Friday Group Ride #366

Friday Group Ride #366

My cycling was different ten years ago. That is not, in and of itself, much of a revelation, things change, trends come and go. But I was reflecting this morning (on my ride into work) on how differently I connect to cycling as a sport than I did then.

For starters, I followed pro cycling obsessively then, reading the news daily, watching race highlights, dialing up pirate web broadcasts, recording Tour stages and spending whole evenings on them. The thing is I was inspired by the racing. I would go to bed excited to ride the next morning, even if only the few miles to work. I’ve written a lot about the way pro cycling fell off my radar, the way it ultimately failed us all, so I won’t rehash that now. Suffice it to say, I was disillusioned before the Reasoned Decision, and reading the paperwork more or less closed the case for me.

And then there were the magazines and blogs. I read Belgium Knee Warmers, refreshing my browser to make sure there wasn’t a new post. I read the old Masi Guy blog, and the Swobo blog back when Stevil Kinevil was writing it. I read all the magazines I could get my hand, even making regular stops at Out of Town News in Harvard Square to get the Euro journals.

I don’t do much of any of that anymore, but still I ride. Why?

Back then, I had fewer friends who rode bikes. I was the office weirdo. I was the guy out in all the weather, tilting at windmills. Now I am surrounded by people who ride, and I find all that motivation I got from the Euro peloton and reading old copies of Sam Abt stories now comes from the exploits of the very real people pedaling alongside me. I’d hesitate to say that my connections to cycling are better now (nor worse). Things change. They are what they are, and I have been very lucky to work in the industry and learn so much about the sport I love. It’s just different now.

This week’s Group Ride asks, how do you connect to cycling? Is it different than 10 years ago? 20 years ago? Or, are you the same cyclist, mentally anyway, that you used to be?

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8 comments

  1. Michael

    Interesting question. I guess I am similar (slower of course), but less interested in competition. I like to be able to still go fast, but I am more likely to just stop and sit on a rock and enjoy the quiet in the middle of a ride. A big deal, for me anyway, is how much easier it is to pack large amounts of calories into small packages (energy bars instead of cookies), and water bags like platypus bags that can fit into seatbags. Since there are no places to re-stock on water or food for fifty miles or more in any direction, this has allowed for much better and longer adventures, on road and dirt. Mentally, I think I am simply tougher or meaner – I don’t worry about whether I CAN do something, but just figure it will hurt. But connection to the sport of cycling is still strong, and I still enjoy reading about some races. Might even go to the Belgian week next year, as much to ride as to watch.

  2. Jay

    I am a smarter cyclist now compared to me in my twenties. My enthusiasm for riding has not diminished, but I have more time constraints and that frustrates me.

  3. TomInAlbany

    I connect to cycling in a number of ways. Riding with my kids is one. Bicycle commuting and setting my targets and goals around that. I’m a minor Strava weinie in that I like to watch myself get faster – for me – as the spring and summer progress. I’m never going to own a KOM and don’t really care.

    I do enjoy following the pro peloton. It’s great entertainment, which, for me, is what sports is all about. I’ve never put cycling ahead of or behind baseball, hockey, football, etc. They’re different but the same.

    I think my primary connection to cycling, though, is in the thought process. Planning rides. Meeting up with friends for some fun. Hearing about a good time had by friends on bikes. And in dreaming about my next bike. I guess it could be anything but, for me it became cycling.

  4. Aar

    I’ve been doing a lot of bike fitting as my bike adapts to cycling after knee replacement. At my most recent bike fitting, the fitter asked me about my cycling goals and objectives for the season. It was asked in such a way as to elicit a specific race or event. Since I haven’t had a single race or event as a target in quite awhile, I thought about it for quite awhile. Eventually, the words “Cycling is in my blood. I’ll ride as long as I’m able” came out of my mouth before my brain fully formed the thought. It was a moment of personal clarity. While it’s topic adjacent, it works for me.

    Anyway, how do I connect to cycling? N+1 is probably the most tangible way. Pondering the “right” amount of riding to do is another – How much is too much for my body/knee? How much kicks in the munchies that pork me up? How little can I ride while maintaining or advancing my fitness? Which group do I enjoy riding with the most? Etc. Socializing with fellow cyclists is probably the most direct way I remain connected.

    Thanks for the great group ride!

  5. Alan

    I no longer accept the NBC broadcasts of pro cycling as acceptable. Eurosport has my heart. Il’l watch NBC only when there is no other option.

    I still read the same blogs. Bike Snob NYC, RKP, Cycling Tips, VeloNews but now it’s also Dirt Rag, and a few other mountain bike blogs as I’ve been doing a lot more mountain biking. No cars, better views, flowers to stop and admire.

    I still do local grassroots races, and I volunteer at races. I try and pick 2 big events a year. This year was Iron Horse Classic. Barely beat the train from Durango to Silverton.

  6. Stephen Barner

    Ten years ago I was riding around 7k miles a year, which rose to 10k for a few years before settling back to 7k. I’m hoping to bump that number back up this year, so things in the riding department haven’t changed much. I’ve got several more bikes, but as I was riding my newest bike 10 years ago, that hasn’t changed much either. If things go well, in ten more years I’ll be retired and riding even more miles, likely on the same bikes. I just hope to have more room to store them all.

  7. shg in Austin

    Oh, boy, have I been thinking about this topic lately. I just fitted a 12-32 cassette on one of my bikes today in order to make getting this +50-year-old body go up the steep hills in Austin a bit easier. My fast group rides have faded away over the last few years and now I go out for 25 miles solo and pick the twistiest most convoluted ride that gets the largest number of steep hills in that distance. I probably couldn’t talk to anyone even if I wanted to on that route but it’s what I do now.

    The tires don’t sing with speed anymore, my days of being a state champ and the olympic training center and LONG gone but I still get on that bike and once I “snap the elastic” of home life, I don’t mind being on the road in my own world and I’m never really jealous of those stronger faster rides of days past.

  8. Kenton Hoppas

    I got into cycling with low end equipment. (Most six year olds do.) Over time I upgraded to the fancy stuff. My garage, or apartment spare bedroom, went from being a stable for one, to two, to over a dozen. Now, many years later, I still ride as much as ever. However, I only have one bike again. It’s high-end components are in such a sad state of disrepair that it embarrasses me to the point of not showing up for group rides at times for fear of ridicule. But riding is my life. It always has been. I connect to cycling today the same I did when I was six. Bike, me, destination, go, arrive, partake in activity, leave, ride, home, smile. And that’s my past, present and future connection to cycling.

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