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Euphoria - when our 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 recognise the symptoms? I have to admit to having days like that when I was a courier, and occasionally on 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 slicing through rush hour traffic, filtering at high speed, overtaking through small gaps, running amber lights. Out of town I'd be zooming through bends, using big lean angles and engaging in 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.
This state of euphoria is a close cousin to, but not the same as, red mist. The problem is that what's happening to us usually only becomes evident after something scary or an obvious mistake snaps us out of it. Whilst red mist is characterised by obviously irrational behaviour - usually massive risk taking - in this euphoric state, we really believe we're doing our normal thing, but in reality we are eating much deeper into our safety margin - maybe even exceeding it.
The bad news is that it's almost addictive. And there's a massive temptation to push towards the limits and enjoy the buzz as nothing seems to go wrong whilst we ride quicker and quicker, closer and closer to the edge. But sooner or later we WILL push too hard and cross the line. So riding in this way and waiting for the big mistake to tell us that we were actually in over our heads isn't such a great idea.
Personally, I got to recognise the symptoms on those despatch jobs, and have been able to rein myself in before things get too out of control. I'd make a conscious decision to slow down, take a break or even turn off the radio and go home early!
One of the questions I ask myself as I ride is: "did that look dangerous to other road users?" If I have to say to myself: "yes, it probably did" then it's time to dial down the fun and head, rather more slowly, for home.
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