Bec Werner: Riding happy and racing in the USA

Bec Werner is a mate of mine from Adelaide and someone I really respect. She has come through the ranks of National Talent ID and has shown a lot of talent both on the road and the track. (Her palmares include a podium in the individual pursuit at Oceania Track Champs in 2010.) But the reason I really respect Bec is that she is a Top Chick. She is always positive, smiling, and maintains her sense of humour in a world that thrives on cut-throat competitiveness and personal sacrifice. Bec kindly agreed to do a guest post for Ride Happy reflecting on her first international season as a pro cyclist. I found it inspiring; I'm sure you'll find the same.

Bec Werner rides happy in the USA

My Ride Happy t-shirt* arrived in the mail a week or two before I was set to jet off to the mighty US of A on my first ever overseas adventure, bike in tow, excited at the prospect of a double summer and the chance to have a crack at some big races with the Webcor Bridge Team. My purchase was mainly influenced by the ‘ride like you stole it’ slogan printed on the back, which always brings a mischievous grin to my face, yet the two simple words printed in bright red on the front would prove much more significant.

Over the last 5 months I’ve come to discover what ‘riding happy’ really means. This is not to say that I was never happy when I was riding before. Or that I’ve cracked the Da Vinci Code of cycling, and now when my book is published and made into a big money motion picture everyone will forever ride in pure joy and look to me as the cycling Buddha. I’m simply saying that I’ve experienced moments on the bike, and come to be in a certain place in everyday life that have filled me with a great sense of happiness at being a cyclist and spending long, butt-numbing hours seated on a wafer thin piece of plastic.

It’s amazing how training in new and exciting places can change your perspective. Suddenly the rain isn’t quite so cold, the false flats aren’t quite as long and the climbs don’t hurt quite so much. Well that last bit’s a lie, the climbs always hurt, but you get the gist.

Training in my new stomping ground of the Bay Area, California, has taken me back to square one. With massive bunch rides that are more like races, it’s a melting pot of people who ride for all different reasons, yet also for the same – a simple love of the bike. It’s like being a kid again. Riding with childlike enthusiasm, free of any inhibitions. Sprinting for city limit signs as if they are the finish line at a world championship. Throwing around elbows a dishing out headbutts to friends to claim prime position in the bike lane.

I’ve ventured up paths to places that can only be accessed and truly experienced aboard a bike. Clambered up dirt climbs in the granny gear, setting a new max heart rate in the process, while passing through spectacular scenery and seemingly untouched country on the way to magnificent views. It was one of these moments that brought total clarity. This is what ride happy is about. Gasping for air, and with legs like cement blocks, I looked at the other totally wrecked, yet happy people standing around me in this picture perfect, magical place, and it just clicked. At that moment I knew that as much as I thrive on the competition of racing, and am driven to ride by ambition that doesn’t like rest days; if all that was taken away, I would simply ride for moments like these, and ride happy.

If you take those good vibes from training and living as a full time athlete, free of the stresses and complications of everyday life and then add to it living in a happy and passionate, bike crazy environment, it’s sure to flow into racing. Racing over here is big and exciting, with all the American bravado and hype that only they can bring, which in turn brings the crowds, and your adrenaline level up all at the same time. It’s been a total adventure. Jumping into an environment full of unknowns and where no one knows you, it takes away any expectations and perceptions, and lets you re-invent yourself on the bike if you like. Nothing to lose, and oh so much to gain.

I’ve had my most enjoyable, and subsequently my most successful racing season ever. It all adds up. There’s no cold, hard facts, but I’m convinced that some of these simple things that we often overlook, not only ‘recovery’, but resting and relaxing your body and mind and simply ‘riding happy’ play a massive part in performance and success.

Now it’s back to reality, and the real world that moves at a faster pace, and doesn’t allow for waiting until the temperature is just perfect before you trundle off. Hopefully I can take some of that ride happy back with me, as I’m sure it doesn’t really matter what road you ride on, the road is what you make it.

So ride happy, because it’s true, life is too short to ride mad! 


[Ed's note: The Ride Happy tees are producd by the awesome St Mel Designs in Victoria. Get your hands on one here.]