How do you link mountain-biking with writing? (Or, Why being part of a group is fucking awesome).

There are four big reasons I love to be out on my mountain bike. The first is being outdoors. Whenever I’m asked if I’m a beach or mountains person, my answer is always I love trees and being in the woods. Add a mountain into that and I’m happy as can be.

I love the silence of the trails, the way the light plays through the trees, the curves of the earth, how she swells and swoops like a solid ocean of soul-charging earthiness. I love the sound of the wind dancing through the trees. Crisp, cold air in the cooler months and the soothing refreshing shade when the skies are their incredible cerulean blue and the sun is a fierce, pale gold. I love how the trails change daily depending on the weather and how it makes me change the way I ride. I love being a part of the real world: sharing my breath with the trees and my body heat with the air. I love being there.

The second reason I love being out on my bike is my body. I love playing, feeling strong, stretched, exhausted, and empowered. I love feeling pumped full of laughter and adrenaline. I love swooping and flying, skipping and rolling. Sometimes I push my lungs and heart, other times I’m in cruise-mode. I get to chose and respond to me and the trail. Then I nurture my body, stretch, sleep, water and nourish myself, so I can ride again. And I listen to me: today I need to rest, so here I am, spending quiet time with myself. And that’s the third reason, I ride, for me. You can call that part of me my soul, spirit, wairua, self, my mind, whatever you fancy, but I always ride for me.

Out on the trails, every ride is different. Every time I have to focus and be aware of me and how I’m riding. Whatever level I ride, my mind and body have to be utterly present to keep me rolling along on those two wheels. This makes for a quiet and calm headspace. Peaceful and direct, intimately connected with me and my actions. Whether I’m having fun or facing my fears, I’m there, in that moment, beautifully grounded on two-wheels.

And that was my summer. Autumn’s here now. The light has shifted and dropped down a gear. It’s running faster. The days are already nearly done by the time I leave work, so things will change. Luckily my job is flexible and I can weave some play-time into my day. And I suspect I will get night-riding lights, not everyone in our group can take day-time out, so night-riding will happen. But I’m looking forward to the cosy time too, time in doors to get some writing done.

Last week I worked out a great way for me to write a synopsis. I’ve been tinkering with a story idea all summer. I shared it with my writing group last month and they thought it was fragmented. The trouble for me is I find linear and chronological plotting really hard when it comes to imagining a tale. I need to let my mind play and wander. I’ve tried linear, chronological, regimented thinking and, damn, it hurts because it goes against everything that I am. But this method allows me to play and flow with my tale whilst thinking it through logically. I can flow through the tale and when it get stuck I can stop and look for the best narrative line, try it out and see if it works. If not, I can try it another way, or come back to it later. I suppose it’s like sessioning hard bits of the trail; balancing skills, focus and technique with a whole heap of encouragement from the women I ride with.

I’ve been trying to write a novel for so long, but every time it got so far and then it stopped being fun. Same with my mountain-biking. I got to a level where I was scared I’d break if I carried on solo, I knew what to do (theoretically) but didn’t have the support to push through. But now I have a writing (and a riding) group who encourage me and who I trust. And that’s the fourth reason: the friends I’ve made. Whilst working and playing with them, my skills have increased loads and I happily tackle the hard bits, because I’m safe and accountable. Now I can balance my fun, messy, free flowing imagination with the skills and techniques I’ve learnt along the way. Whether I’m on the trails or working on a draft, I know it’ll still be hard in places, but with my friends to laugh at me and to whoop along with, it’ll be fun.

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