An interesting conversation ensued between a friend and I a couple weeks ago as we were in the car driving home from a ride. I mentioned how I was glad she was willing to ride with me again — at times in the past she said that she felt too out of shape to do so. We laughed, and she said something about feeling intimidated because of all the longer rides that I do. I explained that yes, I do long rides, but I am not an overly fast rider — in fact, I was having a hard time keeping up with her on our 1.5-hour rip around some local trails. My strength is in endurance, in holding a steady moderate pace for many hours at a time. And I love long rides, so I do them.

This got me thinking about the expectations that others have of us and the expectations that we place on ourselves, sometimes as a result of how we think we appear to the outside world.

When I first started riding, there were zero expectations. Of course I wasn’t going to be very good. No one expected me to be. I didn’t expect myself to be. I fell in love with riding bikes, and I did it a lot. I got better. Still, I didn’t feel like there was any assumption that I was of any particular level of skill or speed.

Then, I started writing about bikes, working for bike publications first as a freelancer and then full-time with Dirt Rag for a couple years. I started going to product launches and media events, mingling with others who were writing about the world of bikes, most of whom had been in the scene much longer than I had. I went from random chick who rides to someone who is supposed to know what they are talking about when it comes to riding. And as an extension of that, someone who is a strong and skilled rider. I worked for a mountain bike magazine, so I had to be a super amazing mountain biker, right? I suddenly felt like there were expectations to be met, and that I wouldn’t be taken seriously if I didn’t meet them.

The truth is, I had nothing to worry about. I am a strong and skilled rider. I know this. And really, as long as I’m having fun, what does it matter? But it’s hard to not get stuck in your head when you’re having an off day, or when you’re pushing as hard as you can and everyone is still leaving you in the dust. Though I don’t work for a bike publication full time anymore, I still feel like I have to live up to expectations, most of which now are self-created. I like to share my experiences on this blog and on Instagram, and I try to be as honest as possible in what I tell the world, but I know inevitably I’m creating a persona that may not be the full picture. Everyone creates an image of everyone else based on what they know about the person. Based on the bits and pieces that people know about me, what is my image? Considering that 90% of my posts are about riding bikes, I know a big part of that image is as an avid cyclist, one that is probably expected to be pretty fast considering how much I ride.

When I ride with new people and I’m having an off day or I’m just not able to keep up, I’ve found myself worrying that I’m not meeting the expectation that I am a strong rider, like perhaps people expect me to be better based on how much I ride or that fact that I do a lot of longer days in the saddle or go out in tough conditions. I worry that if I don’t meet those expectations, people will think I’m a poser or won’t invite me on the next ass-kicker ride because they think I can’t handle it. For the record, this has never happened (that I know of).

I find myself trying to alleviate any expectations with statements like I feel like crap today, I’m going to be really slow or you go first, I had a hard ride yesterday. Lots of times when I say these things they’re true — at least maybe not feeling my best or going for a hard ride the day before — but it’s interesting that so often I feel the need to express these thoughts before we even start to ride, as to erase any obligations and preemptively excuse myself if I can’t keep up with the rest of the group. The truth is, nobody I ride with would care or think twice about it if I was having an off day — it happens to everyone.

What’s the point of all this? I hope a realization of this psychological phenomenon will lead to a greater awareness of my thoughts and behavior, and eventually a letting go of expectations of myself and others. And to those of you who might be intimidated by me — don’t be. I’m just a very flawed human who likes to ride bikes a lot because it makes me feel okay with myself and the world.

15 Replies to “Expectations.”

  1. Very nice article. Your posts are encouraging and fun.

    I number of years ago, when I was just discovering mountain biking (and was only about65), Evan was a big help to me and got me fixed up with a fat tire for the front of my Karate Monkey. He no doubt did the same for you!

    Keep posting and riding—we appreciate you both!

    Sent from my iPhone



    1. Thank you, George! Yes, Evan absolutely did show me the joys of mountain biking — with a fat front! Those bikes and his encouragement got so many people into it. Such a gift.


  2. I agree with George and had a similar experience. You do have a knack for writing. I always look forward to reading your blog. You often hit the nail right on the head. I am an avid rider and often ride in the same areas that you write about. I have been following your writing since you wrote down your blog address for me on a napkin at Boxers.

    Evan also helped me out years ago when my front brake went out on my SS. I was in town for the week so I stopped by the shop and he was kind enough to lend me a brake set for the time I was there.

    Thank you both!!

    Please keep up the AWSOME job.


  3. Helena: Your thoughts about these issues apply to everything we do in life, both personal and interpersonal. If we worry about what others are thinking, we allow them to make our decisions. You are your most important person on the planet.

    Charlie Bierbach


  4. Hi Helena. I am in the same mid frame as you. Especially now that I am 65. I ride to ride another day and don’t take chances. Riding should be fun. My race days are long gone.

    I also wrote my blog to encourage folks to do things they might not ordinarily do. Especially those who are in or approaching the senior set. I like your blog and your adventures and hopefully you like mine. http://www.chroniclesofmccloskey.com

    Hopefully we can connect on a ride someday.


  5. Hi Helena. We are kindred spirits. I enjoy your blog and your post here. I ride to ride another day these days. I don’t take chances as I use MTB for fitness. As a 65 year old now, I post things in my blog that apply to folks who might want to start being more active. http://www.chroniclesofmccloskey.com

    Hopefully we can connect on a ride someday. My race days are long gone and I enjoy riding now. Well done on your thoughts and post.


    1. Thanks for reading! I do enjoy your blog as well. We keep finding ourselves in the same circles but have yet to meet in person… hopefully that changes sooner rather than later!


  6. I am slow. I feel like I will always make people wait. And that is a crap mindset to get sucked into. I need to just ride the ride and enjoy the ride. If someone doesn’t want to wait…thats cool. Ride on friend. If they wait…cool too. Cheers.


  7. Love this post! I’m slow…endurance is my strength also…I feel that as long as I have a great attitude and smile, my friends don’t mind waiting if I’m not having a strong day! I hope we can join you on some of your excursions this year! We love maps and finding new places too!! Keep on smiling!!


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