The Routine

I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle—Zen proverb

The discipline of cycling is a learned apprentice in all aspects of the sport. Part of our discipline, is that of “the routine.” The routine for the novice is not the same as the routine of the veteran. For the freshman of the group, it may be a routine that begins at the gathering of the ride. One may make observations of tinkering, the spin of a wheel, and the hissing of floor pumps busily at work. Notable too is the hurriedness of this given routine, hurriedly trying to make the deadline. It may be the characteristic rush to the beginning, or the catch up after a slow lead out, whatever it may be, it becomes the routine. For some, it functions adequately, and after the ride they requite their bikes to the garage or back porch until the next gathering.

I admit my sophomore years in cycling began this way. It was all I knew. However, once I was taught “the routine” by a veteran, I never forgot it. I was taught to think, to plan and to give proper time to the steed. In so doing, I would be the kind benefactor of its flawless function. My friend who taught this to me was one who simply affirmed what he did, his routine, and drew out a logical reason for it. He did not put down my previous routine, you know, the after-thought of whipping the bike out of a trunk and hope it made it that day’s ride. And in teaching me, he instilled the necessity of proper bike care, and thus being then ready for the next day’s ride.

The routine begins when I pull in the garage, upon dismount. I flick the stereo knob for choice music of the day, then place the bike tenderly in the pro work stand with a rag so as to not damage the goods. The bike waits while I draw up from the fridge a San Pellegrino with lemon. I place my helmet and shoes into the cabinet, slide on my sandals and begin methodically the reparations that day. Like a surgeon going in to operate, I assess the bike from across the work area, typically wiping sweat from my brow and sipping the drink. It’s a broad view if you will, considering the bike from a vantage point I don’t often have. Then I begin myopic work, the process of assessing trueness and function of every single part. I begin with trueness of wheels, cleaning the chain, and down the list I will go. From head to toe I assess each part and I know my bike’s every last detail down to the thread pitch of every bolt. Whereas I know every curve, every sexy part, I also know every little blemish, every little flaw in her and have a plan of how to remedy it.

And with each routine I try to recollect the ride, down to the very fine details the function of the parts. Recalling them now at this time allows me to address a mis-shift, a creak, a subtlety. Perhaps only a drop of lube or a quarter turn here is all it takes, but it is necessary so as not to hear the dreaded rattle, or hesitation that reverberates in a cyclist’s mind for what seems to be nearly eternity, or even worse, a snicker from your pals when they hear it. Lastly, to finish ‘the routine’ I take a final look at the tires, looking for small razor-sharp fragments that may have been picked up that day, a run of the finger and an in-depth going over with the eye, and with this, it is done. A snap of the brakes declares, “It is finished!”

Then up on the wall she will proudly hang ‘til being called on again the next morning. Then, each tool that has been used is then placed back on the wall in its rightful place, cleaned and wiped down, of course. The work stand, also, wiped down and folded neatly in the nook. The lubes and oils, all one by one placed on the counter top. Then the music will be stopped, the towel thrown in the bin in the corner, not to be used again, and the hands cleaned of today’s debris. While at one time I considered such preparation to be overbearing, but in all actuality, ‘the routine’ takes no more than 30 minutes.

For my friend, the routine was a regimented structure that functioned so highly it became a skillset. After he taught it to me, I have carefully replicated it ever since; the behavior, the quality, the mindset of supreme function and of ultimate purpose.


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  2. lachlan

    What? No hobbling to the shower, struggling to get your lyrca over tired muscles and then slumping to the kitchen floor, ravenously eating anything and everything you can find? That always comes first routine priority for me ;+)

  3. Souleur

    I do admit Lachlan that does occur at times, on those days we suffer, the hard days. But, I always try for the most part to keep my routine methodically. My friend explained his routine was like a love affair & the quality of life is improved when your girls are in fine working order and part of the thrill of knowing any moment could break into a ride the two of you can share and enjoy.

    1. Padraig

      Lachlan: I’m with you bro. That’s why we HAD to run Souleur’s meditation. Anyone who can arrive home in a calm and collected state and have the presence of mind to clean his bike on the spot, rather stumble from door to kitchen to shower has my utmost respect. Clearly, he is a man of massive fortitude and we will learn great things from him.

      Me? I’ve got an unfinished hunk of food on the vanity as I Dawn the embro from my legs and try to remember my name.

  4. lachlan

    i,ve got to admit, its impressive. I might try it myself once I’m retired and my kids have grown up.

    Would certainly avoid the all to frequent shame of taking your 2nd mortgage two wheeled pride and joy out to a sunny group ride with it still covered in 2 week-old rain and mud!

  5. Touriste-Routier

    My routine couldn’t be more opposite of Souleur’s; I need to get out of the “diaper” as soon as possible. It doesn’t matter how comfy the shorts are, I want as much distance between myself and the chamois as quick as possible.

    After a quick wipe down (me, not the bike) and redressing, it is time for some recovery food (not necessarily bars & powders). Only then can I ponder other tasks.

    Souleur, you have my highest admiration!

  6. Souleur

    Thanks for the compliments everyone, I really do appreciate that.

    Touriste-Routier, having my firstborn on his own now does liberate my obligations and it does allow me more time to care for the bike. Having to juggle the obligations of a young father, husband, cyclist and gainful employment…it is cumbersome at best. That is what makes my ‘routine’ so valuable to me now, even after the long hard efforts of the day.

  7. Marco Placero

    Good post Souleur (gr8 handle 2).

    A fine reminder, winter’s wetsand grit fouling the chain gotta be scoured before it scours a chain. Also, grazie for post ride meditations on tics, clatters, growls, pings and fears happened during but forgotten after.

  8. randomactsofcycling

    We’ve had a bit of a wet Christmas season here in Sydney and I have to admit to beginning to put together an after-ride routine similar to this. There’s something a little smug about turning up for the next wet group ride with a clean and well lubed bike.
    Well done Souleur for the way you paint the picture of your routine.

  9. brett

    this has been a very inspiring read, but one question… is this a routine for every bike in the stable, or just for the highly admired/shiny road bikes?

    i ask because i am far more inclined to clean and inspect my personal road bike than any other bike i have.

  10. Souleur

    Brett: thanks for the kind words, to answer your question, is it every bike or just select ones that get our attention?? I have 6 bikes hanging in the garage. 3 road, one cross, 2 mtn bikes. Each one is very special to me. I am sure yours are likewise, and because they each have a special place, each and every bike you have is worthy of your kind touch and attention. It will reward you directly.

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