This month I’d like to give some credit to a ride that is often overlooked, but oh so important - the solo shred. It’s a ride we all feel differently about. Some fear it, some really don’t like it, and other’s - like me - need it, almost crave it. It’s like a therapy session: just me, my bike and some singletrack. A time to breath, to have some space, to forget about the world, and just take one pedal stroke at a time. It’s a ride that reminds me that it doesn’t matter how fast I go, it only matters how happy it makes me feel.

But it can also be the hardest ride to get out on. There is no-one waiting for you to come ride, so there is nothing stopping you from working an extra hour, snoozing for longer in the morning or simply collapsing onto the sofa at the end of the work day (which to someone who like naps is a very appealing thought). Often I have to “force” myself out on solo shreds, just to be reminded that I should do them more often.

I had one of these rides last year when working from parent’s apartment back home in Sweden. Tired from travelling, I hadn’t been exercising for a few days and felt like I really needed to burn some calories, but I was tired and unmotivated. Just one of those days. My bike was still nestled away in its bike bag after flying over from the UK, and to top it all off, it started raining. It was like the sofa was calling my name.

But I resisted. Dragged myself into riding kit, built my bike up, put on a rain jacket, plugged in some good music, and headed out. Into the rain and the busy traffic and city life.

5 minutes into the ride. My legs felt like dead logs - tired and stiff - and I had that start-of-the-ride-chill. I muttered to myself that this ride was a bad idea, but continued and pedalled towards Hagaparken, the Royal Park in Stockholm. It’s a small but fun place where the ride can be as long or short as you like. Today was definitely a short ride kind of day. I told myself: “Get to the park, do 3 laps of the downhill tracks and then go home and crawl under a blanket”

15 minutes in. I finally headed away from traffic and into the park and its surrounding forrest. The rain had eased off a little, my heart was beating faster, my legs were waking up. Slowly I started feeling like I could breath again. I felt calm, yet fired up. My body was responding to the increasingly powerful pedal strokes and the endorphins were kicking in. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

25 minutes in. I’d completely forgotten about the world, the stress, the tiredness. All I could hear was my own breathing - not the other people in the forrest, not the nearby motorway, which is literally just next to the park. It was just me and my bike. It’s something special being able to decide which trails to hit and in what order, to push myself up climbs and down trails without anyone one else around. And it was exactly what I was doing. I felt the first sweat drops roll down my face: “Damn, it feels good to ride bikes”.

50 minutes in. I’d arrived to the good parts - a little hill with some short fun downhill tracks hidden on it. It’s easy to lap, only a short 5-10 minute spin up to the top, and then three to four downhill tracks to choose from. I told myself in the beginning of the ride that I had to do at least three laps, but I was already punching out a forth one. I was high on adrenaline and endorphins.

55 minutes in. With the fourth lap done and dusted, I glanced over towards the final gap jump - I’d never done it by myself (no need for unnecessary risks I was thinking), but it was luring me in. I pedalled back up to hit it. I felt the air under my tires as I took off, the smoothness of landing it perfectly - it was an indescribable feeling. I sent a grinning selfie to my riding buddy - stoked and proud that I had done it by myself.

65 minutes in. Physically I was only five kilometers away from the apartment, but mentally I couldn’t have been further away. My head was engulfed by nature, by two wheels. I pedalled further in to the forrest, up and down, loop after loop - I’d completely forgotten about the “short loop” I had planned on doing. My legs were strong and I made it up a rock slab that I’d never done before. The euphoria! There was so much excess energy in my body from the lack of exercise the past few days. It was like I needed this ride to remind my body of what it felt like to move, to sweat, to wake up.

75 minutes in. I headed back for a final few laps of the Downhill tracks. Riding them by myself reminds of how fast I can actually go, without comparing myself to others. I am reminded that it doesn’t matter how quick I go, as long as it feels good, makes me happy and gives me a rush of adrenaline. It’s good to feed the soul just that from time to time.

100 minutes in. I headed back to the apartment. Sweaty, happy, and with so much more energy than when I set off 1h40 minutes earlier. As I put my bike away in the apartment, I told myself that, once again, it had been worth it. The solo ride. The after work ride. The make-myself-feel-alive ride.

The solo shred is always worth it.