Getting older is a strange and scary thing at times, or at least for myself it is, and I guess it is for many others too, particularly us cyclists. The hills get steeper, the rides get slower and shorter, and the risks we once took when diving down that sketchy greased and gritted descent while clinging onto the skin of our sidewalls suddenly seem insane.
As the cruel numbers of time clock up, things take on a whole new and more mature, conservative stance. I believe most call this being sensible (hah, stuff that!)
There are so many eery things about the whole ageing process that they didn’t tell us about when we were younger. Thankfully, there was no internet back then to learn about all the creeks, the wheezes and the general decline that lay ahead, and I think I’d have asked for my money back many years earlier if I’d known about them. Still, I most likely wouldn't have listened.
Looking back at my younger self through the good old and faded memory box, I know all of those risks I took were worth it: riding off cliffs, the epic Himalayan adventures, the times of living on rice pudding and muesli whilst trying to earn a (literal) crust as a bike racer in France... every last one of those experiences has stood me in good stead over the years. Warts and all, I would do it all over again in a heartbeat. Maybe I would have approached a few things differently, but that's just hindsight, eh.
I guess that life’s rigours, societal pre-conceptions, the naysayers and tainted attitudes can beat a lot of that spirit out of us as we get older. And yet, 'they' still like to call it growing up... if only 'they' knew!
Many people that I know never did take those risks or seize those moments in their lives. I guess they’ve mostly done better on the financial side of things, but did they really live them? I guess, again, that this is all a matter of personal interpretation. What is wealth, and what is being rich? What is living, and what is surviving? Are they the same things?
I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, but I do make a lot of promises to myself all year round (they often get broken for various reasons). I’ve learnt the hard way many times over that our two-wheeled lives, and the eroding gaps between the dreams and obstacles that we try to squeeze through on those blind corners of life, is a fragile and narrow line to skid. It is also one that we’ll never know the thrill of if we don’t give it a blast.
The problem is that things never seem to quite work out that way, as in when it comes to deciding whether sensible should triumph over risk and passion. For many of us it’s the mundane financial stuff that always seems to make many of our decisions, the kind of stuff that was once (for me) a means to an end, that has now seemingly become an end to the means.
There’s absolutely no doubt that most of us do change - not only physically but mentally - as we get older. It's almost inevitable, but can it be paused? Can it even be rewound, or worked around? I don’t know the answer to that, or at least not in my own case.
It is a bit cliché, but what I do know is that most of my own personal cycling regrets (and there are a fair few) have come about from the things that I haven’t done rather than those I have, and are more recent too.
It's not a good idea to let those ageing doubts and those keyboard naysayers into your life. They are not healthy or true, and yet they seem to combine with the ageing process to discourage us from the seizing the moment, a mantra that once defined my life and the spirit that took me on great adventures, that led to amazing life experiences: some good, some ugly, and many simply undefinable. Not a single one of those experiences would have been had if I’d not seized the moment and went with it.
Those moments of opportunity get fewer and further between as the years pass by, and if you pass them up, well - you never know if Hughie Green (RIP) will ever come knocking at your door again with his bag full of opportunities.
As inspired by Clint Eastwood and the song of the same name (and this doesn't just apply to men or cyclists): Don’t Let the Old Man In. While you’re at it, blank out the naysayers and grab life by the short and curlies now, before you get to the end of the garden path.
There’s still a world of two-wheeled adventure out there, as there always was. It's time to reset and loosen those brakes off, for me at least...