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Posted by Jon Hicken on
For many, modern society sees us enjoying increasingly comfortable lives.
Compared to even recent memory, our day to day existence has been softened, with little physical risk. But that’s not to say we live without worry or concern. Emotionally, there are pressures to conform that are heightened by the ubiquitous nature of social media and marketing campaigns that drive us to purchase more and be satisfied less. Sometimes it can take a rush of adrenaline to help us better understand ourselves as human beings and redress the balance in our lives.
I was beginning to feel tired. Still regularly riding my bike, but the pressures of working long hours as an Amsterdam-based lawyer started to show. I never seriously considered becoming a lawyer. But when I was still studying, I lost my father, and my method of coping was to block all of this out. Joining a large international law firm and keeping myself so busy with work, I guess, that I wouldn’t have to feel anything. But at one point I felt like I was rushing through life without being really able to stop, enjoy and appreciate. That’s how I ended up being a freelance lawyer. To go riding.
Most of my life I’ve allowed my decisions to be dictated by my rational, ambitious side, following my head rather than my heart. But I also have this firm believing that you need to seek out adventure; to make life happen, because it doesn’t always come to you. I know it may sound a little cliched – but exploring new places, getting out on my bike and pushing myself to reach the limits of my endurance in the knowledge that I can still dig deeper and carry on, simply makes me happy.
So when I noticed the same pattern and my freelance work started to become
incredibly hectic again, I knew I had to reset and I felt that deep need for a new
adventure again. My response was a much needed get away – doing something new I’d never done before. So once the Alps were decided on as a destination, the planning got underway. With a route through South Tyrol mapped out by photographer Vincent Engel, although no stranger to journeying by bike, this would be my first experience of trans alp MTB trails. His description of the route’s challenges prompting a mix of both excitement and nervousness in me as the trip grew nearer. I was very much looking forward to it but aware that, unlike a relaxing holiday, it was going to be tough. Especially thinking about the stories and photos of some of the “trips” he made before.
But this sense of the unknown is also what drives me. I've always felt that if
something isn't working or you're feeling unhappy, then you need to make changes in your life. I was really happy that I still had my freelance projects – Covid-19 has been harsh on this group - but I was just so tired and beginning to lose my professional motivation. So this trip was my way of reacting - an opportunity to take a step back and reset. You might argue that you can’t afford the expense or the amount of time travelling, but I experienced first hand life can be short. So I live by this rule that I never want to regret the choices I didn’t make.
Talking to my mother in the weeks leading up to the trip, I sought a parent’s
perspective on the way I live my life and my instinctual need to never hold back in giving all of myself. Both professionally and also when out riding. My mother told me that even as a small child, I invariably chose her own pat - something my parents very much encouraged. Listening to her reminisce made me stop and think. Because maybe it's true, this need to push myself in everything I do. Because even though work can be tough, as much as I love cycling, if that was all I was doing, it would kind of feel superficial to me. Needing my brain to work as well as my body. Something I perhaps subconsciously hide from people: a very private work life and a very open cycling one which people can see. And somewhere in between, there's a balance, and it was this sense of equilibrium I was hoping to redress when riding in the mountains.
A lawyer by profession, but prioritzing my cycling.
With a four stage loop starting with the mountain valley Val Mora trail, my bike
arriving only three days before we were due to leave Amsterdam meant that my
preparation was a little more rushed than I had anticipated. Also I was unsure if the new Restrap bike bags I ordered would have to fit too.
We would be carrying everything we would need strapped to our bikes - food,
clothing, sleeping bags etc. But the diminutive nature of my bike frame meant
attaching my bag system took some trial and error. I am 1.56m “tall”. And with my bike being is so small that with size 44 I don’t even have room to take the “usual” items, let alone the “unusual” ones. The decision to stay overnight in the mountains refuges at least removing the need for a tent. But still – I just have to do with a very limited amount of clearance for bags. So with some doubt if I really had everything
for his trip, we took off.
Want to read how the story continues? A beautiful narration of Sanne’s story
has been published in Volume 12 of Far Ride Magazine, written by Chris Hargreaves.