Going for a ride can mean different things to each person. For me it has always been a chance to explore and escape. Both physically and emotionally it has served as my vehicle of choice to ‘getaway’. Be it from a stressful day in the kitchen or exploring the hills and mountains that surround my home in Queenstown. My bike has got me above the clouds (metaphorically and literally) and let me clear my mind (and soul), being out in nature, doing what I love. That sense of freedom is something we all crave, from the anxieties and stresses of our daily lives, getting out on the bike has always been my cure. I consider myself lucky that I know what I love and what makes me happiest and also lucky that all I need is a bike and a trail to get there!
I have very recently discovered just how much riding means to me and how vital a part of my life riding is. I am the type of person who like to think on the move and preferably outside. I’m a pacer, a walking-on-the-phone kind of person. In times of trouble or stress I will take to the trails either running or riding. Breaking that sweat to break down the mental barriers. Let the unconscious mind solve the problem while the conscious mind is focusing on pushing the body. Earning my mental respite with a t-shirt drenched in sweat and legs trembling, looking up from a hard climb scanning my new horizon, high in the mountains, the cold wind on my sweating body is a sharp clarity through to my thought process. The fog of uncertainty is often cleared or at least put into perspective. A tiny, lone figure standing atop of hill ringed with towering snow-capped peaks the significance of my problems are brought in to clarity.
This is my system and it has worked well for me over the years, from job worries and stresses (of which being a chef that is pretty much the whole job) to girl and financial issues. The pedal strokes have been my slow, steady therapy, a counselling made of movement and exertion.
This system is being put to the absolute test at this moment. To wrestle with one of the very toughest of human emotions. Grief and shock have torn into my happy and sheltered life. My perfectly crafted and cared for bubble of peace has been dealt an almighty blow that words can’t begin to explain. As some of my readers know but most do not my brother Neil recently killed himself. Out of the blue for me and the whole family, his death has knocked the air out of me emotionally and physically. I felt literally breathless for weeks after. The coming to terms with this loss will be a constant struggle for the rest of my life. It has, and will, change me in ways I will neither know or fully understand. It is early days and I have no advice or insights at this time. A part of my life for the last 27 years has been cut short and there is no fix for this. All I know is one thing, I needed to go for a ride.
I flew home as soon as I could, 35 hours back to the UK to be with my family and to help with the funeral. I arrived at Manchester Airport to a text and an email from my airline saying they had lost my baggage. Although fair play to them it was only in Heatherow Airport which, considering I took 6 different planes to get there, I thought only losing one of the two was pretty good going. My main concern was which bag? The backpack filled with clothes or my bike box? Thankfully it was the clothes (which may I add, were then courier posted to my house the next day! Cheers British Airlines!) for the bike was my ticket to my inner sanctum.
My place of tranquility lay in that box. A jumbled collection of aluminium and steel wrapped in old towels and bubble wrap, ducttaped inside a big ass cardboard box. It had travelled halfway across the world to be my helping hand in my time of need.
I have got a great circle of close friends and family who have been absolutely amazing in helping my and my family through this time. I would like to thank them all from the bottom of my heart. Like I said early I don’t have any answers for anyone out there. I don’t know if this will help anyone out but that wasn’t my intention with this blog. All I know is that I have one way to deal with things and that is to ride. To get on that saddle and pedal into the beautiful wilds of this incredible planet.
So from now on, every ride I do, will be in memory of Neil Brindley 1984-2016 and I will continue to raise money for Mental Health.