Or; how I left the road race-industrial complex.
So much has happened in the past few months. Uh..well at least for my cycling life. If you live and ride a bike in the USA you’d be forgiven for thinking that riding fast and racing were the pinnacle of the experience. This has started changing in recent years but of all the pages printed and all the bandwidth used to discuss bicycle stuff, the majority is going to be about racing and “being fast.”
I got trapped into this myself. Started out innocuous enough; “riding a bike is fun and I see all these things about how racing is awesome so I should do that for the best cycling experience!”
This is wrong. Racing, especially road racing, is not the pinnacle of cycling and a lot of times is just a bunch of bullshit you don’t need. Now, I do like some racing but it’s important to know that being fast should be done sparingly. If you’re just riding around be sure to stop and take a picture or rest or turn off your route to investigate something cool. Sit down to eat your $2 stroopwafel.
For years it was so hard for me to do these things. I was so obsessed with being fast and riding hard so I could be a racer that I wasn’t actually doing things that made me happy. It seemed like I was, mainly because you punish yourself so hard that when you stop you immediately feel awesome and the cause/effect gets conflated. It feels the same as exploring a new route or seeing a beautiful vista or petting a stray cat but those things are not as hard as 195 beats a minute up a 11% grade trying not to get dropped so you can come in 50th our of 180 entrants.
So I’m still racing but now it’s more partici-racing. I’m more interested in the experience than the training or being fast. It’s fun to have an event to prepare for and attend on the weekend. Riding hard and then laying around and napping as the sun sets is such a wonderful experience. Legs sore and body pumping out drugs to make you feel good.
What’s really changed is how I ride now. I’ve abandoned any pretenses of riding fast or being fast on my regular rides. I just pedal along, ready to stop for anything interesting or to rest. It’s so liberating that I wonder how it was so easy to give up in the first place.
So what got me out and back into fun cycling?
- A front rack – riding in regular clothes usually means you can’t carry much as pockets become unreliable. Having a front rack gives me my tools, food and other stuff right there. Also opens up the possibility of stopping to pick up something cool.
- Street clothes – doesn’t feel as ridiculous to use a sidewalk to connect to a cool road I never rode before because there wasn’t a good way to get there. Also allows for easier stopping, don’t feel like a idiot sitting around in racing kit.
- Just not being fast – my first few rides averaging less than 14 miles per hour were hard to deal with but now I don’t care. If I want to be fast I can pick a short segment and blow up there. My rides taken as a whole are for fun and exploration, not speed.
It’s not really much but just having a front rack is what opened up everything else. I can carry what I need so I’m never worried about being stranded and feel comfortable going pretty much anywhere.