Exercise and Mental Health

We hear it everywhere; regular exercise is good for the body and the mind. There are the obvious physical benefits of exercise like gaining muscle mass, weight loss and increased stamina which are all valuable in improving the quality of life. But how does exercise benefit the mind and mental health exactly?

In the UK, approximately 16 million people suffer from a type of mental illness, that’s one-quarter of the UK’s population – a pretty significant proportion if you ask me. Mental health is such a broad term and because of that, it’s commonly misunderstood and previously considered a taboo topic. Mental health disorders can range from stress, anxiety and depression to PTSD, OCD, bipolar and personality disorders.

So how can exercise help with these serious mental health issues? And could it be a natural alternative to medication? We hear the term “exercise gives you endorphins” get thrown around as a very ambiguous answer, but what does that even mean? I’m not a healthcare professional and I can only share the information I’ve uncovered and speak from my own personal experiences. For more information on mental health, please consult your doctor or a qualified professional.

As you move your body and start getting the blood flowing quicker, your heart rate increases which trigger the brain to enter a “Fight or Flight” mode. The reason your brain does this is that exercise puts your body under stress which makes you release cortisol, the stress hormone. Another hormone that gets released is adrenaline, which is secreted by the adrenal gland, that is responsible for increased breathing, blood circulation and prepares your body for action.

At this point, your brain naturally tries to protect your body and to do this it releases a surge of Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor (BDNF). This protein is key for the maintenance and regeneration of nerve cells and memory neurons which is why we often feel a sense of clarity post work out, it’s because these memory neurons effectively “reset” themselves.

So where do these famous “endorphins” come into it? Consider these guys as your own personal brain stash of narcotics. Endorphins are produced by the pituitary gland and the spinal cord, and they are considered to be messengers between neurons. They are released under certain stimuli like stress, pain and fear, the same things your body goes through when exercising. In these circumstances, your brain releases endorphins to alter the chemical messages between neurons that results in a decrease in pain, discomfort and even provides a state of euphoria.

To summarise then: when we exercise we put our body under stress which causes a surge in the adrenaline hormone that increases our blood flow and heart rate. The brain tries to protect itself from this stress by releasing BDNF and endorphins. Between these two happy chemicals, they suppress pain receptors and help regenerate nerve cells and memory synapses. These two key chemicals are why we feel clear minded and euphoric after working out and help us deal with the pain and strain of our muscles, and this is why exercise can be addictive!

I mentioned earlier on that the stress hormone is known as cortisol. Despite being known as the stress hormone, cortisol also has some awesome benefits, one being that it is a strong natural anti-inflammatory. This is where Cortisone is derived from. However, the negative effects of cortisol strongly outweigh the positive ones. This hormone can cause the body to be more susceptible to illness and inhibit other chemicals being released into the body, one of these is being gonadotropins (sex hormones) and this is why people under a lot of stress can have a reduced libido.

Stress is usually the trigger for both anxiety and depression and symptoms can manifest themselves in a plethora of forms. This article isn’t to delve into those avenues, but to stay focused on the benefits of exercise. Studies have proven that an increase in BDNF, neuron growth and regeneration, significantly reduces levels of cortisol in the body, and although it sounds a little strange, putting your body under physical stress helps relieve mental stress!

Earlier I touched upon mental health, specifically depression and anxiety and I wanted to bring this into the article because it’s something I live with myself and have done so for a number of years now. Before I succumbed to the help of medication, I made a number of permanent lifestyle changes in an attempt to help deal with my dark passenger, one of which, cycling. There are many natural things you can do you to help relieve symptoms: like implementing a better sleep routine, better diet, socialising and of course… exercise!

If you’re still not convinced that regular exercise is good for your mental health, then here’s a whole list:

Happy Chemicals = Happy Mind!

Regular exercise produces adrenaline, dopamine, BDNF and endorphins. All these happy chemicals are key for reducing levels of the stress hormone, cortisol and help with the growth and regeneration of brain cells.

Energy Boost

When it’s wet and muddy, and when your muscles can’t even be bothered to get you out the front door… that is the BEST time to get out and ride it off! A burst of energy, happy chemicals and the satisfaction of giving those negativities the middle finger feels really good.

Confidence Building

Whether you gain confidence from learning a new trick on the bike, or beating your personal best, nothing feels better than improvement and it makes you feel really good to get better at something you work really hard for.

The same euphoric feeling can be attributed to those with weight loss and muscle gain goals! Seeing your body transform through exercise is another worthwhile reward. I know I’m a lot happier with my buns!

Can’t Sleep?

Regular exercise has been known to help overcome insomnia and improve your quality of sleep. Getting the blood pumping through the body and exerting your muscles is strenuous and tiring, and your body needs sleep to help repair and rebuild muscles after a workout.

Buddies!

Being sociable is part of human nature and whether you’re a lone ranger who likes to exercise with your own thoughts, or not. Meeting new people and having regular sociable interaction does wonders for your mental health because it acts as a distraction from your own thoughts, allows the opportunity to learn from others… even if it’s just a new trick, recipe or even relaxation methods.

Being sociable with people who share a common passion is brilliant and it’s a great way to build lasting friendships.

So there we have it! There are many reasons why regular exercise is good for our mind and body, and it’s important to take care of our mental health just as much as our physical health. So get outside, get on the bike, grab some friends and feel good!

Although, exercise is not the only thing you can do to improve your mental health. Some days, you won’t feel like moving a muscle and that’s totally ok – I sure don’t ride my bike every single day! For the days you don’t feel like doing much, make a plan for another time and instead, do something you want to do for yourself, like watch a trashy movie with a friend, take a bath and cwtch up with your cat (in my case anyway).

If you’re struggling with mental health issues, here are a few helplines that can help. Alternatively, make an appointment with your healthcare professional for further advice and guidance on medication.

Anxiety UK
Charity providing support if you’ve been diagnosed with an anxiety condition.
Phone: 03444 775 774 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5.30pm)
Website: www.anxietyuk.org.uk

Bipolar UK
A charity helping people living with manic depression or bipolar disorder.
Website: www.bipolaruk.org.uk

CALM
CALM is the Campaign Against Living Miserably, for men aged 15-35.
Website: www.thecalmzone.net

Depression Alliance
Charity for sufferers of depression. Has a network of self-help groups.
Website: www.depressionalliance.org

Mental Health Foundation
Provides information and support for anyone with mental health problems or learning disabilities.
Website: www.mentalhealth.org.uk

Mind
Promotes the views and needs of people with mental health problems.
Phone: 0300 123 3393 (Mon-Fri, 9am-6pm)
Website: www.mind.org.uk

No Panic
Voluntary charity offering support for sufferers of panic attacks and OCD. Offers a course to help overcome your phobia/OCD. Includes a helpline.
Phone: 0844 967 4848 (daily, 10am-10pm)
Website: www.nopanic.org.uk

OCD Action
Support for people with obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Includes information on treatment and online resources.
Phone: 0845 390 6232 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-5pm)
Website: www.ocdaction.org.uk

OCD UK
A charity run by people with OCD, for people with OCD. Includes facts, news and treatments.
Phone: 0845 120 3778 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)
Website: www.ocduk.org

PAPYRUS
Young suicide prevention society.
Phone: HOPElineUK 0800 068 4141 (Mon-Fri,10am-5pm & 7-10pm. Weekends 2-5pm)
Website: www.papyrus-uk.org

Rethink Mental Illness
Support and advice for people living with mental illness.
Phone: 0300 5000 927 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
Website: www.rethink.org

Samaritans
Confidential support for people experiencing feelings of distress or despair.
Phone: 116 123 (free 24-hour helpline)
Website: www.samaritans.org.uk

SANE
Emotional support, information and guidance for people affected by mental illness, their families and carers.
SANEline: 0300 304 7000 (daily, 4.30-10.30pm)
Textcare: comfort and care via text message, sent when the person needs it most: http://www.sane.org.uk/textcare
Peer support forum: www.sane.org.uk/supportforum
Website: www.sane.org.uk/support

YoungMinds
Information on child and adolescent mental health. Services for parents and professionals.
Phone: Parents’ helpline 0808 802 5544 (Mon-Fri, 9.30am-4pm)
Website: www.youngminds.org.uk

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 2, Part 1

Oh, no no no it’s not over yet…

All good things must come to an unexpected start…

I’m still here, you sadistic bunch of so-and-sos. Over the months, I’ve had numerous requests to stay single forever so I can keep writing about my dating misadventures. Well, I’m sorry to inform you, but I’ve met someone.

And yet, while even I thought that I’d stop writing about dating once I had gotten myself into a relationship, I feel that this is simply a new chapter in my big ol’ book of relationshipery. And with that, I’ve decided to keep this going, only now, you can laugh, cringe and cry at my anxious internal monologue as I blindly stumble to impress, woo and not fuck up a good thing – Poor guy.

Catch up on Chapter 1: Singledom

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 1 – An introduction to me, nude photos and two fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 2 – Intimidation, confidence and two more fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 3 – MTB Hoe Bags, dating jargon and more delightful fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 4 – Sex
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 5 – Find out what my ex’s say about me
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 6 – Is age really just a number?

The first four weeks of a relationship is crucial; The first date, the first kiss, the first time, the first fuck up… lots of firsts. Guess how many of those firsts I fucked up? More than one.

The First Date

So, what could be more obvious for a couple of mountain bikers than to go for a ride as a first date? With him visiting, the trails were home territory for me and a quick blast around a favourite trail of mine seemed a good way to ease into it.

Now, I’m not super fit or pretend to be any more of a rider than I really am so it was no surprise that he lapped me on climbs as his itchy pedal pins were aching for a proper session. As I tried to regulate my breathing and suppress the look of dying pain on my face as I pedalled harder, I was relieved to reach the top of the climb.

I offered him to hit the descent first because I knew following me would be like getting stuck behind a learner driver on the road without an option to overtake. He declined. Fuck.

So, I set off down the trail that I knew and loved, and then yep, I ate shit. Front wheel slipped from under me and I go somersaulting over the top with a hell of a landing. Pinned under my bike, I lay on my back, waiting for him to come get me and in that time, which felt like forever, I’m fighting back the adrenaline-fuelled shakes and stinging tears behind my eyes. I lay there, accepting what had happened and feeling like an utter twat and just wishing that the trail would open up and swallow me whole.

He pulls me up, sits me down and checks I’m ok. I’m not fucking ok. I managed to hold back the tears, smile it off and accept that shit just happens… to me… at the worst times. C’est la vie.

The First Kiss

I’m not really the most romantic of people. I don’t like grand gestures and anything that seems planned in any way. I like to just go with the flow with many things because I believe things are best when they happen naturally… so, how did I fuck this up so bad?

Still nursing my wounded pride and a sore body from the date-gate, a chilled evening on the couch watching films was the only thing on the agenda. Cosied up under a blanket, enjoying a cuppa, he was being warm and careful to not make me feel more stupid about stacking it in front of him, so when he sat forward, turned to me and leaned in… a rapid fire of “fuck, shit, oh god, now?” bombarded my head. I was caught off-guard and not expecting it to happen in that very instance, and so, my fuck or flight mode engaged and as he firmly pressed his lips to mine…

I blew a raspberry in his mouth.

Thanks, brain. Thanks.a.fucking.lot. I could immediately see the shock and shimmer of hurt glaze his eyes, and my heart sank. He stood up and walked off into the kitchen. I felt like such an awful human and I hated myself more than I had in a long time, but a tiny little cunt voice in me was laughing nonetheless. I followed him into the kitchen, tail between my legs, murmured an embarrassed apology and kissed him… properly. I could tell that I hadn’t totally redeemed myself and I’m not sure I ever will.

The First Time

I’ve already explained my fuck-or-flight theory on sex and how there are a lot of thoughts, emotions and feelings which culminate to form my final answer to, “Do I want to do this?”

Given my track record of the first date and the first kiss, the thought of possibly having sex with him was totally frustrating. Terrified I would inadvertently cock it up (haha), I almost didn’t want to put myself through the anxiety. But you know what it’s like, you’re in bed, you’re kissing, he looked amazing, felt lovely and then… sod it. If I fuck this up, I’ll apologise and go die of embarrassment somewhere after I’ve kicked him out, moved home and erased myself from social media existence.

And without the graphic detail, the no-pants-dance gets underway and all seems to be going well… until… he burns up red in the face, pulls out and walks out of the room. I shit you not, he just bailed on me leaving me lying on the bed like I’m at the gyno clinic, whilst he buggers off downstairs.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so hurt, confused and concerned in my life. Fuck it, I didn’t know what to feel so I just felt all the things. I tucked myself back into bed and whilst I can hear him coming back, my insecure chick-brain kicks in; “What did I do? Doesn’t he fancy me naked? Was this some head-fuck game? Payback even?” I panicked but told myself to just wait for an explanation before getting worked up.

He climbs back into bed and with an impossible silence between us, I asked what happened. Turns out, he overheated and made himself feel nauseous and needed a break – with that, we went to sleep.

Getting to know you

When it comes to dating someone new, it can be pretty exciting. Your mood is all up in the clouds and it’s like no other feeling out there. Your stomach turns with dancing butterflies, your mind wonders and relives moments you’ve already shared and you do think to yourself, could he be “the one”?

Then again… falling for someone and feeling all the feels in the world is fucking agonising. While you feel super stoked on your new beau, you’re often plagued by common thoughts like… Does he have skeletons lurking in the past? Are his intentions true? Do we want the same thing? Am I enough? Is he enough? And then there’s the whole past relationships conversation that you question whether you want to know about or not. In this instance, I’m at a major disadvantage because he’s followed my Dating Diaries in which I’ve shared a great deal.

And then there’s the fear of him finding out about things you’d rather hold onto for a little longer. Like how you have the dietary habits of a 5-year old, or how you like to watch cartoons in bed in the morning, how you have a fear of wind turbines, along with other historical negativities which ultimately made you the person you are now.

All of that. All of those emotions. All of those doubts and concerns. Fuck me, if I thought being single was hard, dating is changing the difficulty level to expert.

With so many more firsts to come our way, this won’t be the last entry, not by a long-shot.

Catch up…

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 1

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 2

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 3

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 4

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 5

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 6

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 6

Is age just a number when it comes to dating?

I’m back… well, I never really left. I’ve continued to ponder and wander the world of Singledom in shock and awe at the experiences and sights that have unfolded around me. The learning curve has been steep and harsh, but thrilling nonetheless, if not to learn about the dating world than to learn a little more about myself and my role within it. Here’s a wee recap of previous entries, in case you’ve missed one or are eager to relive the awkwardness…  

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 1 – An introduction to me, nude photos and two fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 2 – Intimidation, confidence and two more fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 3 – MTB Hoe Bags, dating jargon and more delightful fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 4 – Sex
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 5 – Find out what my ex’s say about me

When it comes to dating, is age really just a number?

It’s a natural thing for humans to default search for a mate around their own age, and why wouldn’t you? It’s easy to assume that you’d both be at a similar maturity level and be looking for similar things in life. A common unwritten rule is to date within a five-year age range of your own – or so I’ve heard – and yet, I know successful couples with at least a decade between them. So, do these couples prove the rule to be nothing more than bullshit, or are they just unicorn exceptions to it?

If I’m going to wander down “age avenue”, it’s only fair for me to disclose that I am 30 years old. I’m ok with that, despite how people have told me that it’s not ok to live alone with a cat at my age because people will talk – Thanks, Nana.

So, when it comes to dating, how important is age? And are we restricting the search too much when we set precise parameters that ultimately could cause you to miss out on Mr/Miss Right?

Why can’t I have my cake and eat it?

You know how they say; “Money – Work – Relationships” – you can only have one or two at any time but never all three? Well, you can apply a similar anecdote to dating as well. We all seek different things but for me, it’s roughly the following:

“Personality – Looks – Age – Location” – I’m only allowed two.

I’ve met awesome potentials who I’ve fallen for… but they live forever away. Or someone who’s a total fittie with a body like wow, but utterly thick as shit. Someone who’s charming and yet, wonderfully inappropriate. It’s so goddamn frustrating!

It’s Tick Tock in the Egg Shop                                   

Being a 30-year-old woman, living on her own with her cat, it’s often assumed that I’m looking to bake up some mini-humans. I’m getting on. I’m a woman in decline and, obviously, I must have the need to replicate myself in a child form because my eggs are dying. It’s fine, I can see why some people would think that, after all, in a relatively short period of time, the norm went from women having children in their early twenties, to now, where women are having their first child later on in life – hurray for feminism.

Personally, I’m not thinking that far ahead. While having a family one day would be nice because let’s face it, mini-me’s would be sick as shit, it’s not really on my radar right now. I love riding my bike, I’m passionate about my career and I’m not even sure I’m responsible enough – keeping Gomez happy, healthy and alive is a genuine daily achievement.

The other assumption that I’ve found of women over 30 is that we’re more experienced and we know what we want, and dare I say it, we’re more stubborn? I don’t think that’s the case though. Of course, being alive on this planet will give us some more life experience over say, a perky 20-year-old, but the term “experience” is vastly broad in itself. If anything, I’ve chilled out a great deal over my twenties and all the petty drama and bullshit that went with it, I now just don’t fucking care. So how does this all translate into the dating world?

Toy Boy or Sugar Daddy?

When it comes to the age of a potential partner, I rarely ask. Unless it’s plastered on their social media profile or it comes up in general conversation, I kinda like not knowing their age because I don’t want to fall into a stereotyping trap of; “oh, you’re 21 so you must be too immature for me” … or, “oh you’re so much older than me, you’re nearly dead”.

And this leads me neatly into some dating success stories – ish – of sorts.

Mr. 9 years my junior

Admittedly, I didn’t know this guy’s age until it was too late and I found out he was 9 years younger than me. I was a little surprised and quickly questioned the actions that were most definitely going to happen that night, and yet, why should I have cared how much younger he was if there was attraction? He was single, legal and consensual after all…

Despite the banter, jokes and young lad front, this guy had somewhat of a level head on his shoulders and beneath it all, I fleshed out some non-dickhead qualities. We had some pretty alright dates in some nice places… so, what was the catch?

Firstly, from the aforementioned list, the location box was most certainly not ticked. He was also somewhat of a ghoster. Whether he knew it and he was being a cock, or he didn’t know it because he was naïve, I don’t know but its behaviour such as this that came across uncertain and inexperienced with communicative etiquette.

Mr. 6 years my junior

What started as a casual friendship later evolved into a little bit more. I couldn’t really fault him; nice, caring, attractive… His company was easy going, which is good, right?

Now, I know the term “man-child” applies to a majority of men to a varying degree, but I very quickly began to feel like more of a mother in some ways with an increasing sense of dependency on me. I like my space, I like me-time and sometimes I like to just hang out with Gomez and be left alone.

While he was the total opposite of a ghoster – with incessant messaging – he didn’t do anything wrong. He was killing me with kindness, smothering me with it. I know, I probably sound like such a cunt but to me, a good relationship is when two individuals come together, with the keyword being individuals. You both maintain your own lives, friends, hobbies and freedom, none of which should be binned off entirely for someone else – obviously, compromises are made.

Mr. 3 years my junior

What started out as a confident personality, oozing self-assurance and focus soon began to crumble away to an extremely immature nature. I don’t mean immature in a silly joking way, but in an emotional way.

It was like, on paper, this guy seemed to have his shit together, be relatively independent and quite content in life having worked hard to earn what he had and still maintained a drive to achieve more in life. I liked that. However, after a few trivial things occurred – dear God, I cannot tolerate liars – he couldn’t handle being wrong, being proved a twat and most of all, getting caught. Personal constructive criticism was a no-go and a truly childish hobgoblin reared its ugly head. I quickly come to the realisation that the qualities I first found attractive were nothing more than a façade and behind it was just a little boy playing grown-up. Fuck that drama, I was out.

Mr. 18 months my senior

From the outset, the location box was most certainly unchecked with his residence being in fucking Narnia. Because I knew this straight up, I told myself to just enjoy the new phone-friend I had to fill the empty nights with, and that was going to be that. Until the inevitable subject of meeting up came to fruition. Fuck.

Fuck, because this entity living on my phone suddenly became a real person and the trek from Narnia was, to me, a considerable effort to burst the cyber bubble. Before a plan was hatched, a direct and mature conversation took place to establish boundaries and to thwart any intent.

His visit to the real world was met with nerves that quickly settled as boundaries were most definitely respected, awkwardness subsided and with no hint of guilt or resentment to add a bad taste in my mouth. Our lagged digital relationship translated seamlessly into the real world and relief, intrigue and feelings of want began to inhabit. A wonderfully refreshing and rarely experienced circumstance that I pondered; was this the behaviour of a more experienced older man or simply, a characteristic of a good human?

What is a dating success though?

I used to think that a dating success would ultimately result in a relationship. Either my standards of the term “success” have significantly plummeted or I’ve broadened my perspective of the notion – let’s go with the latter, shall we?

Success can take many forms in the realm of dating. Obviously, it could result in meeting “the one” or it could be as simple as plucking up the courage to message someone first. For me, I’ve come to find that success can be just having a really nice chat with someone who actually takes an interest in me.

Success is that sickening bravery it takes to hit the send button of a message you’ve rewritten several times to someone you’re making the first move on. It can be asking someone out on a date and just being stoked with yourself that you were brave enough for the briefest of moments to ask.

Success is whatever (or whoever) ignites a nervous excitement as slumbering butterflies in your stomach begin to stir. Even if that string of flirtatious messages goes nowhere at all, it’s nice, it brought you pleasure, hope and optimism that you won’t be alone forever – as so many of us singletons fear. For me, I find these little wins confidence inspiring, even if they fizzle out, it was nice whilst it lasted.  

So, when it comes to dating, does age matter? Well, yes and no. I think it’s safe to use age as an indication but not much more than that.

We all come from different walks of life with varying upbringings so it isn’t surprising that a 19-year-old could be ten times more mature and focused than a 32-year-old, or that an older man could be so inexperienced with women that he trembles like the heart of a hummingbird under your touch.

What I’m trying to say is, fuck age. Expand your dating search parameters and just enjoy those who give you washing-machine tummy (that’s a legit medical term… maybe), after all, almost all the men that I’ve had the pleasure of talking to, haven’t even felt the tip of the dick of life.

Up Next…

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 2, Part 1

Catch up…
MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 1

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 2

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 3

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 4

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 5

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 5

“Why are you single, what’s wrong with you?”

Before you feed your greedy eyes with Part 5 of my dating misadventures, are you up to date with all the crazy happenings? If not, here’s a quick recap:

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 1 – An introduction to me, nude photos and two fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 2 – Intimidation, confidence and two more fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 3 – MTB Hoe Bags, dating jargon and more delightful fuckwits
MTB Dating Diaries: Part 4 – Sex

Ok, so I know I ended Part 4 with a bit of a teaser regarding “successful” dates that I’ve had but I’m still shaping that feature so, I figured it more important to first dig deep and pick open some old emotional wounds.

Reflection is a good thing. Taking a step back to look at your life; is it going where you want it to? If not, why not? And, how can you change this? I’ve come to realise that while I can ponder these things tirelessly, I won’t have the right answers and can only hazard a guess at many of my own life’s mysteries.

“Why are you single?”

Perhaps the most common question I’ve been asked is; “Why are you single?”

Well, if I knew… I probably wouldn’t be single. I also don’t like how this question comes with a negative undertone which is delivered in such a way that it implies there’s something wrong with me. Why isn’t it just okay to be single? I’m probably single for the same reason that many other singletons are single, just haven’t found the right one yet.

I’ll admit, however, that this question did get me thinking; “what am I like as a girlfriend?” and “is there something wrong with me?” – Instead of looking within myself which would undoubtedly yield a bias conclusion of; “Nah, I’m fucking awesome“, I decided to do something in a momentary lapse of sanity and contact my ex-boyfriends to ask them. I know what you’re thinking but in the name of research, dating dedication and curiosity, I ran with my wild idea. So, let’s hear it for these valiant ex’s of mine who chose to take part – bravo!

Lee – “I have no idea why you’re single… but dating you was always a thrill, it was always interesting. You weren’t an arsehole, you were stubborn, but not an arsehole.”

Stubborn – how very dare he?

Joe – “ I think you were always looking for something. It’s like you weren’t content so you were oddly materialistic. You were caring and needy, but who isn’t at that age? I have no negative memories. I didn’t think dating you was hard work, we had fun but we’re both just very different people.”

This is true. Doesn’t matter how much you love someone, if you’re not right for one another, it won’t work

Adam – “I don’t think you were a cunt during the relationship but I do think it had a bad dynamic. At around 17, you think you’re all grown up and adult… We were both in generally bad head spaces when we were together… getting out of Switzerland, high-school and all that associated bullshit probably weighed a lot on the relationship”

Oh, those high-school first loves.

Annon – “I think there were times in the relationship where I felt like I didn’t know who you were, you could act out of character or be very cold towards me… over time this had an accumulative effect. Also, I felt that even though you said you had forgiven me [for stuff] it had been brought up at later dates and ultimately, I felt it was always looming over me seemingly indefinitely.” – yea, that’s true.

Cons: You would close yourself off or not be fully open about things – If you were in a bad mood it would cause tension in the room, but if you were in a good mood you could make everyone happy and brighten their day – You can be stubborn, where we would end up at a stalemate.

Pros: You have a great capacity for kindness, and you can be very thoughtful – You were very helpful and with most things in my life, you would get involved and find the best way of doing it… working as a team together and always fully investing yourself into what you do – You were fun to be with. I remember all the fun things we used to do and be silly and laugh, it did genuinely feel like I’d had the best times with you.

I can’t argue with any of that.

Just for good measure, I asked my sister for her unwavering brutal honesty in the matter by naming three pros and three cons about me, here’s what my dear sister said:

Cons: can be insensitive and harsh with banter – not overly feminine – stubborn

Pros: strong – independent – decisive – easy going – up for a laugh

So when my sister says I’m insensitive and harsh with banter, it’s because I have virtually no filter. Something pops into my head and I say it, usually followed by a gasp and immediate apology, but it’s hard to keep a lid on these naturally occurring, and hilarious, burns.

So, what have I learnt from all this?

Well, there appears to be a reoccurring theme around stubbornness being a problematic trait of mine. Now, this doesn’t shock me as such, but I always considered this aspect of my personality to be more “head-strong” rather than stubborn; a need to defend myself and/or stick up for myself. I’ve now realised that perhaps, my desire to be right is not as important as the need to be fair. That’s some serious food for thought…

Another thing that I’ve taken away from this insightful insanity trip is that each of these relationships occurred at various stages of my life with an ever (d)evolving maturity level and a need to find my own self… as cliché as that may sound. 

I can’t say whether I would recommend contacting your ex-partners for some personal insight, but I think I came away relatively unscathed. Phew!

Next time, I promise to attempt to talk about the successful dates… but I’ve found that to be just as difficult, if not more so because they come with their own web of entanglement, mixed messages and general what-the-fuck-is-going-on-ness.

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 6

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 2, Part 1

Catch up…
MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 1

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 2

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 3

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 4

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 4

It’s all about sex, baby…

Fear not, your loveless warrior is still here. Heroically surviving the insipid realm of dating. I use the word surviving in a way that depicts a lazy walrus flopped on a block of ice, bobbing around on the water’s top… because my current dating mood is “meh”.

If you’ve not done your homework and you’re a little behind on my dating adventures, then stop right there and play some catch up:

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 1

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 2

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 3

Right – good to carry on? Let’s go then…

Let’s talk about sex, baby

I’ve come to learn that for many people, sex is a big part of dating and I don’t mean after you’ve been on a date or few, but even in the precursory stages of just messaging someone new. Now, flirting with someone you fancy is fairly natural, even I attempt to flirt in my own awkward way, but flirting to me is not trying to engage someone is full blown sexting, asking for nudes or anything so vulgar that would cheapen the delirious buzz of getting closer to someone you like – I know I sound soppy but fuck it.

Admittedly, I’m somewhat of an “over-thinker”. I’ll think about a situation and every possible outcome of that situation as a means of, let’s call it, mental preparation. I know this is a stupid thing to do; waste time and energy pondering fictitious scenarios which may (often don’t) come to fruition but I also can’t help it. Now, sex is one of my most overthought areas because it very directly, and intimately, affects someone else. With traditional dating concepts going out the window, sex seems to be very readily available and, quite frankly, it’s lost a lot of what makes it so great… There’s even an app for easy hook-ups now making getting laid easier than ordering a pizza, for fuck’s sake!

At the end of the day, we’re animals; we survive, we procreate, we die. However, unlike a vast majority of the animal kingdom, humans have sex for pleasure which throws our society into chaos. Sex is great, sex has consequences, sex (for many of us) is emotional – A recipe for disaster or the greatest love story ever told?

So let’s say you meet someone and the attraction is there, the butterflies are making you weak, your skin prickles as your hands tremble and you just think “oh God, please kiss me you fucking fuck”.

And then they do. Now, providing they haven’t fallen into a coma from your incredible lip-locking capabilities, how does one handle what may or may not happen next? Beyond the kissing hurdle comes the question “How far do I want to take this?”. My thought process goes into hyperdrive and it spews out crap from my eejit of a brain because if I do want more than a make-out session, what are the risks to my emotions, my reputation and theirs.

The Internal Monologue of the Anxious Mind: Is it too soon? – Fuck it – Will I be another notch on his bedpost? – What underwear am I wearing? – Will he tell all his mates? – Will this give me a bad rep? – Does he like me too much or not enough? – Have I shaved? – Do I like him enough? – What is this?! – Yes – No – YES – NO – ARGH!

Fuck or Flight

It’s extremely hard to turn down something you really want, especially when it’s within (or in) your grasp. It’s at this point my overactive anxious mind enters a cranial war with my animal instinct.

For someone who likes to indulge in things they enjoy, sex is the one thing I’m most reserved about because I would rather go without, then risk hurting someone or open myself up to be hurt. I’m not embarrassed to say that I want them to want me for more than a lay, more than a body, more than an opportunity, but these things are rarely discussed nowadays and social media has made sure that we’re almost too afraid of expressing our emotions. It’s like the “dating language” I tried to decipher previously, if you even attempt to ask what/if you’re both a “thing” too early, it can set off alarm bells because suddenly you’ve forced them to face reality and that reality is “Bro, you may be about to do a shitty thing here”… and no one wants to be a cunt.

So, there I am, locking lips with a handsome man and I’m not in the moment as much as I want to be because this worrisome brain of mine is battling carnal forces beyond my control. And that’s a perturbing thought in itself, that the primitive pleasures which lay before me are so powerful that my animal instinct ignites and the vulnerable excitement weakens any rational thought.

And as his hand snakes past the point of no return. I succumb… Consequences schmonsequences.

Post-Coital Conundrum

And now what? The (oh so very) lucky guy has seen me naked. Seen me in my most vulnerable state and regardless of how brief or lengthy the encounter was, the result is still the same.

Ok, so “shame” maybe a little far fetched but a sudden wave of worry consumes the post-coital euphoria; “What did that mean?”. A new name on the rap sheet brings me one step closer to embodying that all too familiar tar of an MTB Hoe Bag. Now, I’m careful of my feelings and I’m pretty cautious, so to think my defences have been thwarted by some fittie with a silver tongue, concerns me along with the possible heartache that may be waiting.

For someone who’s usually very open and direct with people, even I get caught up in the fear of having my feelings hurt, and hurting someone else. When it comes to sex, you’re never going to really know what the other one is thinking and sometimes, when you do pluck up the courage to ask, you get a well-rehearsed few lines to throw you off their true intentions; “I’m not like that” – “I’m not that kinda guy” but I really hope that isn’t the case though…

It’s not all bad though…

As I’ve opened myself up and entertained you with my misery business, I’ve been harbouring a little secret and that’s a minor success in my dating life.

I’ve not only met or spoken with dickheads but I’ve also had a couple of successful dates, or so I think they were successful. I didn’t end up crying or regretting them, so that’s most definitely a positive. Right?

I think I’ll keep you on tender-hooks until the next instalment before I divulge any more information though as I’ve discovered that with success comes even more Why’s and What-the-Fucks.

As I make my way through single-life, I’ve met some charming fellows, dabbled in modern-day dating techniques, been confused and left feeling like the prospect of being a crazy cat lady isn’t so bad after all.

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 5

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 6

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 2, Part 1

Catch up…
MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 1

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 2

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 3

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 3

Having more questions than answers is never a good thing…

It’s ironic for me to call this series “MTB Dating Diaries” because as you can see from Part 1 and Part 2, I’ve not actually had a real date-date. I’ve been bailed on, lied to, confused and enticed in by work affairs, that I’ve not really ever been on a real “first date” before. Ever.

MTB Women are hoe bags

 No,  Micayla Gatto  is not a hoe bag! - Check out the
No, Micayla Gatto is not a hoe bag! – Check out the “Ferda Girls” video here

It goes without saying that there are far fewer women in mountain biking than men.

To draw upon the current social stigma associated with men vs. women and dating, women come off far worse for wear. A girl who sleeps with 100 people will be viewed far more negatively than a man who sleeps with the same number.

In MTB, women certainly have a disadvantage when it comes to dating, and with the MTB community being so small and cliquey, every fucker knows your business. We all hear gossip and rumours about who is seeing who, who’s been with who and from all the crap I’ve heard, it’s rarely the men who get the bad rep for it.

For those of us who just want to meet a nice rider guy, we look within the MTB pool of potentials. Yet, if one relationship doesn’t work out, you return to the same pool and try again. But, because that pool has such a skewed ratio of men: women, if a woman then goes out with another rider, and another, the woman begins to build up a rap sheet because there are so few of us, which sucks because we’re not sleeping around, we’re just doing what many of us do when single – looking for, dare I say it, love.

While I’ve heard MTB dating rumours, I personally, don’t care who’s doing who. The reason I’ve decided to write about this particular aspect is that more than one of my male friends have said it’s something they themselves have considered when dating an MTB woman. “Who’s she been with that I know?” – “How many has she been with in this scene?” etc… But, don’t we all wonder that at some point?

Dating Language

If you ask a guy out – you’re too keen
If you say you’re excited to meet a guy – you’re desperate
If you say you miss him – you’re needy
If you don’t want to send nudes – you’re boring/prude
If they’re ill and you show sympathy – you’re gay
If they’ve not messaged you back for ages and you check in to see if they’re ok – you’re clingy
If you tag them in a social media post – you’re going too fast

Fuck me for having normal human emotion. Just because I wanna hang out with you or I show an interest in you, DOESN’T mean I want to marry you, have your babies and lock you down as my own personal possession.

MTB Dating Diaries: Part Three

As you may have read in part 1 and part 2, I’ve not been all that lucky when it comes to meeting nice guys and going on actual dates. My faith is being well and truly tested and subsequently, dwindling…

*To protect the identity of these persons, I’ve omitted their names and I won’t name them so please don’t ask me*

The Undecipherable

Ok, so this next bit is about another MTBer. I can’t really say what it was exactly, but he piqued my interest. He made me laugh and there was something about him which left an impression. Ok ok, I saw him topless and Goddayum.

Social media conversation ensued and it was a long slog of analysing responses to see if there was anything to pursue; if he liked me and if I could be bothered. Until he broached the subject of buying me a drink. Ok, I thought, why not? His emotionless and infrequent messages were hard to decipher but a date was on the cards nonetheless.

A few days prior to this date, his entire demeanour did a one-eighty. Messages got cocky, sexual and it didn’t even sound like him. I’m pretty sure he thought sex was a sure thing, until I foiled his plan to sleepover (basically, I said no) and he cancelled the date with a half-arsed excuse. Charming.

This sucked because after however many weeks of regular messaging, to have been blown off at the last minute… hurts like a motherfucker.

The Flake Returns!

So remember The Flake from part two and how he dropped off the face of the earth?

Well, I stopped giving a fuck after his weird and aloof behaviour until out-of-the-blue he sends me a message about something I had posted on social media, where he followed up the message by apologising for “going quiet” on me. He said he wanted to make it up to me… hrm, ok.

I reminded him that it wasn’t cool to treat people the way he had and he was a dick. I showed mercy and a pleasant conversation ensued… until he asked if I wanted a nude photo of him – I said no.

And then maybe 24 hrs later… he goes quiet again. Pfft, what the fuck is up with people?

The Tidbits

Of course, there have been other men who have wormed their way into my inbox and as I always say, first impressions count… yet, if you fuck it up, I’m pretty lenient with second impressions – I know I don’t always make the best first impression of myself, that’s for sure!

However, send me an unsolicited dick-pic, and no. Send me “Hi, Can I take you on a date?”, and no. Ask me for a job, no. Ask me for some free kit, no. If we’re total strangers, talk to me about stuff, give a conversation a chance and go from there. Don’t send me a photo of your half naked body and be like “fancy this?” – what the shit.

My other pieces of advice would include; Not having a girlfriend that you’re “in the middle of breaking up with” – Not asking me for nudes – Not being arrogant or cocky about how you could so easily pull me – Not to try and get a rise out of me through jealousy over women, because grow the fuck up.

As my confidence and faith levels dwindle somewhat, I’m trying to keep a positive outlook on things. Is it really so hard to find a nice guy who wants to go on bike adventures and watch cartoons in their underwear with me?

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 4

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 5

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 6

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 2, Part 1

Catch up…
MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter1, Part 1

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 2

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 2

And the sobering journey continues…

Right, so I’m single and if you’re not up to speed with my dating adventures, you can catch up by reading Part 1 of my MTB Dating Diaries here. If you’re eager to continue on this runaway freight train of confusion with me, then please do take a seat, get comfy and enjoy the scenery.

Intimidation game

When it comes to deciphering fuckboy messages and trying to fathom the complex inner workings of man, I often consult boy-friends to serve as interpreters. After part 1 was published, I chatted with a friend of mine and I learnt something that never occurred to me before…

Social media has effectively constructed a social hierarchy – a popularity contest if you will. How many likes your posts get, how many followers you have and the tone of comments you receive all come together to formulate an associated value to your profile. In my case, I’ve amassed a number of followers across social media and this, apparently, can work against me when it comes to dating. According to my male source, this social popularity can intimidate men – or, so I’m told.

I use social media to keep in contact with friends and family, to post things about bikes and to brag about the majestic Gomez Thunderpaws… I most definitely do not live my life like the final days of Caligula nor pretend to be anything that I’m not. I don’t validate myself by a number of likes, comments and dick pics that come my way, so it seems unfair to think that I’m falling at the first hurdle by something so silly and beyond my control.

With this in mind, I welcome opinions on whether you yourself are intimidated, or put off potential partners based on their social media standing.

The confidence bluff

From my experience, most men have said they like confident and smart women who have their own independence in life. Yet, if you’re too confident or too smart, then you run the risk of scaring men away. Similarly, if you stand your ground in a given situation, suddenly your strong mind becomes an “attitude problem” – Someone explain this to me, is there a balance that I’m missing here?

In my line of work, I talk to a lot of men and it has really improved my confidence so that I can fight off the socially inept hermit that resides within me. However, despite the practice, I’m far from smooth when it comes to talking to men that I’m interested in. Two things can happen when trying to talk with a handsome man; word vomit or silence. This is where social media messaging really helps me out as it gives me the luxury of time to consider an appropriate response.

Confidence is perhaps one of the most difficult things to gauge. Too much confidence comes across arrogant and cocky, which for me, is off-putting. However, confidence is an attractive quality and getting the balance right is extremely hard, for both sexes.

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 2

Here you’ll read about two individuals who both suck but for very different reasons…

To protect the identity of these persons, I’ve omitted their names and I won’t name them so please don’t ask me.

The Holy-shit-what-was-that Guy

In this industry, a business meeting for me can be in an office, at a coffee shop or on a bike ride so it’s not uncommon for me to meet up with bike-heads like this.

A certain individual approached me under a work pretence and so we arranged to meet at a café to talk about some products. However, from the get-go, I knew this was different. His quiet voice, his lack of eye-contact and entire demeanour oozed nervousness, which in turn made me nervous because I quickly realised that this wasn’t really about work.

The tea was flowing and with conversation largely comprised of bike stuff, nerves apparently began to settle, on both sides of the table. With a pleasant enough goodbye, we parted ways and that was that.

…like fuck was it. Shortly after “work-date-gate”, I began receiving messages about our meeting and more personal than what I’d expect from something that started out so seemingly business. “I like your accentYou’re so interestingWhy are you single?Why did your ex dump you?” – thanks for that, prick. Later on, his side of the messages would take on a more sexual tone, to which at first, I thought was nothing more than his awkward attempt at humour, which went from “I’m in a hotel room full of riders and horny for you“, to, “I’d love to tie you up in the back of my van“.

Weeks passed before we met again, only this time it was with a different perspective and I felt more mentally prepared. You might be thinking, “why did you meet up with him again?” – well, I always give people the benefit of the doubt I guess.

As expected, his quietness returned and there was no trace of Mr Hyde lurking beneath his true Jekyll-facade. One alarm bell rang out to me though, and that was his obsession with money, and telling me just how much he had sat in his bank account.

Now, I couldn’t care less about how much money you do or don’t have, or what your job is. So long as you’re happy in life with what you do, and you earn enough to support yourself – sweet.

Perhaps my lack of enthusiasm for his ability to make it rain in cash then spurred on his genius idea to take me away for a few weeks; anywhere in the world, it was dealers choice. Not wanting to seem rude with my “hell the fuck no” instant reaction, I simply said, “That’s so lovely of you to offer, but it’s not realistic“.

At the end of work-date-gate-part-deux, we walked back to the parking lot where we said our goodbyes, only for him to blurt out “Can I have a kiss?“, to which I couldn’t contain my rudeness and just said “no“. With that, I very swiftly walked back to my car, got in, and drove away.

Afterwards, I politely declined his text advances. I wasn’t interested in anything more and some things hadn’t settled right with me. After his persistence and him saying, “…but I want you to be my girlfriend“, my patience withered. Despite my genuine attempt to be kind and tactful to let him down, his messages soon became cruel and insulting as he bombarded me with abuse and lies to get a rise out of me. He found himself blocked and deleted shortly after.

… only to come back via a different platform of communication, begging for forgiveness, and asking me to allow him the chance to make it up to me. I said no. This was followed by some more shitty abuse before it finally stopped and ties were cut. Phew!

The Flake

So, I thought I had found a guy with the same dark sense of humour as me and we hit it off – well, he found me, I think. I can’t remember because, after however many months of being socially connected online, we’d only ever shared comments here and there.

Out of the blue, a proper conversation sparked up, and through insulting flirtations and the ability to out-creep one another, I discovered that we not only shared passions for the same bizarre stuff but even felt similar about more thought-provoking topics on culture and dating – funnily enough.

Anyway, he asked me out and given my previous encounter with The Clueless, I confirmed that this was to be a real date. Due to busy schedules, the exact date of the date proved problematic to pinpoint but we narrowed it down to a range of days we were both free, with the finer details to be made nearer to said time.

In the lead-up to the date, we exchanged messages about this and that with both parties seemingly excited for the eventual date. All the while I could feel myself falling for this guy but knowing I was foolish to do so seeing that I’d never met him in real life, but I felt a connection was there based on personality alone. It was at this point that my chick-brain kicked in and I paniced.

With banter and creepiness turning increasingly sexual in nature, but still quite funny and light-hearted, I feared he was only interested in sleeping with me, to which he said he most certainly wasn’t and that he “wasn’t like that“. Oddly enough, he then confessed he only asked me on a “mate’s date” and nothing more. Ouch, and what does that even mean?

Messages slowed down after that and even though he still spoke of the date, when it came to setting a day in place, he said he couldn’t make it and maybe another week would be better… of course, without actually rearranging. Double Ouch.

I gave it a few days before the confusion got the better of me and I messaged him to find out what the hell had happened. Why the sudden flake out? He came back with a seemingly legitimate reason which I accepted and empathised with, only when I suggested a new idea for a date that would compromise with his reason, it was ignored and so, I dropped it and conversation ceased.

I respect honesty above anything else, even if it’s not what I want to hear… but guys and girls, don’t ask someone out, take it back, bail on a date without good reason or totally lead them into something under false pretences and expect a relationship from it.  If you’re not sure then be honest about it because you don’t realise the hurt you can cause someone by keeping them in a perpetual state of uncertainty.

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 3

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 4

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 5

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 6

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 2, Part 1

Catch up…
MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 1

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 1

I refuse to suffer this alone so I’m taking you with me…

*Reader discretion is advised; excessive use of the word “fuck” with some full-frontal nudity*

With the bitter-sweet contagion of the world wide web, the whole dating concept has become somewhat warped where all pre-conceived notions and ideologies have been well and truly digitally fucked.

The modern-day language of social media has left many of us singles puzzled as to whether there is any underlying subtext behind a message, and if there is a truer meaning clinging on to every like follow request and read receipt. While social media has done wonders for connecting the world, it has also complicated an already complex tangle of emotions associated with dating.

Know Thyself

 Hello, my name is Jessica Strange and I'm a single as fuck
Hello, my name is Jessica Strange and I’m a single as fuck

I’ve learnt that to know what you want, you have to know yourself.

A couple of years ago, I was in a long-term relationship which was so intense with emotion that it was unhealthy. I lost myself within the toxicity and my very identity gave way to its consumption.

Since that train wreck ended, I’ve had a blast rediscovering myself, the things I like, the beliefs I have and, all in all, it’s really chilled me out not having to think of and for another in fear of being “not good enough”.

My journey to self-re-discovery has been confidence inspiring, to say the least, and knowing what I do about myself, and feeling pretty comfortable with that, I’m ready to find my partner in crime – an Eddie to my Richie… a Tango to my Cash… a John McClane to my hangover.

Now that I have a pretty good idea of who I am, what am I looking for and where do I start?

“Foxy Stoat Seeks Pig”

I’ve never been on a dating site. The notion of online dating has always made me feel uneasy. Perhaps it’s because I’m old-fashioned and I like to meet someone through more organic means, or perhaps it’s owing to the trashy viral click-bait horror stories that I can’t seem to avoid.

Saying this, however, I’ve heard some great stories about online dating, even within the MTB community and with those few success stories, I thought; “fuck it” and I signed up to Tinder.

I think I was on there for all of ten days before deleting it. Fuck that.

Swiping through a series of faces felt like walking the halls of an endless library. Overwhelmed by potential options with shitty blurbs that didn’t reel me in, Tinder did teach me one thing, what I didn’t want. Working and playing in the cycling industry, it’s safe to say that bikes dominate a significant proportion of my life. I need someone who at least understands that, and yea, it’d be cool to date a guy who’d want to go on rad adventures with me from time to time.

Send nudes

I can’t honestly work it out; perhaps men are more fragile than I give them credit for and simply don’t know how to talk to women, or maybe they think we really want nothing more than to see a strategically angled photo of their genitals? Please, if you know the answer, enlighten me.

If I’m asked for nude photos, I have a selection of favourites I choose from including my cat, my cat’s butt, myself dressed as a cat (not the sexy kind), photos of me IN clothes (quelle horreur), or hideously vulgar photos of train-wreck porn-stars which I find from Google – that’s what the internet is for, right?

My train of thought is this… why send a nude photo of yourself to a person you’ve not met or dated? You’re ruining all mystery and intrigue so that if an opportunity for sexy fun time should arise, they already know what’s coming. It’s like someone showing you your birthday present before you’ve got to unwrap it, which let’s face it, is the best part!

I’m going to stop right there because I’m not condemning those who do send nudes and want to. Some women I know find it empowering, confidence inspiring and just a bit of fun, which is totally fine. So long as no one feels pressured to send them, then go right ahead.

MTB Dating Diaries: Part 1

My initial plan for this piece was to invite an open discussion about modern-day dating with the MTB juxtaposition, but as I began to write, I felt myself ranting, venting and pouring myself in until I eventually decided to sod my intentions and just write it all out there.

My MTB dating diary entries will drag you along to share the high’s and low’s of my dating life whilst introducing you to some of the characters I’ve had the delightful fucking pleasure of conversing with this far – You know what they say, misery loves company.

*To protect the identity of these persons, I’ve omitted their names and I won’t name them so please don’t ask me*

The Clueless

How do you know when a date is a date-date? Without actually asking, it’s very hard to tell if a cuppa tea is more than just tea.  

Upon a friend’s suggestion, I reached out to this “sound guy” he knows well. I approached him under false pretences about something totally convincing to test the waters and after what seemed like a very brief to-and-fro of messages, it was he who suggested we meet up, and we did. Only, I couldn’t tell if it was a date so I went with the flow.

The non-date-kinda-date went well, or so I thought. Plenty of laughs, discovered shared interests, plenty of tea drinking and bike talk ensued, and yes, he was very handsome. Could I read him? Like fuck.

After the non-date-maybe-date, I didn’t hear much from him. I assumed he wasn’t interested and that bothered me. Not because he possibly didn’t like me, but because I didn’t know what it was and I thought that I wouldn’t have minded seeing him again but felt too uncertain and insecure to ask.

Shrouded in mystery and frustration, I finally reached out to him. We resumed messaging briefly with funny low-brow quips until it felt like I was trying to get blood from a stone, so I stopped and finally gave up.

To this day I have no idea whether it was a date, if anything, or what he felt about me, if anything, and now too much time has passed to ever find out.

Lesson: Find out if a date is an actual date before the kinda-maybe-possible date takes place. At least you know that if it’s a date, there’s an element of interest and potential there, whereas a tea date with a friend is just that.

The Omission

When someone catches your eye, you wonder if they’re single and what better way to check this than via their social media profiles.

Indeed, someone caught my eye and I snooped to find no trace of a female across any of their social media pages. With the coast being clear, I engaged in conversation with Mr-sponsored-rider. I consulted my inner circle of beings for their opinions – as you do – and the general consensus was that this guy was a good egg. Sweet.

Aside from his crass sexual innuendos, to which I wasn’t impressed, we discovered we had a number of things in common which lead to a discussion of meeting for a date. The date escalated into an adventure riding trip paid for by his brand sponsor – his idea, not mine.

After a conversation with an industry friend, with whom I confided details of said adventure date, I was taken aback when told that Mr-sponsored-asswipe had a girlfriend. I got my best wing-woman on the hunt and sure enough, after some intense digging around, she shared with me a profile of a very pretty girlfriend – why he would want to hide her, I have no idea.

After confronting this guy, I was immediately deleted from his social media existence. What a dickweed.

Lesson: Find out if they have a partner by any means necessary before engaging in extreme adventure date planning

And now…

On my quest for courtship, I’ve found social media to be more damaging than anything else. While it’s great for communicating with people, it is very much a glorified highlight reel of your life. When chatting with guys, the only information I have is what they’re messaging me and the carefully selected posts they choose to show the world.

Mangled within that, you have petty associations that stir up even the most laid back of people… Why has he read this and not replied?If I don’t like his post, will he think I’m a cunt?I don’t want him to see I’m online because I’ve not thought of a good enough reply to the last message… then the usual, checking your phone every 5 mins (or less) in case he’s messaged while slowly losing your sanity in the process because you know deep down you’re better than this but before you know it, you’re writing a list of potential baby names for your future cat children.

Editor note: I know not all men are creepy sex-driven dipshits and yes, I know women can be just as bad. I’m only speaking from my experiences, so before you flex your keyboard warrior fingers and prepare for war, sit back, relax and enjoy the ride…

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 2

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 3

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 4

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 5

MTB Dating Diaries: Chapter 1, Part 6

MTB Dating Diares: Chapter 2, Part 1

26 Brutal Truths about Working from Home

Let me clear up some misconceptions…

I’m a cycling journalist and I work from home. When I first started out at Total Women’s Cycling, I thought “hell yeah, working from home will be ace”. Little did I know that the reality of being a WFH cycling journalist would take me on a journey through all levels of sanity within the human mind. I’ve learnt more about myself in the past 18 months than in the past twenty-something years.

For those who think working from home is easy peasy and a bit of a doss… let me enlighten you to some brutal truths…

1. My neighbours probably think I’m a weird hermit or lady of the night.

2. I unknowingly talk to myself, and when I realise I’m doing it, I talk to my cat because that’s far more normal… right?

3. Gomez has more of a social life than I do.

4. There’s no dress code. In fact, no dress at all if I don’t fancy it.

5. Showering is totally optional and make-up is non-existant.

6. I consider putting a bra on as a genuine daily achievement.

7. Lunchtime power naps are a real thing – as are lunchtime rides if I’m lucky.

8. My utility bills have soared, I blame the kettle.

9. …so has the tea-bag bills

10. My office drama is having Gomez sleeping across my keyboard or trying to stop him from pooping on the carpet

11. After around the two-day mark, I find myself craving human contact for fear that I no longer remember how to function appropriately in social situations

12. People ‘drop in’ for a cuppa because they know I’m home (which is lovely) but they don’t realise that I have work to do and deadlines to meet

13. Gomez and I find ourselves on constant neighbourhood watch duty, often peaking our paranoia levels to alarming status

14. I’m now on a first name basis my postman. WFH means I never miss a delivery, but also means I’m the local depot for missed deliveries on the street.

15. I’ve developed a mild fear of showering or pooping because I know as soon as I do, the doorbell will ring for said delivery.

16. WFH means I’m always around for repairmen and engineers who I welcome with open arms because I’m just so happy to have someone else to talk to.

17. People judge me for waking up at 08:30, and sometimes not getting up at all because working in bed is totes legit.

18. When I do get out of bed, my morning commute is down a flight of stairs

19. I’ve found that working from home means you never really stop working. Those 09:00 – 17:00 working hours get blurrier and blurrier as time goes by…

20. There’s no escape from work. My day ends when I close the lid of my laptop, but niggling things and press releases means there really is no rest for the wicked.

21. No office Christmas party for me… or office birthday presents… or happy birthday’s for that matter because WFH makes it hard for long-distance colleagues who you’ve never met to know/remember who you are.

22. Because I don’t work in an office, I’ll never benefit from a cheeky snow day

23. People seem to think that WFH is more of a doss and not a real job

24. It really helps to find a support group of awesome people who also work from home so that you can all WFH together… still in your pj’s no less.

25. When I do leave my house to work from a cosy café, it’s often busy, noisy and almost all the power points are in use and the wifi is shitty.

26. Then I realise, there’s really no place like home…

Bike Mechanics: An Unprecedented Qualification in Confidence

As if learning to ride my bike wasn’t hard enough, learning how to take care of my bike was even harder. In my wonderful naive world of bicycle fairies, and my “it won’t happen to me” attitude, I never gave much thought to how my bike worked, or even attempted to fix a problem with it. Yes, I was like so many other people out there who relied on friends and partners to do the dirty work for me, as I made cups of tea in return for their mechanical wisdom.

As my cat like curiosity began to take me on cycling adventures further afield, like on an impulsive and harrowing 100 miler, I just couldn’t put it off any longer: I had to learn how to take care of my bike. It wasn’t just taking care of it, but nursing it back to health after an accident, and feeling an overwhelming need to not be THAT friend who became a burden on others should I suffer a mechanical whilst out riding.

While there are a number of brilliant bike mechanic schools around the country, and courses on offer from local bike shops, I knew I wanted the bee’s knees of education. After doing my homework and chatting with my bike mechanic friends, my path led me to the doors of ATG Training who offer the Cytech bike mechanics qualification. For those of you who don’t know: Cytech is the “internationally recognised training and accreditation scheme for bicycle technicians”.

I began by completing Cytech Level 1 Theory which was conducted online and provided valuable insight into best workplace practice. As I worked my way through each module, I began to feel a bubbling sense of excitement. Impressing myself with the new knowledge that I was learning, I couldn’t wait to get my hands messy in the Level 1 and 2 practical courses.

Now, I did pretty good in school, and I’m very analytically minded, but when it comes to using my hands (other than baking cakes), I’m just a bit crap. I’ve never been interested in mechanics of any kind, never been a tinkerer and I’m ashamed to say that I very much participate in this disposable culture we’ve (d)evolved into. There was (and still is) something about bike mechanics that both excites and terrifies me. As the days ticked down until my Level 1 course, the apprehension grew…

Cytech Level 1: Well, this is awkward…

It was like the first day of school, and in true Jessica fashion, I was late. Then I couldn’t find the building. Then when I did, I couldn’t get in because I didn’t have the door code. When I got rescued by the trainer, I stumbled into a class full of very quiet men who all turned to look at the late girl.

Jim and Mike conducted the 2 day Level 1 course covering the basics of bike mechanics: how to change an inner and how to PDI (pre-delivery inspection) check a bike. It wasn’t just because it was an all-male course, but everyone was currently employed in a workshop and so entered the class with a great deal of bike mechanic knowledge. I, on the other hand, had none.

When it came to getting my hands dirty, I was all thumbs as I wrestled with high-torqued bolts and dropped just about everything on the floor. The guys around me would blast through their tasks with time to spare for checking their Facebook. Now, my face can’t lie. It gives me away in situations of stress, like a bright red flashing sign of “fuck” on my forehead. Fortunately, the valiant Jim Burley, clearly noticing the onset of my life-ending breakdown, rescued me. Told me to put everything down on the bench, step back and talk through the whole process of what I was doing. It worked.

With patience and persistence, I tinkered my way through level 1 having successfully fitted and cabled front/back dérailleurs, setting up v-brakes and PDI’ing a bike to a safe standard. That was just two days and Cytech Level 2 was two weeks…

Cytech Level 2: I will make this bike my b*tch

Feeling pretty good about myself for passing Level 1, I didn’t want to allow myself to get too carried away knowing what Level 2 had in store: complete bike strip/rebuild, hub servicing, bottom bracket servicing, wheel building, hydraulic brake bleeds, and three assessment days. Passing Cytech Level 2 is the minimum requirement of most workshops in the UK.

I headed into Level 2 feeling a lot less anxious. Perhaps it was because I was already familiar with the workshop, the trainers, and I actually knew something about bike mechanics… or maybe it was because there was another girl in the class! Either way, I was ready to attack Level 2 head on.

As each day passed, some easier than others, I felt my confidence begin to cement itself in a new comfort zone that I hadn’t experienced before. Little things began to fall into place, until eventually, a mechanical rhythm began to course its way through my hands, accompanied by new and familiar sounds of the bike. Rotating the cranks to awaken the bike is a lot like listening to it breathe. How does it sound? I’ve learnt a great deal about listening to what my bike is trying to tell me: is there chattering on the chain? Is the headset loose? What’s that noise? I should investigate that.

Perhaps the most harrowing ordeal of Level 2 was watching the trainer ride off on the bike I’ve just built. As Jim rolled out of view, I stood in the parking lot, waiting. And waiting. Straining my ears for a crash, or a shrill cry of pain as metal and flesh exploded in a gross display of failure. No such noise came, except Jim pedalling back over to me a few minutes later, alive and well. Thank God.

After a thorough inspection of my bike building, servicing and wheel building skills, I was signed off as a competent Cytech Level 2 mechanic. There’s something highly rewarding about being considered a bike mechanic. Perhaps it’s because it’s a skill that I couldn’t read and study my way out of, or perhaps it’s because there was always a quiet self-doubting whisper that had finally been silenced. Either way, I was so stoked to go home that day and strip a friend’s old fixie bike for a service and rebuild.

Hello mechanics, my new best fr-enemy

It’s been a couple of months since passing my Cytech level 2, and am pleased to say that I’ve been using it, more than I thought. Every demo bike that lands on my doorstep gets a full PDI by yours truly, and if there are any issues with it, I try to work them out for myself… before asking for help.

I’ve learnt a few things along my continuing journey as well: internal cable routing may look the business, but it’s a total fuck to work with, and if you get flustered trying to align your derailleurs and get smooth indexing on your bike, take a break and step away. BREATHE!

If your passion is to ride bikes, any kind of bike, then it’s a good idea to learn more about them, how to care for them and how to fix them. After all, what would you do with yourself if your freedom machine is broken and has to be sent in for repairs?