Monday, June 04, 2012

The Need To Race

Today, Mike Hall of Harrowgate, Yorkshire England completed a circumnavigation of the world by bicycle, in 92 days of riding, a new record. The Guardian has a good column describing Mike and the round the world race at:

http://gu.com/p/384x5/tw

The Guardian also has an opinion piece lamenting the need to speed through such a journey here:

http://gu.com/p/384x9/tw

As someone who is known as the Mountain Turtle, who has recommended books devoted entirely to snails, and who knows the pleasures of riding slowly, I find myself moved with admiration for Mike's well ridden ride and can only add my small voice to the chorus of congratulations he deserves for his remarkable effort. And to Peter Walker, the author of the opinion piece, I offer up my disagreement.

I agree that great value and joy to be found in life by going slowly, but those who speed and push the limits can and do find joys in a world most of us will never experience. I've raced down the spine of the Rocky Mountains twice now, journeys set in motion long ago because John Stamstad once decided to race that distance. Routes can be toured or raced and neither activity diminishes the other. The attention drawn by races like the Tour Divide have drawn many more tourists to the Great Divide Mountain Bike Route.

Now we can always opine that our ways are better, be they faster or slower than others, but truth is that diverse ecosystems are stronger than monocultures. My experiences racing made my touring kit lighter and I appreciate that even when I'm riding slowly. A comment on Mr. Walker's article notes:

he travelled very, very light, with road bike and luggage together weighing in at around 16kg.
It's amazing how little you find you need when you have to carry it. A lesson there for all of us, and not just in our sporting lives.

Racers like Mike Hall extend the boundaries of what we think is possible. They solve problems most of us don't have and race to places we cannot go or didn't think to go. But they leave in their wake tracks and dreams and maps. Tracks and dreams and maps we may follow some day at our own pace. Or perhaps they become our own dreams of speeds and places not yet tracked.

Fast or slow, it's a beautiful and amazing world. You may not need to race, but the world needs its racers.

Keep 'em rolling,

Kent "Mountain Turtle" Peterson
Issaquah WA USA
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