Friday Group Ride #308

Friday Group Ride #308

It’s quite a leap from the passing of an iconic musician to the urge to ride a bike, but I’m going to jump with both feet and see where I land.

I rode last night, as I’m trying to do every Thursday night, regardless of plan or weather. It was one of those magical night rides, the air warm, the moon full. We were short-sleeved and gloveless for the first time, and we pedaled not quite effortlessly, but far more fluidly and comfortably than we had a long time. We went “fast,” where fast means faster than last week.

We are way behind, my companions and I, not nearly as fit as the untethered youngsters around us who reel off centuries and double metrics for fun on Saturdays before not mowing lawns or taking kids to baseball practice.

I am taking inspiration from those young guys and their exploits. I’m not there, but I know I can get there. I know I have those hundreds of miles in my legs still, if only I chase after them on a Thursday night.

I am taking inspiration also from the slower set I ride with. They show up. I show up. We all want to be fitter. We all want to get to that effortless place where you can ride as much as you want without thinking too hard about it, without limping up the stairs afterwards.

Inspiration and motivation are priceless, and they can come from anywhere. For every ride, I’ve embarked on after watching a replay of Paris-Roubaix from yesteryear, there are dozens more motivated by eager friends or by the storm in my mind that only settles under the burden of hard physical work. Sometimes I can be inspired by beautiful weather. Sometimes I can be inspired by awful weather.

Yesterday an iconic musician passed away, as they do, and that’s what got me thinking about inspiration. This particular musician lived his life in his own way, in a style entirely of his own creation, and whether you liked the music or not, I think the message was to do the same. For me that means to ride hard, to not give up on my own fitness, to never take myself too seriously, to make room for everyone else’s style, their choices, and their identities.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what’s pushing you onto or off of the saddle right now? Where is today’s inspiration coming from? Inside the cyclo-verse? Or outside? If you’re lacking, where do you think you’re going to find it again?



  1. Peter

    My mom is my inspiration. She passed approximately a year ago after a hard battle with pancreatic cancer and it put me in a funk that I’m still sort of pushing out from. I started seriously cycling last year–cycling was my oasis when I took care of her. I could ride for a few hours and let the peddles and road absorb my frustration and anger with the no-win situation she was facing. After she died, I started to become numb, frozen and afraid everything. Facing mortality face-to-face sucks. But one day I realized I need to stop being afraid of everything and start doing the things I didn’t think I could/would. Criterium racing was one of those things. Last month I put in 6 races in about four days and loved it. I felt free and alive. It all makes sense on the course. While I was busy getting my ass kicked, I also started to kick out those nagging doubts and worries that have been weighing me down for the past year.

    So, that’s where I am at. Today was foggy and windy on the lakefront–a day I’d typically hit snooze and say “another time” to my ride. But, despite being almost blown over and hit by a few waves on the path, I did it. Because turning the peddles over makes sense and it moves me further away from those doubts and demons that I let win for so long.

  2. Aar

    Opportunity is my current motivation. For the past two years, riding has been very painful for me. With a total knee replacement 6 months ago, I’m now riding nearly pain free. The opportunity to ride pain free is all of the motivation I need to ride these days.

  3. Brent

    For me, the inspiration is who I am now versus who I used to be. In 2003, I weighed 420 pounds at age 40. Decided I didn’t want to die by the time I was 55 or 60 so I did something about it. Got a nutritionist, two personal trainers and a psychologist and worked insanely hard over 2 years to lose 180 pounds. Kept it off since. The problem was that it wasn’t really much fun; that was all work so it was hard to motivate myself to keep going.

    With kids grown, marriage over and career switched onto a far more pleasant but almost as lucrative track, I rediscovered bicycling, which I had enjoyed in my early 20s before I hung up my cleats due to the demands of career, wife and kids. Three years ago, I started on a low-end $500 mountain bike. I outgrew that last year and bought a carbon fiber dream machine and also picked up a fat bike along the way.

    My motivation comes from two things: the way it feels to go out on a long ride and feel more alive than I did in all those years of being a corporate drone and a family man, and, b) oddly enough, from the GPS. There’s something fun about challenging myself on every hill to beat my personal best, and the impersonal beeps from the Garmin are a great minute-by-minute motivation. I love watching the miles roll up on the odometer and also love checking the speed on some sweet downhill. I’ve even been fortunate enough to break the storied 46 mph barrier, what bike blogger BikeSnobNYC calls “Fred woo-hoo-hoo speed.”

    The most amazing moment came about a year ago when I was going up the biggest hill on my standard training ride. In the space of a second, the world changed… In the blink of an eye, the hill was half as high as it was before, and I was no longer feeling sorry for myself on the climbs. Now, even though I’m not terribly fast in an absolute sense, I attack hills instead of merely noodling up them. I relish the challenge, rather than retreating from it. And I’m getting faster, faster, which is a ton of fun!

  4. Rick

    Middle age is my inspiration. In 2013 I came to the realization that I must ride 5-6 times a week to keep my weight down and not be a slow pig. Strava and my social network keep me honest.

  5. Michael

    Motivation is never a problem. I love riding in rain and wind, if I choose where I will go (ice still scares me, as much for the cars being out of control as for me). My problem is time! As for Robot, there are just so many pesky little commitments.

  6. Pat O'Brien

    Longevity with quality of life is my inspiration for riding. That and the dream of a long tour, preferably more than a week.

  7. Jay

    I don’t need inspiration to ride. Riding inspires me. I ride for fitness. I ride for fun. I ride to be out in the world. I ride for the scenery. I ride because it transports me back in time and I can experience the same wonderful sensations that I felt as a boy. I ride because my bike is a time machine.

  8. Tom in Albany

    I became a father when I was nearly 41. Had another when I was 43. I want to have the fun with them through their high school years that I see other parents having with their kids. So, cycling, for me now, is my quality of life extender. If i can maintain my fitness, I can do the running around and coaching their sports teams and keeping up on skis – for a while, anyway – that my similarly-aged friends/colleagues do with theirs only, I’ll be in my later 50s/early 60s when I’m doing it!

    There’s also the fact that if I don’t ride I get grumpy. According to my 7-1/2 year old daughter, “Grumpy daddy’s no fun.”

    The dirty secret: I like it when people tell me I look a lot younger than I am. This, from the guy, that struggled to look his age through most of his 20s – until my hair fell out.

  9. toro toro

    Here’s what’s inspiring me right at the moment. I live in a small rural English village, nestled among very steep hills, criss-crossed by narrow, rough-as-arses lanes, some of which I’ve got Strava KOMs on. 20% sections are routine, and the road surface is basically CX or trail-standard: wide enough for one car, grass down the middle, strewn with rocks, constantly pot-holed, scabbed with spilled concrete, and covered with red clay from the fields whenever it rains.

    Or, at any rate, it was. Half of the lanes have just been resurfaced, for the first time in probably a quarter of a century. Some chip-sealed, some tarmacced. All far smoother, far faster than they were just two weeks ago.

    Basically, it’s suddenly open season on every KOM in the area. And I’m damned if my neighbours/group ride-buddies are going to bag them before I do.

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