I’ve had time to think about what is important when riding long days. Mostly while riding long days, there’s always time to think.
I’ve been trying to come up with a catchy moniker for it, and I reckon the 3 Fs is as good as it gets:
Fitness: A good base fitness is needed. Speed is unimportant unless you’re in it to win it, but you need to be able to keep cranking the miles in without pain or discomfort, for days on end. Think rides of longer than 12hrs, back to back, and you’re getting there.
Fortitude: a certain amount of mental strength is important. Experience brings this. The understanding that when you’re feeling negative, considering quitting, you’re most likely hungry. The acceptance that pain is part of the experience, that pushing beyond your comfort zone is normal, and that dragging your bike is just something you do.
Fortuity: The most tenuous F here, but the only one that means luck. Good fortune is important. A weather window, good kit and a bike that doesn’t break. A tailwind, arriving at a shop while it’s open or avoiding that stick on the trail that would have gone through your spokes. Finding a river crossing low, a bothy empty or bogwood dried out.
I’ve not mentioned what proportion of each is important as it’s a very dynamic relationship. I see each F as a point on a triangle, where compression of one point means the other two need to pick up. Lack of fitness? Hope for a lucky day and some mental strength to see you through. Broken bike? Be a tough bastard and walk/run your way out. Wanting to quit, you just need to hope you can keep riding through it…
If I was to estimate ideal proportions, I’d say 40% fitness, 50% fortitude and 10% fortuity for me. I’m a stubborn bastard who can keep biking for hours, but I do still need to rely on good fortune at times to see me through.
Just some ramblings from me…