Euphoria - when your riding is just too good to be true

I got thinking after I got an email from one of my regular correspondents:

"Riding home after work, I felt in the mood for 'pushing on' a bit. I was congratulating myself on the swift progress I was making through the traffic, some drivers seemed a bit more aggressive than usual, but, what the hell, that was all part of the fun. The 'prat' who pushed in too close to me and got a stare in return was just that, a prat. The close-ish encounters with traffic islands were just good timing, as was the manoeuvre to avoid the cyclist I spotted a bit late as I filtered rather wide and swiftly along the road.

"However, when I went through the red light I realised maybe I wasn't riding quite as well as I thought. Didn't realise, in fact, that the light was against me until half way across the junction. Luckily it was clear, because if it hadn't been I'm not at all sure I'd have realised."

He went on to say that perhaps after a stressful day at work he was a bit wound up.

Anyone else recognise the symptoms?

I have to admit to recognising them from my despatching days, and other rides too.

It used to hit me towards the end of a long day. Partly tiredness, partly boredom with doing what became as routine as any other job. I'd get into a groove. In town I'd find myself zooming through rush hour traffic, filtering at high speed, overtaking through small gaps, running amber lights. Out of town I'd be slicing through bends, using big lean angles and heavy braking. It wasn't as if I was in a rush to get somewhere either, in fact I'd feel more relaxed than normal. As the risky manoeuvre came off, I'd try them again for fun. It felt all so easy.

All TOO easy. I was in a state of euphoria. It's a close cousin to, but not the same as, red mist. The problem with both states is that what's happening only becomes clear after the event, or when something (usually an obvious mistake) snaps you out of it. Whilst red mist is characterised by obviously irrational behaviour - usually massive risk taking – in the euphoric state, you believe you're doing your normal thing, but in reality you are eating much deeper into your safety margin than normal.

At first it was the inevitable big mistake that snapped me out of it. After a while I got to recognise what was happening, and made a conscious decision to slow down or even take a break. When I realised I was actively seeking thrills, I turned the radio off and went home!

It can still happen when I'm out swinging through bends. Nothing seems to go wrong and I find myself riding quicker and quicker, closer and closer to the edge.

So now one of the questions I ask myself as I ride is: "did that look dangerous?" If I have to say to myself: "yes, it probably did" then it's time to knock the fun on the head for the day and head, rather more slowly, for home.