Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Let's talk about bikes, baby...

...let's talk about you and me, let's talk about all the good things and the bad things that can be!

I felt it appropriate to blog about bikes and the good and bad things that they bring today in light of the recent developments regarding Lance Armstrong and the US Postal team.  What a shit-show it's all become.

I'm not going to sit here behind the keyboard and say whether or not I believe Lance Armstrong to be innocent.  To me, at this point, it doesn't really matter.  It's more than clear cycling has been dirty, and the recent news drags it further into the mud.  It's too bad because there's really been so much done to clean things up, and I'd bet money that this past year's Tour de France was one of the cleanest on record.  Yes, there will always be cheats, but it's getting (seemingly anyway) harder and harder.

Anyway, moving on to where I'm going with all this...
I started thinking a lot about riding this morning when I got an email from some cycling website I joined (I really can't remember the name) asking me how riding a bike has changed my life.  As I thought about it, I can say the clear winner in what cycling has brought me is my future wife, Anne.  I met her because of triathlon and subsequently because I rode a bike.  If I hadn't gotten into cycling and then into triathlon, I never would have been in a little village outside of Spain in 2009 attending a training camp where she worked.  If you'd asked me if riding a bike would bring me the woman who I love so dearly, I can't honestly say I would have believed it.  So awesome.

As I thought more throughout the day, I started getting into more and more aspects of my life that have been effected by my two-wheeled passion.  At first all I wanted was to be fast-faster, faster, faster!  I had my skinny tired road and triathlon bikes and my life was filled with numbers, training sessions, more numbers, heart rate monitors, power meters, and lycra.  Fun was tempo sessions, trainer sessions, and back to back long rides.  After getting sick with the predictability of riding the road, I got into cross country mountain biking.  I transferred the fitness built over a couple of years dedicated to road riding to mountain biking and enjoyed it for a bit.  But still I wanted more.  Mountain biking provided the excitement I needed, but the endurance races I was doing began to remind me of my days riding the roads.  Long, long sections of fire road climbs and descents coupled with single track that was just too mellow had me thinking of bigger and harder challenges.  So I bought a full suspension trail bike.  Five inches of travel front and rear had me trying things I never would have thought of ever doing when I was training for the road.  I was hitting drops, rock gardens, and jumps with reckless abandon and dedicating myself to improving not just my fitness, but more importantly, my SKILL on the bike.  I moved onto racing downhill and enjoying more than ever the adrenaline rush I got from shredding my big, heavy bike at speed down steep and technical trail.  I find myself now enjoying trail riding more than anything.  A mountain bike with 150mm of travel front and rear is the sweet spot for me-allowing me to climb and to bomb nearly any trail, grinning the whole way.

So through the story I've told, I  realize I've learned more and more about myself and the type of person I really am.  When I was on the road and doing triathlon, it was all about competition.  When was the next race?  What was my average power for a 10k TT? A 40k TT?  Numbers, numbers.  Now, after having decided to step away from all the pressure I was putting on myself, I'm just enjoying riding my bike.  I'm enjoying hitting the trail with friends and not worrying about pace, distance, or time.  Just riding and having a beer at the trail head when we're done.  I'm allowing myself more room for personal development and more time to go after the other interests I have in life.  While my life still revolves around the bike, it actually doesn't.  If I ride I ride, but if I don't it's because I was doing something else that's important to me.  So, in this regard, the ultimate result is more balance.

And then we're brought to today where I landed my first 180 on a dirt jump bike.  Again, pushing my skills to another level and developing myself further on the bike.  From the person I was back in 2006 when I started riding road bikes to the person I am 6 years later is phenomenal.  It blows my mind that I can still get as excited as I was when I got that first race bike back in 06.  It's a wildly different bike and a wildly different style that I could have imagined, but it's still two wheels, pedals, and handlebars.

So when I see how cycling has been brought through the mud and I see the sorry state of what a "joke" sport it has become to many people around the world, it saddens me only a little bit because I know it's so much more than that.  I've experienced so much more than just lycra and skinny tires.  So much more than just big suspension and mud tires.  Though I've really never mad much from it, I've gained a fortune in life by being on two wheels.  It's an amazing thing.  Lance isn't cycling.  The old US Postal team isn't cycling.  The kids on BMX bikes are cycling.  The 40 year old soccer mom that wants to get fit is cycling.  Don't get it twisted.  Bikes are a way to travel, gain freedom, and do something that might just change your life whether you know it or not.

Get a bicycle.  You will not regret it if you live.  ~Mark Twain, "Taming the Bicycle"

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