Pushing my limits, the bike did everything with me, there were no rules

Buying my first mountain bike, as a teenager, afforded me freedom. No more asking for a lift from my parents, no more waiting for buses. Cycling with friends through city streets after school, learning to bunny hop and wheelie in the park and hitting the dusty trails in the woods before cycling home, all on one bike. Venturing further than before, returning with new stories, new skills and new scars, pushing my limits. The bike did everything with me, there were no rules.

Somewhere on the path to adulthood, I got lost; questioning the purpose and value of my actions, slotting into society’s expectations, becoming successful in the view of others, yet stuck in a rut and unfulfilled. It was a return to the bike that rescued me from depression, rediscovering the adventure and freedom of my child within. Once again, just me and a bike, exploring, learning and experiencing more.

Returning from cycling around the world, sat in a desk chair rather than the saddle, the thrill was gone. Responsibility returned; financial pressures, deadlines, commitments to others; the adult world had crept up on me. I asked myself “what would my inner child do?” I grabbed my gravel bike and left the house.

Leigh Timmis Round the World Cyclist gravel bikeThe closing of the front door and that reassuring sound of cleats clipping into pedals, chi-click. Concrete architecture fading into the background with my responsibilities, exchanged for rolling green countryside. Beeeeeep. A turn arrow on the GPS. The whirr of asphalt becoming the crunch of gravel beneath wheels, crossing the boundary from civilised to wilderness. Speeding down narrow paths, riding the dusty tight rope between nettles and brambles, through the dappled shade of the forest, skidding over pine needles, roots and rocks. Adrenaline pumping through veins in legs, scarred with war wounds from the grasp of thorns. Total focus on the moment, total connection with nature.

Leigh Timmis Round the World Cyclist Lake District

Through ever changing landscapes, thrust into vast, rolling horizons, a world beyond the social media at the end of my arm or the car at the end of the driveway. Connecting with friends, riding together, climbing mountains to look down over our world. Finding a bothy or camping out under the stars, telling stories of adventure and warming cold hands around a wood fire. Forgetting the concerns of responsibility, once again children, playing, investing in our own happiness.

Sometimes, in my grown up surroundings, I forget that I am just a big kid. It is the bike that takes me out of that, it reminds me of who I am and what I love. In a world of pressure, deadlines and responsibility at work and at home, isn’t that what we are all looking for? Freedom to see the world on our own terms, at our own pace, with time and space to reflect. Maybe there was truth in the mantra of my childhood hero, Jason McRoy, “Live to ride, Ride to live”

“Live to ride, Ride to live”

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