Dirt Diva, Estelle Pickard delves a little deeper into what makes cyclists tick and why you should always trust your

I have a friend, who I often approach for advice, and he often tells me: “Moenie iets wat lekker is sleg maak nie.” And it’s mostly not what I want to hear, but what I need to hear.

In our mountain biking community, we pride ourselves on our persistence, determination and grit. That’s what we believe distinguishes us. We pride ourselves on the fact that we always push the limits, because after all, if we don’t push them too far, how could we possibly know how far we can go?

Yes. And no. I am all for a “can do” attitude and not giving up just because things are getting a little bit tough. I persevere, push through and believe that if something is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

But recently I found myself ignoring my friend’s advice or maybe picking up on it too late. There comes a point where these little voices of perseverance and motivation overpowers your gut, and I’m a firm believer in always trusting your gut. There’s right and there’s wrong, but that’s not the same for everyone … your gut knows what’s right and wrong for you.

In the past I’ve learnt some tough lessons after not going with my gut, but every time I’m confronted with a decision the little voices of perseverance are just so much more powerful than my gut. Surely a gutfeel is something wimps rely on to cop out? Well yes, if you’re stupid.

So where am I going with this? Twice this year, I’ve been confronted with cycling related decisions where my gut was telling me one thing and the little voices of perseverance were telling me another. The first was the Cape Town Cycle Tour, or the Argus as we all know it. I wanted to ride as much as everyone else did, but when the news and the warnings about the gale force winds started coming in, my gut very much told me that I shouldn’t ride. I’m not an experienced road rider, let alone riding in gale force winds. I’m just not that kind of rider. But the voices of perseverance were shouting at me that I was just being a pansy. All my friends were braving it, I was the only one having my doubts. Or maybe I was the only one being honest about them? I don’t know.  The morning of the race, after many tears of indecision the night before, I put my kit on still not knowing whether I should ride or not, when I got the news that it was cancelled.

Why was it so hard for me to be honest with myself? Why was it so hard to trust my gut? What do I have to prove and to who? It’s not like I’m anywhere close to being an elite rider – I’m probably closer to the back than the front … and a broken arm or bad crash would keep me off my mountain bike for no reason other than not wanting to see myself as a pansy.

The second time was during the Garden Route 300. It was another cycling race this year that was affected by severe weather. One would think that at the end of April, beginning of May, the weather in the Garden Route can only be mild and perfect. It turned out to be 39 degrees Celsius almost every day of the race. I happen to be someone who cannot handle heat. My blood pressure drops and I have no energy or strength. I pushed through day one, which was not only extremely hot, but our route got extended with approximately 10km’s. By the end of day two, I realised there’s no point in pushing my body so hard in the heat. I can’t make it do something it’s not happy doing, and most importantly, it’s probably not safe. I heard that the third day didn’t have any tree cover on the route and I decided not to ride. This time without tears (I’ve learnt from my previous experience) and with more confidence in my decision. It still wasn’t an easy decision, because the voices of perseverance are always out to charm you. And since that day, I haven’t gotten back onto my bike yet again. That hurts. Because mountain biking is something I love so much and that gives me so much joy and I don’t understand my sudden disinterest.

Today I also want to tell you what my friend always tells me: “Moenie iets wat lekker is sleg maak nie”. We do this sport because we love it. The majority of us aren’t getting paid to ride, in fact, we’re paying big bucks to do the sport, so do it on your terms. Give it your all, don’t give up when it gets tough just because you can … but when you realise you’re not having fun anymore, stop. Just stop. Take a break and return to your bike when you feel ready for it again. There’s no reason to hurt yourself or get burnt out on riding when we’re actually just doing it for the love of the ride. I think I’m suffering from a “little voice of perseverance”-hangover, and I’m a bit angry with myself about that. ’Cause at the moment, I look at my bike and my mind is blank. Usually, fantasies of lush green fields with smooth single tracks will come up in my mind, with me flying down them … but there’s just nothing. I killed it and I’m just hoping I can get it back sooner rather than later.

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