Today I received a call with additional information about the South Africa Trip. There is most certainly a lot to know—when I fly, where I’m staying, scheduling, expectations, etc.—and all of it is spectacularly exciting of course… But, some advice offered has given me pause:
“You will be riding with people who do this for a living. These folks are right up there with professional racers… They are extremely good at what they do, and know how to ride very, very well. You would be wise to avoid trying to keep up. Check your ego at the door, ride at your own pace and enjoy the experience.”
I guess it was a bit of a surprise. After all these years behind the handlebars of a GS, it had not occurred to me that I would be labeled the ‘slow guy’ on this trip. The realization came with a bit of pride swallowing.
But thinking on it, I am decidedly fine with being the dude in the back.
Over the years, I have come to understand that the difference between a ‘good’ and ‘great’ rider is surprisingly little. Of course, it's the little things that make all the difference, especially when your atop of pounds in a 70mph twisty. But above all the technique, the best riders seem to embody a desire to push a little harder, to elevate themselves toward the pinnacle of skill and performance and nerve.
When I started riding, I had a lot of nerve and almost no skill or patience. That combination got me into a heck of a lot of trouble (lots of broken bikes, not to mention bones). But as I’ve gotten older—and perhaps the teeniest bit wiser—I find the urge to ‘push it’ outside my comfort zone is diminishing. Sure, there are times when I catch myself riding hard and fast… And the thrill is quite tasty… But the sense of control, both of the machine and my ego, is rarely stolen from me.
Most certainly there is room for my skills to improve, as will likely become clear when I follow some great riders on this trip. But the true test will be my ability to ‘ride my own ride’ when the temptation to push my limits is so readily available. I think I can do it.
Or, perhaps this will be a 15mph nose-to-tail ride the whole time. Either way, I intend to make the most of it!