It was one of those weeks. A quick trip to Salt Lake City put me off the bike, and I woke this morning, back at home, to a driving snowstorm. I needed to ride though, so I pulled out the stuff.
You know the stuff, the wind tights, the winter cycling boots, the lights and layers, wool, nylon, etc. I have a lot of this stuff, both because I have lived and ridden through a number of New England winters and because I used to have a stuff problem. Only recently have I come to understand better the root cause of a stuff problem.
I once imagined I was a much more intrepid person than I actually am. I convinced myself that I would be even more intrepid if only I had the equipment, the stuff, necessary to do bigger, better things. So I got the stuff, snow shoes, crampons, high tech jackets and pants of various stripes, things that I did end up using, but never in quite the way I’d imagined, climbing high peaks in deep winter. My life isn’t designed for that. I have a job, a wife, kids.
There is a sort of cognitive dissonance or Walter Mitty syndrome necessary to sustain a problem like this. What ended my stuff problem was not just the burgeoning responsibilities of family life but the tension between the stuff I had to do amazing things and the reluctance I felt to actually do them.
It takes a lot of motivation to roll out of the driveway into a driving snow. The upside of a past stuff problem is that, when the time comes, you really can do these things. The stuff almost forces you to do it.
And this morning I need to ride. It wasn’t particularly cold, probably close to as warm as it can be and still snow, but it was chucking down and piling up quickly. The roads were a slushy mess. A set of studded tires (40mm) and a wide clip on fender was really all it took to make the day rideable. And I rode, and it was fine. It wasn’t the stuff of my past fantasies. It was just a commute.
This week’s Group Ride asks, do you have the stuff? How much stuff do you have that you don’t use? Let’s call that differential between what you have and what you use the “imagination gap.” It’s the gap between what you’d like to think you’ll use and what you’ll actually use. How wide is your gap? No shame. We are, all of us, Walter Mitty to some degree.