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The pleasure of pain.

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Intrepid Apparel® Blog 


The pleasure of pain.


MASOCHISM IS AN IMPORTANT PART OF MOUNTAIN BIKING. Pushing beyond one’s own perception of his or her mental and physical limitations reveals a side of ourselves we rarely see, the depths of which can only be plumbed by sinking past the point of despair and clawing back to the surface. Often, it takes months of being removed from such a trying experience for a sense of satisfaction to replace the wounds, for the mental strength gained from such perseverance to reveal itself. When that happens, the plans inevitably start percolating to do it all over again; as mountain bikers, we simply can’t resist the pull of pain and the pleasure it eventually leaves in its wake.

Pro enduro racer Anka Martin and 249 other hardy souls took on New Zealand’s inaugural Tour Aotearoa last February to test their mettle. The brevet, dreamed up by Kiwi Jonathan Kennett, traveled 3,000 kilometers (1,865 miles) from the northern tip of New Zealand’s North Island to the southern tip of the South Island, on backcountry single and doubletrack, sandy beaches and tarmac, and over various bodies of water (crossed by ferries, fishing boats, jet boats and a steam ship). Self-supported riders climbed 30,000 meters (98,425 feet) in total elevation as they navigated the country. They had 30 days to finish the route–technically it’s an organized bikepacking tour, not a race–but couldn’t complete it in fewer than 10, and were required to stop for six hours per day.

On some days, time dragged as rain relentlessly fell from the sky, riders focused on nothing more than reaching a rest point where they could tend to their saddle sores, dry their gear, eat and find a bed. For some, that meant pitching a tent or bivy in a campsite or bunking at a hotel. For others, like Anja Macdonald, the first female finisher and fourth overall, that meant collapsing near the track in a ditch, under a tree, on a golf course or in a bus shelter.

Martin has conditioned herself to tolerate agony through years of racing, but Tour Aotearoa was an intense personal struggle unlike any other. She had broken her hand two weeks prior at the Andes Pacifico race, but carried on casted, riding 17 straight days with one fully operable hand. There also were mechanicals, crashes and an Achilles injury. Everyone out there had their own demons to conquer. One woman’s bike suffered a major mechanical, requiring a $220 taxi ride to the nearest bike shop. Another rider buckled his wheel three times–it was a 26-inch and he couldn’t find a replacement–and another suffered so badly from sleep deprivation that a local had to carry him to his house where he could recover. In the end, though, 90 percent of the field finished by the cut-off. And presumably enough time has passed that they are already plotting their next plummet into the pain cave.