid to Motril, 1100km from Mallorca to Munich and this 600km trip from Malaga to Mallorca), I never had any incidents. I find these adventure rides incredibly meditative, energy-recharging and it gives me a new perspective on things. It's also affordable; this trip costs me 300 euros including flight and ferry (excluding food) and I always stayed in 4-star hotels.

I hope you've enjoyed reading about my epic trip... catch me on another adventure soon!

Monika Sattler (AKA RAD Monika) is a record-breaking road and gravel endurance cyclist who loves pushing her limits. In 2018 she became the first female to ride the complete Vuelta a Espana route, completing each stage on the same day just hours before the professionals. She loves solo, unsupported, ultra-light adventure rides to distant destinations, such as her 1100km Mallorca to Munich trip. When she's not riding, she uses her cycling experience to inspire others to embrace change, be bold and push through mental and physical barriers as a TEDx speaker. You can follow Monika on Instagram, and find out more on her website radmonika.com

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