Those reading GRAN FONDO are both privileged and fortunate: they are fans of the finer things in life, with an above-average level of education, success, and often money. You’re also on the pulse with trends, have high aspirations, and aren’t short of cool status symbols. At least that’s what our annual readers’ survey, with more than 6,000 respondents told us. You shouldn’t be left wanting for more, but…

Ever got in a bad mood about a scratch on your new bike? Anxiously craned your neck every two minutes to check your bike is still outside the cafe? Felt any sort of shame about the older-model Dura-Ace groupset on your bike? Been on the verge of crying yourself to sleep over losing a Strava segment?

Luxuries – and we’re talking about immaterial as well as the material ones – can unlock great moments, but they can also cause stress and worry. Often, that perfect life curated on Instagram and Strava is an illusion that we work hard to maintain. The reality is more of a hamster wheel, with soaring and nigh-on unachievable expectations and a self-imposed pressure to perform. We work harder, party harder and keep riding further but happiness isn’t getting any closer. Why’s that? Let’s face the facts: no amount of success and no sum of money will secure long-term happiness. Look at the world’s top athletes, the most successful business minds and the most influential politicians – do any of them look like a beacon of happiness to you? You may get a brief moment on the podium, throw a hearty smile at the public and maybe the chance of a rowdy after-party when success comes your way, but the steely expression quickly returns and it’s business as usual again.

These people are no different from us. The same questions run through their minds. Am I better than the rest today? What are my competitors doing? Will share prices remain stable? What will my colleagues say about this? Thoughts that rattle around in your mind’s echo chamber, compounded by a fear of losing and failing and not meeting expectations. This murkiness shrouds your view of the now – the only moment worth living.

Worries about what could or might happen, or what should or shouldn’t have happened, remove you from your current situation – right now that’s reading this text – so you end up distracted, with opportunities slipping by as you forget to enjoy the now. Sucks, doesn’t it?

And so the question arises, if we’re not in the moment, where are we exactly? Sometimes you need a physical wake-up call to notice your surroundings: a jump into fresh, cold water, or a near-miss crash – not enough to hurt you, but enough to wake you up. Sports, and particularly riding, put you in a state of flow (provided you ride for long enough). It’s a similar effect to meditation or any other exercise that demands both body and mind to be switched on and engaged.

“I am an old man and have known a great many troubles, but most of them never happened. Worrying is like paying a debt you don’t owe. I have spent most of my life worrying about things that have never happened.” Mark Twain

If even at this point in your life the words of Mark Twain resonate with you, then you’ll know what I mean: a shift in attitude can displace so many time-wasting worries. Especially those related to first-world luxuries.

So stop winding yourself up over a scratch on your new bike (it happens, ok?). Ask yourself why it bothers you? Has its value depreciated? Does it no longer live up to your perfectionism? Is it because the bike’s damaged and no longer safe? And just because the new Dura-Ace groupset hit the market, does that mean that yours is no longer working? Will you really be judged for not owning the latest version?

Is it cycling that makes you happy, or the act of displaying new toys? Depending on your answers, a string of “whys” can help dig deeper and make those worries seem not so worrisome after all. Or it might just hit home that you’re simply hanging out with the wrong crowd of superficial cyclists and that a change of scene might be in order. 😉

Whatever you aspire to have in life – be it recognition, the latest bike, success, a great partner, more money, better health, or all of the Strava segments in the world – these desires all have the same root. Behind all these symbols and longings is our heartfelt desire to be happy and to arrive at a satisfying place in our lives.

And that’s where living to excess with luxury can get in the way. You end up missing the point if you focus on the brand over the product’s actual properties and the price instead of the worth. Stuck in our routines, we are often led by how something is described rather than trying it for ourselves, assuming, with our assumed worldly knowledge, that we know best what lies ahead. But break out of that habit and learn to appreciate the little things in life and you’re likely to find happiness in everything you do: It’s like writing this article and focusing on the click-clack of the keyboard, the starry sky outside the balcony, the languid drip of the filter coffee, a refreshing gulp of water. My thoughts stray and I think about how to round off the article…

When you manage to focus your attention into that very moment, you become aware of the little things. Life isn’t just grind and routine. Every single moment has something precious to it. It is in these moments we realise that it’s enough to do something “just because”. We ride because it makes us happy, not to be better than anyone else. We read because reading is fun, not because we have to be wise. I write because writing is beautiful, not because this essay is an essential article in this magazine. Instead of being swept up in a mass of thoughts and worries, learn to channel your attention to the now. Your senses become heightened to the day’s more extraordinary moments and you’ll realise that satisfaction lies in the act of doing. Is there anything better than riding for riding’s sake? More fascinating than admiring the subtleties of high-end technology? Being so enraptured by a single moment that everything else fades away?

So is it a case of banning luxury from our lives? Not at all. But turn luxury into value. Do things because you want to, not because you have to. Manage that and you won’t only reach your goals more easily, but often more effectively because you’ve paid the journey your full attention and had fun on the way. And that’s when finally, you won’t be left wanting for more…

This article is from GRAN FONDO issue #012

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Words: Robin Schmitt Photos: diverse