Fitspo is something that perhaps isn’t specific to cycling culture, but for those of us who enjoy health and fitness goals, it’s something that is hard to avoid in our technology-driven world. Being wary to the pitfalls and lure of what is essentially diet culture in a sports bra, I just roll my eyes if I stumble across any of these supposedly motivating quotes.

However, one day something came up which I felt was worthy of something more than a sigh and a scowl.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.”

It was Theodore Roosevelt that has been attributed to penning this sage advice. And it’s a little bit of advice I peddle out to both myself and other riders and athletes on occasion.

Unfortunately social comparison is one way we tend to determine our happiness.

Think you have the mother-of-all-shit super-hot bike? You know, that ultimate dream bike you saved up your tax refunds three years in a row to afford; it’s carbon, has some sick mid-level forks on it and an awesome drivetrain, let’s say mid to top of the range. Someone rocks up to your weekly trundle with a brand new boutique rig with electrickery all over it: top of the line suspension and the lightest and stiffest wheels ever. Sure, we still reckon our bike is pretty rad but suddenly it’s lost value in the presence of something better. We have devalued our own experience by comparison.

“It takes an honest, rational person to be able to think about our unconscious bias and admit when we are unduly comparing ourselves to others”

It’s not just things, the joy-thief of comparison can involve people, too. In a sporting situation the presence of comparison can strive us to be better than we are; we can aim higher to get fitter, faster, shredlier. However, this, too is risky, as we set ourselves up for failure when we achieve these great things and are still the same person on the inside (if expecting change), or are unable to attain the desired level of skill or fitness.

It can pertain to any part of bike riding; climbing, descending, wheelies, even physique and build are not exempt from comparison (and perhaps are the most obvious examples of it, being our physical presence).

It takes an honest, rational person to be able to think about our unconscious bias and admit when we are unduly comparing ourselves to others, and to realise the damage it can do to our own self esteem and social networks. It takes a lot of insight to be able to call out our comparison out and see if it’s being used for good or evil.

So next time the comparison comes out—perhaps the green eyed monster is raring its ugly head—try to remember two things:

1. How lucky we are to have the time and funds to be able to enjoy bike related leisure time, out in the bush! You’re reading a magazine which means you have enough disposable income to fund leisure items like print media.

2. We may not have the best bike, the best physique, the best VO2 max or the raddest skills, but gee whiz we are fortunate enough to know there are people suffering out there with cantilever brakes, unfit and huffing away on their first ride, with the worst genetic makeup for sport, and who can’t ride around a corner without laying it down.

Comparison in life is inevitable, but feeling bad because of difference can be avoided with some careful thoughts and tactics!

Words: Anna Beck    Photo: Matt Staggs