The Joy Ride

Posted by on Oct 19, 2011 in Bike | 5 Comments


Why do you ride a bike?

Fitness? Competition? Exploration?

The term “joy riding” is often used to describe simply riding for the sake of riding. That is, without training goals, structure, or plans. It implies that riding a bicycle is inherently pleasurable and that the actual act of pedaling for propulsion is itself enjoyable.

Well, is it?

My answer should be obvious.

But I think “joy riding” is a misnomer. A training ride is, at its foundation, no different than a joy ride. The physics involved in each ride are identical. Pedaling is pedaling. The variations that do occur come only in the intensity, or more abstractly, the intent of the ride. But neither is more enjoyable than the other. There is no such thing as misery riding. Of course, elevating the intensity of a ride certainly increases the physical pain involved. But pain is not misery. Indeed, I would argue that misery is instead, the lack of pain. Without pain there is no joy. One must precede the other. Or, even more absurdly, pain is joy—at least in the odd case of cyclocross.

The benefits of training and racing—added ability and fitness—make those joy rides even more delightful. Competition breeds excellence. A fit, experienced rider can cover more ground, with more efficiency, speed, and skill than a rider who is inexperienced or who fatigues easily.

However, (and best of all) riding—any riding—creates fitness and increases skill, which in turn, makes the entire process more enjoyable. Pedal strokes, after all, are circular.

In the end, joy riding is the only kind of riding.


  1. mark
    October 19, 2011

    Well put. It’s hard to enjoy something you don’t do well. Conversely, if you enjoy something, it’s pleasurable to put in the effort to become good at it. Each feeds the other.

  2. Katherine
    October 20, 2011

    Wow. I want your trails. Where are the rocks? The roots? The bone-chatter? Lovely flow.

    I wish I could agree completely, because it’s a good argument. Perhaps I am just not yet where Mark is – good enough to enjoy mountain biking 100% of the time, instead of struggling mentally on rides where I have to get off the bike over and over or am constantly lagging way behind: two ever-present reminders on group rides that I’m the worst one there riding. I don’t mind a physical struggle, but it’s when it gets to me mentally that I do struggle. How to overcome the mental? That is my question.

    • Grizzly Adam
      October 22, 2011

      Oh, we have lots of rocks and roots and ruts. But we have a lot of flow as well.

      The best way I’ve become a better rider, is to ride with people better than me. It’s an especially useful practice if you can find 1-2 people that you can ride with often, who will mentor your rides. But you are never the worst rider in the group. Unless you’re the jerk in the group. Which you’re not.

  3. Eric
    October 22, 2011

    I am “riding” 100% vicariously through your videos these days. Keep em coming.

    • Grizzly Adam
      October 22, 2011

      3:40am… I know what you are experiencing. We miss you at the races. But enjoy what you’re doing now. It won’t be long and it’ll be over. And then it’s on to the next phase. A new video is coming soon.

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