I was still young enough and undisciplined enough when I took up cycling that self-restraint was something I reserved for schoolwork, jobs and dates. Those were the settings in which consequences came fast and obvious. But in my personal life, I liked the more, not choosing. to pick one thing over another was to concede, to give up on something new.

The adage cheap, light, strong and its many variations had yet to reorder my thinking.

When I wanted to figure out how to be fast I learned I was going to need to ride more. No downsides there. It took time from some other things, but riding was so much fun, I didn’t see the trade. I started from such an unathletic place that just riding more scored dividends. It would be a few years before I realized I needed to change my diet. Dunkin’ Donuts wasn’t exactly the breakfast of champions.

But donuts are awesome.

And staying out late after gigs? That had to end because doing group rides on two hours of sleep isn’t genius.

While time may have been the most obvious commodity for which I was forced to consider opposing alternatives, money quickly entered the picture. I could buy the one good pair of bibs or two crappy pairs of shorts. If I bought the better bike, the mountain bike shoes would need to wait. Quality won out.

The comedy in this was that cycling put me in a circumstance to learn about wine, to fall in love with wine. Have a glass at dinner, maybe two? Feel it on the ride the next day.

Squeeze in a ride or assemble the bike that just arrived? Road or mountain? And now gravel is a choice.

The choices are easy enough, in fact. And the consequences minimal. But that’s where I began developing the discipline that enabled me to adult my way into parenthood. The immediacy of those choices helped me see the value of certain other choices down the road.

Letting go of the desire to be fast may have been the one of the most difficult choices of all. Making my peace with aging, with doing rides that benefitted others more than me seemed a difficult choice early on.

Ultimately, it was cycling that gave me an important piece of the social contract: To see how my choices, my efforts, could benefit not just me, but those around me.


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  1. Author

    (And for everyone who is going to lecture me on adjusting my son’s helmet, please just save it. I have to adjust it one way or another every single ride, and because he’s six, he doesn’t much understand that the helmet needs to be tipped forward on his head. We’re making progress.)

  2. Jen

    Ha ha ha! The kids’ helmets. No matter what you do, by the time the camera hits they are not on right. Ever. And there’s probably peanut butter and jelly on their face, too.

  3. Michael

    When I put my daughter’s helmet on her, year after year, I’d hold her chin with one hand to steady her head as I clipped and then adjusted it. She hated that, so would grab my chin afterward and shake my head. Today, at 23, that is her way of greeting me. But that has nothing to do with what you wrote! I think there is more joy now in helping others than I ever had riding for speed.

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