Friday Group Ride #201

FGR201
I am 42-years-old. I work full-time (and then a bit more). I am married, have two boys, 6 and 8, and a dog who likes to be walked. I own a home. And I like to ride bikes.

My life is good, really good, and at the same time, really full. My boys both play hockey, which leads to 6-8 hours of ice-related commitment, and they both have reading and homework, which occupies our evenings. On weekends, we try to do something fun as a family that is not hockey and not homework.

Home ownership requires maintenance. Lawns must be mowed. Leaks must be fixed. Garages must be cleaned.

And staying married takes time, too. My wife has as many interests as I do. She needs time to herself, time away.

So where does cycling fit? I ride before work sometimes. I get up at 5 or 5:30 and try to get a few hours in. Sometimes I ride after work, but it’s hard for me to maintain motivation for that. I’m tired by then. And of course, there are weekends when a ride can be had, too. That also usually requires getting up before the sun.

I said to my wife once, “It is hard to be any kind of endurance athlete, when there is no time to endure.” The first hour of any ride, the warm-up, is often the whole ride. At that point, I’ve mostly just endured getting my arm warmers situated the way I want them. I’m only just starting to work at cycling.

Sometimes I dream about a future filled with free time, my retirement, the kids gone and the frenzy of work behind me, but you don’t want to start wishing your days away, not these days, filled as they are with the joy of parenthood and the satisfaction of hard work. To want anything other than exactly what I have is disrespectful to my family and the people I work with. It flies in the face of every decision I’ve made up to this point. That grass isn’t greener. It’s just somewhere else.

So I fit cycling in where I can. It’s not as much as I want, but I’m not interested in displacing any of the other aspects of my life to make more room. There is a see-saw of escape and guilt that goes along with taking long rides, an ever-present feeling of being on borrowed time, of inconveniencing someone else. And rather than seeing that guilt as a bad thing, something to overcome, I choose to see it as a safety valve, the necessary pressure of reality working against the uncheckable wanting of my ego.

Call it homeostasis, call it balance.

This weeks Group Ride asks where the balance is in your life? Are you in the freedom of your youth still, or are you spinning your way happily through retirement? Or are you, like me, fitting it in where you can? How do you manage your commitment to riding against your responsibilities? And are you happy with where you’re at?

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39 comments

  1. Mike the Bike PT

    If you substituted 38 years old and 3 kids for 2 kids, you pretty much just described me. Most of my rides are “rides of opportunity”. Often I cannot plan a ride ahead of time. I must take the opportunities when they arise. This past year was my lowest mileage total in 5 years. We had a baby along with a 7 and 3 year old. I look forward to days when I can go out for an hour or two after work without it affecting anyone else but I also love the place I’m at. My kids are great, my wife is wonderful and every day is full of surprises. I need to ride. I have to ride. But I don’t have to right now.

  2. Ransom

    42 years old with “only” a dog and a significant other. I’m perpetually amazed at what folks with kids manage to fit in. Our 80-year-old house has a significant list of major renovations which are underway and perpetual, among the many reasons (excuses?) that being free of kids doesn’t leave me swimming in spare time.

    I collect hobbies as a hobby. If I spent more time on the bike, I’d probably be better fit to tackle it all, but haven’t managed the experiment yet.

    The closest thing I have to a useful insight is observing that resignation and obligation are interesting forces. Apart from some time on a wind trainer in the basement and a little bouncing around on the trials bike, I haven’t ridden in weeks. But I got up early(ish) last Saturday because I had signed up, thus obligating myself, to plant native species in an emerging trail area.

    But always, my best success with consistent riding has been when riding was the assumption, and not a question. It sounds pejorative, but I’ve always referred to this as the power of resignation.

  3. cormw

    You have described my life! I try to fit in a ride a couple of days a week before work, but it requires me to get up at 4:00 am and be done by 6:00am. The weekends require the same, but I start a little later. I’d love to ride more, even race, but the time I spend being dad and a husband I would not want to lose. I can dream of riding more, but reality limits me, for now…

  4. Rod

    Still only getting down this path myself with a 2 year old girl and a 6 month old boy.

    Riding mostly around 10 pm watching sports replays, and a couple of hours during naps on the weekend. My daughter seems to like bikes (we commute to daycare on one, even if it means studded tires and – 20 temps) so there’s hope we can share this hobby later in life.

  5. revracer

    Time to ride and the balance with life and family resonates deeply with me and creates similar compromises to those already noted. My rides are frequent at six days a week, but short. I typically fit in a 1-1.5 hour long session after walking the dog. When inspired by a goal on Strava, I am up at 4am to stretch into 2-3 hour rides in the darkness. They are too short to make a performance difference in my attempts at CX and road racing, but I find that daily physical surge a necessary part of my mental well being.

    I try to find little “cheats” like riding to my son’s baseball games, or riding to pickup that item at the local store, just to put that feeling of work into my legs and the sense of peace in my mind. I also nudge the family to ride which resulted in my 13 year old son is taking up track racing and becoming my riding partner on weekends.

    When riding compromises my involvement with my three children and love of my life I sense that guilt that keeps things in check. If the miles or a ride means that much to me, it is on me to take the ride outside of the normal family hours.

    In reality, I could not ask for much more, but the yearning does creep in every so often.

  6. disch

    Just got married. Just got a dog.

    …and also just got a trainer so I could start sneaking in rides before work, before church, and after hours on rare occasion. Never even considered why I would need one before getting hitched.

    It’s amazing how much different life feels when you prioritize your marriage before everything else. I create hard rules like no training on Sunday so I can spend a bike-free day with my wife, which I need as much as she does. That sens of borrowed time…however…still resonates with me.

    Fantastic post as always.

  7. Steve P

    Well said about not wanting to start wishing your days away… to get closer to a life of free time. Daydreaming does make it tough to keep the present in focus, but I’m sure when I’m old and retired I would offer everything to go back in time to the busy life.

  8. Brian G

    In a very similar situation. Daughter is only 3.5 so not too much extracurricular to take up time so making the most of what I have now. As I know very soon my limited time to ride will be limited more. But it’s all worth it.

  9. Geoffrey

    Wife, two kids (9 and 7), two cats, very full time job, creative cycling incorporation…

    I commute on single track a couple days per week. I will ride on the weekend if the kids are watching a movie, or super-early. I also do work after kids are in bed while my wife walks the dog. I watch no TV. I am moving toward minimal non-work glowing screen time. Also, we have lunch rides at work twice a week.

    To Steve P’s point, I was on a project that was cancelled, and was in work limbo for a bit. Had PLENTY of time that I could ride. That grew old in two weeks. The ride has part of its value due to its scarcity, like a rare coin. I love to ride, and I love coming home from a ride.

  10. Aaron

    Like Zorba said, “Am I not a man, and is not a man stupid? I am a man. So, I married. Wife, Children, House, everything. The full catastrophe!” http://youtu.be/cHAqdZ2f5cM

    But, I’m a luckier than that. Just last year, I managed to have my boss shift my office location from just two miles to about 6 miles from my home. Before the move, I rode my bicycle to work in my work clothes. After about two weeks of riding in my work clothes on the longer commute, I decided it wasn’t going to be functional, not to mention, comfortable, and I didn’t want to work in sweat laden clothes for the good portion of the morning before I dried out from the ride. So, I made a very conscious decision; to convert to full blown cyclist.

    I blew a small fortune upgrading my cycling clothing so I had some good high tech togs to ride in (riding year round through all the crap that the weather shoots our way, but again I’m lucky living in SFO, it’s not so bad year round). As an aside, can some one explain to me why cycling clothes cost so much? Does a pair of big shorts really need to cost over 200 bucks (that I buy on a discount off season because they are so expensive)?

    And I was luckier even still. I had my old stolen Richard Sachs (unlucky) frame replaced with a brand new Anderson Custom Bicycle (lucky). So, after riding an old Nishiki International (vintage 1975) for a couple of months to the new office, I was finally riding a super road bike….

    And, now, I simply work in my rides to and from work – and it fits in around the edges. Where I would normally be commuting by train for about a half hour to 40 minutes, I ride the same amount of time; door-to-door. And, the miracle of it all: I’m always looking to find ways to extend my ride longer. I have to be one of the very few guys out in America angling to make the commute to work longer in both miles and time.

    Now, I realize most folks are slogging it out on a motorized device to get to work, but the sooner one can convert to biking to work, the better and more healthy you will feel; mentally and physically.

    I did just over 4000 miles this past calendar year, but that’s an underestimate as my tracking application wasn’t always functional. My new year’s resolution is to do a minimum of 100 miles a week – that boils down to 10 miles each way or 20 miles a day. I know I won’t accomplish that every week, but as a goal, it’s not too bad to shoot for.

    The only downside is that when my buddies call for that long ride they are doing on the weekend – you know the metric century – for 4-6 hours on a Saturday or Sunday – I’m not inclined to want to ride, nor do I have the energy for it. The upside – I spend that time doing other things, like watching our boys soccer matches, etc…

    You get the picture. Ride on!

  11. Mark

    I’m same deal as the author.

    I ride my bike to and from work and do 150 miles in a good week with a max distance of 22 miles/leg. Can vary routes. I usually have a complaining internal monologue about being tired late in the day but I snap out of it when I swing a leg over. It really helps me deal with stress (frustrating day? – hammer) and the regular efforts keep my body working well. My athletic nine year old cant beat me at any sports, can’t put me out of breath. How many 44 year olds can say that?

  12. Ifjeff

    41.9 year old cyclist and I am tired just from reading your post. Linking days is tough like linking days. Thanks for the words and recognition I am not alone.

  13. Patrick O'Brien

    I have been retired for 10 years. And it’s just me, my wife and a little dog in the house My wife rides but both of us have lost the fire for it slowly over the years. Every year our annual mileage has slipped from the peak that occurred 8 years ago. So, I can ride almost every day if I choose. But, I like to cook, appreciate a clean house, van, and bikes, own a home, have a little garden, camp, and am trying to learn to play the two guitars I bought when working. The days are full; we stay busy. But, I find time to ride 3 or 4 times a week for a couple of hours both mountain and road. And my wife joins me on most of them. And we take one or two overnight tour rides a year. So, we have balance. Will you ride more when you retire? Probably. Will you enjoy it more? Yes. Will it keep you healthier as you age? No doubt about it. Will you do it at the expense of other things you enjoy? Probably not. Will you still yearn for more riding? Yes, but balance is good at every age.

  14. Chad

    What a great post. Based on the group I’m lucky to ride with at 5:30am thru the week and 6am on weekends, you’ve captured what a lot of us are trying to balance. Wouldn’t give up anything though. Healthy boys aged 5 and 3 and an understanding wife. I love this site. Keep up the great work.

  15. Ryan

    Me: 40, 2 kids (ages 3 & 2), not married-engaged to baby mama :-) I work in medical sales, orthopaedic implants specifically. That new hip or knee you got could be one of mine. I work a lot, much more than 40hrs/week. I have a child seat for my bike & both kids love to go for rides with Daddy. They’re short & usually include stops at every park around, but they’re still rides. Thankfully, one of my doc customers is a cycling enthusiast (I’m so jealous of his full DA9000 Serotta) so every Friday, I get to go out for at least 2 hours with him & combine work (building that relationship) & riding without a single gripe or sideways look from my angel. She is the quintessential non-cycling significant other who thinks I’m positively deranged for shaving my legs & flogging myself on my bike the way I do. Outside of the aforementioned outlets for my obsession with the bike, I’ll squeeze in a trainer session in the garage at 10pm some nights. As much as I’d love to ride more, I love my girl & our babies more & am unwilling to deprioritize them in favor of more mileage. They’ll only be young once & I don’t intend to miss it!

  16. Quentin

    Are all of your readers 40-something, or just the commenters? You’ve more or less described my life, except I’m a year younger and my kids are a year older. I married a non cyclist, but at some point my wife got a basic road bike and decided she liked riding, so we started pulling the kids around in trailers. Somehow the trailer has now turned into 2 tandems that we take out for weekend rides with the kids. We both have very flexible work schedules, so we manage to periodically go out during the day for rides of our own while the kids are in school. So, I don’t do much riding on my own these days, and I don’t put in the miles I did as a teenager when I was racing, but somehow I’ve managed to turn the sport I love into a family activity, which I feel very fortunate to have pulled off.

  17. Bill

    45, retired for about a year (it’s not all roses and champagne).

    Funny enough, I got more riding in when I was working full-time, mostly because I commuted ~12 miles each way, year round. Now it’s pretty easy to postpone a ride because I have another interest I want to pursue that day, or commitment, which easily turns into a few days. That wasn’t an option when I was working, no matter how exhausted I was.

    When I was working full time and pursuing endurance sport goals, my #1 goal was always “balance”, on my weekly, monthly and yearly calendars. It took several years to realize that “balance” for me did not include spending 4-6 hours on my bike or running on a Saturday, then lying around the house recovering when my wife wanted to get out and see things.

    We’re both quite happy with our balance now.


  18. Author
    Robot

    @ Quentin – There are plenty of retirees out there, they’re just not in any rush to comment. They have all the time in the world. JK JK.

  19. Savvycyclist

    I’ve been retired for about seven years. When I had kids, job, house, etc I longed for more time to ride. Got my kids (3) involved in cycling as much as possible and my wife enjoyed the time to herself. Shortly before I retired, we bought a tandem. Now we train, moderately, for events that we think or know we would enjoy. We have the time, money and experience to pretty much do what we want. There are still lots of other competing priorities, they now just come from things we want to do. We don’t ride everyday but usually don’t go into events “cold”. We discovered a few years ago that centuries were a little much on the pain meter and opt for metric centuries now. Plus when we finish there is food left. We ride for our own satisfaction, love the time together, (and apart) and have plans to keep doing so for many, many years. Yep, I’ve found the balance.

  20. Jesus from Cancun

    It looks like I am part of the club. 47 with full time working wife, three kids, girl 15, boys 11 and just turned 5. And a labrador dog who also needs to be walked about one hour every day.

    I haven’t gone on any rides outside of my neighborhood in about 6 years. A time came when family became not only the most important, but the only thing that really matters in my life, and everything I do is with or for my family.

    And I have no regrets at all. I love my life the way it is; there is nothing I would like to change. I have a home trainer which is enough to keep the muscle memory alive, and I stay in decent shape walking and running on the trails close to home. Most of the time with the kids and/or wife.
    I don’t miss riding, to be honest. I raced road and track from 1980 to 2005 and kept training until 2008. I did it full time and didn’t achieve everything I wanted, but I tried my best. I gave my all, no regrets.

    I got my fix for this lifetime. I have no more cycling related goals.

    Having said this, I am very much looking forward to the day my 5 year old learns to ride his bike. He hasn’t been interested and I won’t push him. But his brother likes to ride (it’s him I ride around the neighborhood with), so it’s just a question of time. Once the little one is ready, we have some nice, wide, flat and smooth trails to ride just a quarter mile from home.

    THAT will be fun.

  21. JPrumm

    That was an outstanding “Friday Group Ride”. I have a Firefighter’s retirement so I can go out at 50. That is just over 4 years for me. I have found the last handful of years I have been counting down the days (1539). I think I have been “wishing away my days”. Time to start enjoying the final years of my life as a Hotshot. Thanks for the reminder.

    As for squeezing in rides. I get paid an hour a day for PT. I combined that hour with some of my own time to get daily rides in every am. Because of the nature of my job I put in big hours on Saturday and always take Sunday off with the family. I am fortunate to have a understanding family who knows the importance for my health and safety that I stay in shape.

    When I do retire I have a job waiting for me at my LBS. So I am a bit excited about the next chapter of my life. Keep up the good articles that are thought provoking.

  22. Warren

    When I was 40-ish, with a wife and small child I got lucky and started commuting to work (22 miles round trip). It’s 27 years later, different job but same approximate mileage. You need an understanding spouse and good daycare and probably one child… to pull this particular trick off.

  23. oldschoolzeus

    67 years old with a mind that says I can keep up with most anyone I ride with (not). I still work full time and try to get 4 quality rides in a week. If time is short I try to go hard and get longer rides in on the weekends. The guilty feelings are still there when I make time for my rides, but my wife is understanding. My wife has a horse so we try to work with each other in scheduling activities! Seems to be working so far! Time really does seem to go faster the older you get, so don’t waste it!

  24. Mike Hancock

    44, 4 kids (16, 10, 7, and 1 month), alpine ski racing… but yeah, I’m in the same boat. The bike provides the balance, even if it means getting up at 4:30AM 6 days a week to ride in a cold garage 6 or more months out of the year. Nobody would ever confuse me with an elite athlete (I’ve been around enough of them to know the difference), so perspective on just how much of my life should revolve around cycling isn’t all that hard come by. Depending on who you talk to, I may still be a little too bike-crazy, but like I said, it provides the balance.

  25. Pat O'Brien

    I hear you oldschoolzues! Reminds me of a John Prine lyric from the song Angel of Montgomery. “The years just flow by like a broken down dam.”

  26. Peter Leach

    Over the past three years, I’ve gone from being single [with two at-home, late teen / young adult children] to becoming married [with two at-home mid- / late-teen children, and three young adult children], oh, and from 55 to 58 years old.
    My time on the bike has reduced fairly dramatically, and I fit riding in around family activities.
    No more racing.
    No more commuting.
    No more dedicated ‘bike room’.
    No regrets, either.
    My current trick, if I can call it that, is to invite my wife and who-ever else wants to come, to lunch on Saturdays.
    Last week it was Goulburn [96 kms].
    The week before it was Cooma [108kms].
    Next week, not yet scheduled.
    Ride forever …

  27. Hautacam

    Good lord, we are all of a piece here, aren’t we? Me too: 45, 2 kids, dog, superannuated cat, house, working spouse, etc. I’ve abandoned racing and “epic” rides over the past couple of years in favor of balance. I’d rather hike with my wife than go for an all-day MTB ride alone. I still ride to work a lot and get in the weekend rides when I can. Usually a shorter, more intense hill ride rather than a longer flat ride. Or a CX ride in the park in a pinch. I also find myself running (!) more. I thank 25 years of riding for that — my knees are still up for a run because I didn’t do much of it for a couple of decades.

    Can we get an RKP edition of Patrick O’Grady’s “Old Guys Who Get Fat In Winter” t-shirt?

  28. TominAlbany

    Wow! Like my comment to FGR#200 came to life!!!!

    So, I’m 48-1/2 – as my daughter is wont to say. Two kids 7 and 5. My wife is a stay-at-home mom who’s trying to cultivate a photography career now that the youngest is in school.

    I get up at 4:45AM to ride 18-23 miles in to work. This gets me in front of my desk at 7AM. This allows me to leave for home at 3:30PM. It’s 11 miles directly home and pancake flat – except the bridge over the interstate and that’s barely a hill.

    I have made the decision that I will forsake the weekend rides and spend the time with the family. We like to hike and camp. Also, my kids are still interested in playing with me – for now. They’ve also shown a desire to play with the kids on the street rather than me from time-to-time. this is a stark reminder that this is all limited and I’d better not miss the time with them I have.

    I crave longer rides and more interesting routes than the daily slog. However, I’m unwilling to give in. And, it’s all worth staying home when i get a big hug from my daughter or son because we just had a great time. My son’s into Karate and Cub Scouts and my daughter just started gymnastics so, I put in my time with the shuttling and enjoy watching them grow.

    Yes I want more. I guess I just don’t want it more.

    Thanks, Robot. I love the FGRs!!!

  29. armybikerider

    I’m a 52 year old Army officer set to retire in 7 months. I’m married with no kids. My wife has a horse that she loves to ride and she understands my “need” to ride. In the Summer, with later sunsets, I ride after work pretty much daily. All year long on the weekends, she rides her horse in the morning and I ride the bike, then we spend the rest of the day together. It’s a wonderful balance that allowed me to log 6,000+ miles last year. One of the higher totals since I worked in my LBS 20 years ago. I never really raced and only ride for fun – not linked in to Strava. I’ve enjoyed this passion since I first rode a friend’s “serious” road bike in 1981 and I have no plans to quit. When I retire later this year I’m not sure that I will ride more or just maintain. Competing interests like learning to play my guitar, cooking, working in my organic vegetable garden, fly fishing and any vocational interests I might decide to pursue will likely infringe on my time, but I do expect to maintain something north of 5,000 yearly miles. I love when young soldiers look at me and can’t believe I’m 52 based upon my physical abilities!

  30. Andrew

    Man, this is like some kind of Robert Bly session for cyclists!

    OK- 47, married 20 years, 3 kids (7-14), 2 Australian shepherds. Full time job often involving early mornings, occasional late nights and weekends. 15 years of post-HS school/training. A pretty decent amount of work-related travel.

    I got back into riding more seriously about 5 years ago, after nearly 12 years almost completely off the bike, and it’s a difficult balancing act. When it’s warmer I’ll get out of the house by 545 or so, ride hills for a couple of hours before work. About 30 mins after work usually. Almost never get to the group rides in town, even on the weekends. Kids have to go somewhere, dogs have to be hiked, etc. I try to get to maybe 3 “events”/year, but even that involves negotiations and love songs. During the winter months it’s usually just me and the trainer for an hour or a bit more, before I have to run off to pick someone up from late dance practice or something.

    I’d be lying if I said I didn’t sometimes envy the guys whose kids are out of the house, or who don’t have kids, or whose wives don’t seem to mind getting stuck with everything (or who have nannies, I guess). But it’s all about balance, and priorities, and for better or worse “being a grown up” about it all.

    Do I sometimes wonder how my life would have been different if I had prioritized sports etc over other things? Sure- I bet we all do. But I can’t change what is done, and 90% of the time, I don’t want to.

  31. Chris

    I’m in a similar boat, currently waiting for the sun to at least ponder an entrance so I can start my ride. I know well the dual feelings of guilt and escape. I’m happy, content, satisfied when I’m not riding. But I try, as often as I can, to feel genuinely lucky. For me, that feeling comes most easily on my bike. Slipping out before dawn to shake off the chill of night with those first few pedal strokes, knowing that if the kids sleep in, I might return to a silent house. If not, I’ll return to the smell of toasting bread and the bustle of children starting their day. Who gets to experience that? Lucky people, that’s who.

  32. Gye

    I’m in my early 30s, and don’t ever get “fun” rides in.
    As I attempt to juggle marriage, a young dog & younger cat, three jobs and full time grad school, the days fill up.
    I’m a racer and a decent enough one, but my only rides are completely specific training rides based on a two-year arc training plan. The “fun” riding I get to do is my 20′ commutes to the various jobs, those can be pretty great. As these things go, my clunky commuter beast provides me with more joy than any of my “nice” bikes.

  33. Paul

    Thanks for this post. I sometimes wallow thinking it’s just me that struggles to balance it all and do right by everyone at the same time. I’m right in the bracket described here (>full time job, family, late 40′s) I keeping thinking I should race again as I haven’t for a couple of years, but this had made me think. I still ride, I still have it in me to do fondos / sportives at the front(ish) and I’m happy at home. I’m going to try harder not to wish this time away……

  34. Full Monte

    I feel guilty when I’m on the bike. I’ve got so much to do at home, at work, it’s like I’m stealing – a time and energy thief. Then, when I’m not on the bike, I feel guilty. I should be out taking advantage of an opportunity to ride — I know I need the emotional and physical release.

    Damned if I ride. Damned if I don’t.

  35. Pingback: The Laughing Group : Red Kite Prayer

  36. Marc

    When I read articles about power meters, intervals and training 6 days a week, I would feel like I was not being a true “cyclist”. I guess I’m being a true husband, father, provider who loves time with his family, but also loves cycling. Even if it’s only one long ride on the weekend, it’s nice to have a great ride and get that “air hug” from my kids when I get home ’cause I’m so sweaty.

  37. John

    Great post, it rings true for me! I’m 43 with a wife and two boys (8 & 10). I bike to work and *maybe* do 2 weekend group rides in a month. Life is so chaotic; between weather, kids’ activities and the honey-do list it’s a wonder I ride at all. But I remember the classic exchange, “Question: What would you be if you weren’t a cyclist? Answer: 400 lbs”.

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