To say the sport of cycling is unique is a gross understatement. The elaborate and intricate nuances of our shared passion make cycling difficult to decipher to the uninitiated. Attempting to explain the dynamics of team tactics to someone outside the sport is a good example of the complexity of cycling. Simply having an understanding of how a bike race unfolds takes years of studying the sport. It’s no wonder people watch the Tour de France for the footage of the French countryside more than the race itself.
The other side of this esoteric enigma is the fact that it’s really just about the bike and the happiness that a bike ride can bring. I have recently rediscovered the joy of cycling after years of racing. It turns out, riding a bike is really fun!
a positive change
I have a couple of friends who needed to make some positive health changes in their lives. One had moved to the Pacific Northwest for a spell, and in his time in the green and grey, had put on quite a bit of weight. Another used to ride regularly years ago, but had gotten away from riding as so many do as the temptation of craft beer and sleeping in had taken a hold of his life.
As the “bike guy” in my circle of friends, they turned to me for help. I was still racing at the time, but used this as an excuse to turn my Sunday recovery rides into a more social event. The first couple of rides were incredibly slow and short. So much so that I generally rode after we were done. As the months passed, it was awesome to see the changes in my two friends, and I learned a thing to two as well.
seeing the benefits
My friend who had moved up to the Pacific Northwest lost over 50 pounds. He went from barely finishing an hour long ride to rolling through a 5 hour stint with little problem. The second friend cut back on his drinking, lost a bit of weight, and realized what he’d been missing in his time away from the bike. I came to the conclusion that racing was more of a burden I had realized.
Racing season after season, patterns begin to emerge. There are the stalwart riders from all over the region who are there mixing it up year after year. There are talented riders who rise through the ranks quickly, race for a season or two, and burnout completely. Asking around about last year’s hot rider, you hear that they gave up riding for golf or fishing. Considering the time and commitment racing takes from people, it’s no wonder this story was so common.
a change of perspective
I only recently decided my days of racing are behind me. I’ve been pinning on a number for well over a decade. I was lucky to have been a part of a resurgence in racing that has certainly waned in recent years. The competition was stiff and there were plenty of options every weekend, if I wanted to turn the pedals in anger.
These days however, many of the local races have dropped off the calendar. The prospect of a five hour drive to race for a couple of hours does not interest me in the least bit. I’ve collected some injuries due to racing that have me considering long term consequences to my health. I want to continue riding as long as I can, which means mitigating risk factors, and racing is chock full of risk.
It’s been nice to get back to riding just to ride. I still have “go fast” rides a couple of days a week that keep the itch to race at bay. It’s the slow and steady coffee rides with friends that I enjoy the most these days. Rolling up the coast, running into other riders I’ve known for years is a joy. Cycling is something we do as individuals that we can share with others who love the sport. The camaraderie of other riders is nearly as enjoyable as the ride itself. Stay safe out there. Wave to fellow riders on the road, and as always, keep the rubber side down!