THE MENTAL CYCLIST is a mind training book & journal for recreational cyclists. It’s designed to help you become an expert in yourself, take on any challenge — and have amazing experiences on your bike. 

I’m the author, Kyle MacRae. And this is my story.


It‘s 2005 in the South of France. 35 degrees in the shade and everything is awesome. I‘d been living in Provence for a year, cycling regularly on a terrible German bike with gears that jumped and brakes that barely worked. It cost me 200 Euros and weighed 200 kilos. But while man and machine were hardly in perfect harmony, I rode it every day through lavender fields and heat-hazed hills. I‘d discovered road cycling, and the love affair would last a lifetime.

But there was one hill I never went near, because it was a beast.


Mont Ventoux looks like part of the moon was dropped off by mistake. It looms nearly 2km above the plains. It‘s boiling hot at the bottom and freezing cold at the top. Winds at the summit howl at up to 80kph. On a really bad day, they can reach 300kph. There are a lot of really bad days.

“We‘re riding it this year and you‘re doing it too!” my cycling buddy Didier announced one day. The “we” referred to his personal peloton of cycling pals. These were guys I‘d never met, because I was way slower than Didier and nowhere near ready for a fast group ride. But Didier was adamant: I should definitely climb Ventoux. I was reasonably fit, he said, and a half-decent climber. I should do it because it‘s an iconic climb that should be on any cyclist‘s bucket list. He told me he wouldn‘t take no for an answer.  


Suddenly the unthinkable became far too thinkable. I couldn‘t concentrate on anything else. Could I really climb Mont Ventoux? Would I?

My thought process went like this:

— It‘s too high.
— It‘s too hard.
— It‘s way too hot.
— It‘s way too windy.
— I‘m too old.
— I‘m too fat.
— My knees hurt.
— These guys are serious cyclists!
— I‘ll get dropped immediately.
— They‘ll think I‘m an idiot.
— I‘ll ruin the ride for everyone.
— I don‘t have it in me.
— I‘ll only fail, so I shouldn‘t even try.
— Maybe next year…

These thought were not helpful. But they were very, very powerful.


To be fair, I wasn‘t negative all the time. Sometimes, usually after some wine, I‘d tell myself that I could absolutely do it. I‘d flip into positive thinking mode, and tell myself:

— I‘d LOVE to climb Mont Ventoux!
— I‘m perfectly fit enough.
— I can do it in my own time.
— It‘s only a hill.
— I‘ll feel amazing when I do it!
— Bring it on!

But those moments were fleeting and rarely lasted longer than a carafe of Chateau Chapeau. When it ran dry, I went back to pessimism. There was no way I was going to do it.

I told myself I‘d do it one day. When it was cooler. When I‘d trained properly for it. When I had a better bike. When I was, er, younger.


The problem was simple, although of course I didn‘t realise it at the time. I wasn‘t a Mental Cyclist. My head wasn‘t in the right place. It wasn‘t even in the right postcode.

— I passed the microphone to every negative thought in my head. I didn‘t for a moment consider that I could influence those thoughts, let alone control them. I just listened to them and took them seriously.
— I saw the challenge as black and white. It would either be an incredible success or a humiliating failure. Getting to the top wasn‘t the most important thing. It was the only thing. All or nothing.
— I didn‘t believe I was fit or strong enough to do it. Factually, this was nonsense.
— I worried about everything that could possibly go wrong.
— I thought that if I didn‘t do well, Didier and his super-fit friends would see me as pathetic.

There was lots going on in my head. But this last one was the biggie. My self-esteem was on the line.

So I bottled it. I went home to Scotland, and bottled it again the following year. Then the year after that, and the one after that. Until finally, six years later, I figured out that what was holding me back had nothing to do with my physical ability to climb a hill – and absolutely everything to do with how I was thinking about the challenge. And thinking about myself.


In 2011, I persuaded a couple of pals to join me on a pilgrimage to Provence, and together we climbed Mont Ventoux. And I loved it! Of course I did. Because I climbed it with my mind, not my muscles.

That was the start of my personal interest obsession with what really goes on inside your head when you ride. This book + journal is the result of me pulling together what I’ve learned in what I hope is an accessible, practical and entertaining format.

I’m no psychologist, no sports professional. I’m just an ordinary guy who likes riding his bike, ran away from a mountain once, and wanted to find out why.

If you’ve made it this far, you’ll know whether THE MENTAL CYCLIST is something you’re likely to enjoy. I really hope you do. I know I’d have found it helpful back in 2005. 

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The Mental Cyclist is owned and published by
Kyle MacRae, 65 Hillend Rd, Glasgow G76 7TH

Contact: kyle@mentalcyclist.com