What we can learn from cycling in the mountains

Cyclists have their own etiquette rules.

When they meet on the road — especially two lonely cyclists or mountain bikers riding towards each other — it is customary to say “hi”: wave your hand or at least lift your fingers off the handlebars and nod your head.

In the mountains this rule acquires an interesting nuance: one of the cyclists has a hard time climbing, the other comes down the mountain with a breeze. And, if to think, they represent the complete opposite of each other in a situation that can teach us some things.

Ivan Kuznetsov
Outdoor editor in Dolomites and Karelia

— So, what’s the difference…

The face of first cyclist has a stubborn concentrated grimace. The second shines with a smile.

The first one is unbearably hot. The second is unbearably cold — the oncoming wind penetrates through the body.

The first one has already taken off everything he can. The second is wearing extra clothes on the move, and he has a newspaper (a well-known professional cyclists’ trick) under his bike.

The first got up from the saddle (rides standing up) or endlessly spins a small bike star. The second does not pedal at all — the road itself carries him.

The first forgot about the brakes, as if they do not exist. The second has firmly grasped a steering wheel and only thinks about them. Because the speed of the first, God forbid, is less than 10 km. The second one is five times as fast.

For the first one, every turn is a hard test. But at the same time a small victory: there is one less turn left till the finish, which means the end of suffering. For the second, each turn is rather a disappointment, because he understands that the descent, and with it the pleasure, will soon be over.

For the first one, the road seems endless. For the second, it flies faster than fast.

The first one thinks about how not to fall on a level place, if suddenly it will reduce the muscles and lead sideways. The second thinks about how not to fly away into the abyss.

And so on…

Creative cycling in Lagorai mountains via Passo Brocon
In May 2019 with Irina we rode 85 km in Lagorai mountains via Passo Brocon © Ivan Kuznetsov

So, what I wanted to say is that, when two cyclists meet in the mountains, one of them rides up and the other down, they have completely different feelings.

And in fact, unlike a calmer ride on the plain, they are not very happy to see each other and send signs of attention only as a courtesy.

Because the first cyclist is jealous of the second: “A man is lucky!” The second one feels sorry for the first one: “What a poor man…”

The first one knows the distance to the mountain he’s already covered, which means he knows how high the second one will get. And the second one knows how much more the first will sweat.

But still, they’re more of a fellow man by misfortune or pleasure, because they both understand each other very well. Cycling, and sport in general, like nothing else unites people.

So what is the general difference between cycling in the plain and in the Dolomites and what can we learn in the second case?

  1. Cycling 100 km on the plain road and 100 km in the Dolomites is not the same thing. The second one is harder. Choose mountain peaks (set your goals) and climb them (reach your goals). At the end you’ll get a reward — a picturesque serpentine! A flat road doesn’t give you that much pleasure.
  2. The mountains are a good example of how to put yourself in the shoes of another. Two cyclists on the plain are in the same conditions. And only in the mountains you can easily understand the feelings of the other person, because you have already experienced or are about to experience the same.
  3. “On the plain of life” you can wander alone and long on all four sides. Life on the plains leads in circles. Choose mountain roads and paths — there are few ones, comparing to directions you can go in the plain. Only on trails you can meet people, learn new things from them to rethink your own experience.

The original column was published in Russian language in the online magazine about self-development, awareness, productivity and creativity “To Live Interestingly” («Жить интересно!») on November 13, 2014.

Cover photo: Irina cycling in the Dolomites in May 2019 © Ivan Kuznetsov.

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