Definitely an outdoors kind of day. Tantalus Range, Squamish BC (Photo Pip Gardiner)
I love my brain - it is constantly surprising me. Case in point - my ability to get back on the bike after ignoring it for several months over winter.
A lot of research has been done into how humans learn complex physical tasks like riding a bike. Even riding a bike in a straight line on the flat requires a lot of work. Think about how many muscles are working to balance and move forward. Think about how much information is going from your brain to your muscles via the nerves. Not to mention the sensory information pinging back and being processed. Then think about how much more is happening when you are bombing your favourite track, dodging chipmunks and dominating obstacles.
If you think back to learn a new skill, you might remember that your movements were uncertain, a little bit stiff. You probably had to concentrate really hard to do it right - I still stick my tongue out when snowboarding down steep stuff or through trees! When you repeat motor skills over and over again, your brain consolidates the information them to a point where eventually, you are able to perform them without thinking about them. This packaging of complex movements is known as muscle memory. Without our brain taking control like this, we would not be able to achieve that magical state of mind called flow.
This week the weather gods smiled on Squamish, drying out the trails and flooding the valley with warm golden sunshine. Back in the saddle? Yes please. Tyres pumped, brakes checked and bag packed. On with the shorts (told you it was warm!), some wool for luck and I am off. I plan on shorter ride close to home - a 20 minute fire road climb to the trail head then a couple of xc trails down with enough roots and rocks thrown in to make it interesting.
At the top of the trail I stop and unlock everything, wind the forks out. A few seconds to breathe then I am off...
...and a little rusty!! My brain is in overdrive trying to remember which foot and hand to weight around corners and where I need to be looking. I make progress but wibble and wabble disgracefully. Halfway down I realise I am in the wrong gear, and a little further down I realise I have forgotten to use my uppy-downy seat post.
But just before the trail ends I glimpse it...that fine form I was in at the end of last season. It may only have lasted a few turns, but it proves that those muscle memories are still there waiting to be woken up.
Here’s to muscle memory and mid-winter rides. Anyone else excited for the summer of riding ahead?