Pulled out from the the underwebs, a repost of a 2009 essay on existence and bikes. Thanks to Bacardi Marty for regenerating le stoke on this one…
I put on my first pair of cycling shoes in 1992, after years of pounding toe-clips around the hills of my hometown. They were the top of the line Sidi’s. The same fruity colored units that Tinker sported back in the days of the Etto and Klein.
Although I could’t understand why cyclists had to overtly abuse all sense of style – from the polka-dot jersey, to the shaved legs, to the shoes I just bought – it didn’t matter. I didn’t know the heritage that I would later fully embrace. I donned the shoes. I was going to be a cyclist no matter the cost.
Years went by. My focus unwavering. Day in, day out, new town, new race, same effort. I’d make quick success racing mtb and evolve to road. It was a strange new world. I was and am a mtb soul, but any avenue in the exporatin of progress is worth a wander. Cycling was all things. It was my job, my social scene and my love. As The blessing of non-segregated PRO-am events would give me a few opportunities to challenge notable veterans for that larger stage to play on. I’d match sprints with big names, fight tooth and nail, gain respect and establish clear rivalries. I’d win a few, and lose a lot, only to give myself enough of a glimpse each time, that the cycle would last for years and years. The carrot, generally, just out of reach; as it should be.
Things began to change. Maybe it was age. Maybe it was the distractions of life outside of cycling. I’d see them and be curious. They took hold slowly. They were enjoyable, especially in contrast to the persistent suffering of racing; drinking, parties, social pursuits not based on the race results of a fictitious world. Those distractions the icing on the cake, progress and success on the bike became more elusive and through reinforcement of alternative things, the routine of training and racing became evermore monotonous. Each day, living the dream other’s pay thousands for, I began to resent the obligation. It was time to change. Amazingly, still, there are others of my cohort who remain. But then, it was evident that I had lost my love.
With the blessing of hindsight, the prosperity and the wonder of racing faded because everything became evident; the idea of racing provides an immense ability to control one’s experience given the talent and the work ethic is there. It is, by all accounts, the exact same thing over and over and over, so to master it, is a possibility defined through pragmatic steps. That’s a bit boring after the 1500th time, and so from the races to the people to the years passing by, nothing new was being seen. I had limited my ability to discover. Only a series of starts and finishes with more of the same in the middle and an occasional carrot won. It became heavy. The truth of the matter was that was simply turning pedals to avoid life, having no better idea of how to use the time. The cycle turned from my passion, to my dysfunction. Not knowing how to change, I’d would soon begin a slow exit from the scene not knowing how to cope. Competitive cycling was me. It was my definition. To say it has been difficult, is to understate. Everything that I defined myself by, was over and more importantly, no longer applicable.
Years later, as reinvention continues, life outside of competitive cycling has forcefully taken me over, with a continuation of the same desire to progress, but now, it’s through purposeful education and career pursuits not unlike the competitive arena of cycling. The real world they call it.
I have no regrets. I gave it hell. I gave it my all, I did it my way and while it did’t turn into the long career, I am forever learning the lessons of that time. Somewhere in the middle of all that monotony, there was much to be gained. And while I have lost all love for competitive cycling and its egotistical, simulated Darwinistic routine, I am thankful that my wonder for cycling has not disappeared with it.
I dream of cycling still. These days, the dream is about new journeys, far away from anything. Away from the need to be accepted through official results, I’ve found motivation to suffer again. I pack a tarp and a bag, a few matches, a stove, some ramen into a backpack, and step out of real life into the truth of wilderness, where I am alone with only a bike and an idea. My only competition myself. I leave the half wheeling to the clown show, and find my challenge, testing my limits alone, away from judgment, reward or failure.
Forever, a son of cycling, I’m not original by any stretch of the imagination. My efforts and my abilities only in the realm of average like so many others. In the same turn, as I followed my heros into that old world, I again am thankful that others have laid the way for me, establishing this new idea, where I have again found my love of cycling and the wonders that it can bring. wandering, as far as my legs will take me. Life is indeed good. One just needs to find a way to see that.