I've found myself doing more and more training rides this year. Today being a perfect example... there's no way I would really want to go out in the pouring rain and ride for 4 hours if I didn't know I had to. If I want to ride the big events I've got to put in the hours on local trails no matter how nasty they are.
So, I finally caved to using an iPod for these rides. I'd always thought they rob you of your connection to the bike. I'd always listened to the sound of the tyres across the ground, the click of the freehub, and in quiet moments the birds in the trees. But when I don't want to be out there, or I know I'm going to be out on the same old trails for a long time then the music helps me to keep going. The right track can make things better... Today I was just wrenching the last pedal stroke out to get over a mud-sucky climb when Bad Religion popped into my ears. It was the perfect liberation as I hit the singletrack coming out of the climb. Sometimes it's all too much though... Reading a leaf-covered trail that's speeding at you whilst Miles Davis is swirling in 10 directions at once or (as today) Steve Reich's phase-shifted drumming is taking up a significant proportion of your brain is pretty difficult. But the same music can be the perfect antidote to long boring straights.
I think that if I'm riding for pure joy, then the music stays at home but for putting in the miles it seems to help. You've just got to see the pictures from today to appreciate that it wasn't a day to stop and smell the flowers. More a day to stop and wring out your gloves. Those are rivers, those are the trails!