Mountain bike niche within a niche - I bring you the happy totem bicycle.

For some time now my bike rides have been characterised by negative, mean spirited influences and rides have suffered as a result. Lack of motivation, riding solo at night in the cold, five tyres ripped to shreds on flint, poor weather or bloomin' tubeless cock, you name it. Whilst I've been banging the drum about enjoying my rides, for the past six months or so there have been negative elements creeping in that spoilt things slightly. Not enough to make me give up on the sport, sure, but they've been there all the same. Over the same time period I've been looking at taking my family to North America for an holiday. We always used to spend six or seven weeks a year in America, and over the years we must have spent getting on for ten months there. Naturally the native American Indians cropped up now and then, and we spent time in their spiritual lands.

Today I had one of those light bulb moments. Why not add totems to my bike to ward off mean spirits? By totems I mean trail side debris that people have lost. And that's exactly what I've done. No, I don't mean tree branches or blue bags of dog poo. I mean little trinkets that add a bit of colour. Today I added a bit of key ring, and two child's toys that I managed to dangle from my gear cables. Appropriately one was a sheep, the other a mouse thing - totems are usually animal based.

Do you know what? I felt better for it. Sure my children think I'm a twat for doing it, but I've long not cared what people think of me, so why start now? My ride started off in the usual "why am I bothering" fashion; wet, muddy and windy, with my bike clearly being slowly trashed. But the little trinkets on my handlebars kept catching my eye with their rather pointless existence. They didn't exactly make me smile, but they shifted my mood away from being a bit 'meh' and on to what I was actually doing; experiencing the weather and countryside. From then on my ride was infinitely better, it really was. This even though the weather today was, ahem, challenging. Horizontal sheeting rain, with a mini tornado down the road in Hampshire.

What happened?
  • Collected some firewood.
  • Got within ten metres of a deer, a kestrel, some rabbits and a field mouse.
  • Went splashing through puddles that I'd normally miss.
  • Found some deep mud and didn't avoid riding through it.
  • Watched the red kites circle Colley Hill.
I didn't even get upset when at Headley Heath the little food van was absent, so I didn't have a mid ride feed. And my bike getting trashed? Badge of honour that.

And yes, that is a Gemini Olympia light attached to my bike in the day. I was out riding last night as well, and couldn't be arsed to take it off. Lucky in a way, as todays' weather meant it got very dark in places. As is the nature of rides around here, I was hacking along just as two other cyclists were hacking along in the opposite way down some lovely singletrack. They saw my lights before I saw them, so we averted a moment. Later on the same happened to me; I was hacking down a gulley when I saw somebody else with a flashing light. We'd probably have missed each other, but it was nice to have had prior warning all the same.

I'm not saying you should all go out and add crap to your bikes. That's for silly, independent people like me to do. What I'm saying is that perhaps sometimes we focus too much on negative elements of life, and miss out on the good that is there all the time - we just need something to shift focus away from the tedium. Do what you do, but if your rides are now characterised by thinking about the poor times in your life, or why you're bothering to ride at all, then make a little change somewhere to bring the focus back; rides are about having fun aren't they? Ditch the negative, bring back the positive. For me all that took was to add something silly to my bike. Not sure how far I'll go with this - it worked for me today, but covering my bike with cuddly toys is a bit, well, mad isn't it?