I recently read a thoughtful post by Double the Speed of Wheels that explored the concept of suffering and how some riders consider it a kind of badge of honor.
In my years of riding and randonneuring, I have also observed this infatuation with suffering.
Generally, I prefer to minimize viewing my rides through the lens of suffering or characterizing them as such. Challenging? Yes. Uncomfortable? Yes. Frustrating? Sometimes.
Perhaps I define suffering in a narrower way than some. Injuries or illness may prompt suffering, or it may come as a result of losing a person we love. By opening our hearts to people and experiences, we make ourselves vulnerable to the eventuality that we will suffer in some way.
There are only two times I recall coming close to suffering during a ride. The first was during the Cascade 1200K, when my saddle turned on me on the third night and every time I stopped to use the bathroom I cried because of the pain. The second was during the Endless Mountains 1000K, when my knees hurt so much that I could not ride my bike for more than a month after completing it.
I know that those who race exert themselves in a way I do not. They push themselves at a level where there is an ongoing feeling of discomfort. But is it suffering? I like to think not.
I’m not trying to avoid suffering, exactly, and I don’t wish to live in a pain-free bubble. But I don’t think I have to go in search of suffering. I think it knows where I live and will pay me a visit one day. As long as I can help it, though, it won’t be during a bike ride.