Friday Group Ride #489

Friday Group Ride #489

First, thanks to everyone for bearing with me through last week’s FGR. I’m living through heavy times. I appreciate your support.

And now on with the show…

When I was 39, I had a little freak out, a little meltdown. It produced neither an extramarital tryst, nor an excessive car payment, but it led to a radical change of careers.

I must be some kind of go-getter, because I didn’t wait until I was 40 to sift through my progress to-date and decide I didn’t want to continue on the path I’d been on, which had featured long, somewhat lucrative stints in software and publishing. In fact, I noticed that no matter what I did, I tended to push forward until the type of work and level of responsibility became really odious, entirely more than I could bear, and then I blew it up and walked away.

These are probably the symptoms of advanced workaholism, something I got from my father.

So there I was, again, at 39, sitting in a project launch meeting, thinking “There is just no way I can do another one of these projects.” The company I was with at the time was going through a management shakeup, and the new leadership was less than impressive in their analytic and dynamic range. I found myself a few days later in a meeting with my new boss, with her telling me that she needed me to have a better attitude, at which point I told her she should probably take my two weeks notice.

I ran away to join the circus bike industry.

I had been writing for RKP for a year or two then. I knew some people, some of the right people I guess, and so I got a job working with/for/on/about bikes. This was the first career step I’d taken, I think, that was wholly about what I wanted to do, and it was dramatic in its impact on my life. This is not to say that I’ve been dancing down the yellow brick road since then. Work is work, and I still have those workaholic tendencies that get me in trouble.

Let’s be honest, what sort of a freak writes nearly 500 weekly columns over the space of a decade?

But the bike continues to be a fascination for me, and I don’t for a second regret the choice I made.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the most dramatic change or impact the bike has made in your life? I find that, even as a constant presence, cycling has its way of revealing truths and laying bare your character, year-after-year. Part of the reason I do what I do is that I know the bike has this power to alter lives in a positive way. Tell us what it’s done for you?

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8 comments

  1. Michael

    My wife says I could have been a great scientist if I did not spend so much time on my bike or thinking of my next ride. I think it has kept me sane.

  2. sbarner

    The bike set my direction in life, and continues to do so. When I was young, I quickly realized that I was “no fortunate one.” Before my peers started getting their driver’s licenses, I had greater mobility with my bike. When I finally got my license, I ran the numbers and the cost of insurance and operation were too great to justify car ownership, when I could already get where I wanted to go. This probably cost me dates, but in retrospect, I don’t think I missed much. I may, in fact, have dodged a few bullets.

    The bike was my introduction to mechanics and provided practice in problem solving. This experience played a part in every career I have had. The rush and bustle of middle age led me to drift away from bike commuting in my 30s and 40s, though I never completely stopped riding. When I hit 50, I started riding double-centuries again, and that meant lots of long rides as preparation, and commuting by biie whenever possible. All this cycling has put me in a much better place physically and emotionally than I had been. My truck has accumulated a little over 10k miles since I bought it three years ago, in spite of an almost 40 mile round trip commute. Riding has made me healthier, happier and more sane.

    The bike helps me keep my carbon footprint quite small. I often wonder, when I hear a story on the news about some environmental demonstration, how many protestors drove to the event. The bicycle is such an elegantly simple and efficient machine, I firmly believe that it offers the opportunity to save the planet. The pragmstic side of me says that it won’t, though. Our young people are more interested in staring at the screen in their hand than in doing the hard work necessary if we are to turn around the environmental damage we have been and are doing. If everyone who is able cycled instead of drove whenever practical, traffic would roll freely, we would alleviate the climate crisis, and we would be healthier, happier, and better looking.

  3. Steven Down

    I’m not sure that my bikes have ever had a dramatic single impact on my life beyond my self identifying as ‘cyclist’ when asked. I think of cycling as more like a vitamin. Something that, along with other forms of exercise, nourishes me, keeps me strong and offers incremental improvements in the quality of my days. I’m happy for those that can report a life changing moment related to two wheels, but it’s been other things related to family, work, health and the like that have changed things for me.. The bike has more been a tool to help see me through.

  4. David

    I joined the US Navy right out of college. But the desire to excel and advance made me into someone that I didn’t especially like. Plus, I hated going to sea!

    As soon as I was able I left the Navy behind and took a job in a bike shop, making substantially less money but increasing “life enjoyment” many times over, and I never looked back.

    That life shift taught me many things about work and career, but even more about myself.

  5. Jorgensen

    A bicycle was a positive way to escape a very tense household when I was young.
    Later it would lead to my first employment while in junior high.
    Eventual racing success, and the self confidence that goes along with it.
    A vehicle to do well in sport where otherwise I would have remained the kid who got hit by the tennis ball before deciding which way to move to return it.
    It set the concept of systematic planning and hard work would yield good results.

  6. Doug

    Could the bike be an escape? Could be it a path to stability? Could it be a friend that brings comfort?
    I found the bike in High school, and it quickly became my best friend, and an escape from the stresses of high school social “challenges.”
    The bike found my first job out of high school, and provided the stability of the pay check.
    It continued with me into college where it frequently was a means to get away from campus life, and also spend time with a special someone who would later walk the isle with me.
    When my brother passed in 2003, the bike was there to walk the road with me. Many, many miles were done that year looking for comfort.
    In 2008 cancer came visiting, and the bike provided motivation to beat the disease and get back to the races, and miles I missed for many months. It was the bike that helped me find Team Livestrong and RAGBRAI. Enabling me to experience the comfort that comes from knowing that no one walks the Cancer road alone.
    Through the joys and stresses of life, the bike has always been there, waiting for me to swing a leg over the top tube and roll out on the road. It does not care what day I’ve had, whether the bills get paid or not, it doesn’t care what the cost of gas is, or what the resident of the white house said or did. All it cares about, is that it’s rolling down the road with me. Experiencing the miles, experiencing the wonder of this amazing world we live in.
    Last year we sat in a room, and we were told my wife is now walking down the road of being a cancer survivor, the bike was there, waiting. Many miles were ridden last year trying to escape. But, in that effort to escape, was found the stability and comfort that only the bike could provide after 35 years of a partnership we’ve had together – me and my bike.
    We swung our legs over the top tube of our tandem yesterday and rolled out for a short ride to the Ice Cream shop. It was one of the first tandem rides we’ve done since her diagnosis last year. We didn’t go fast, we didn’t go long. Rolling down the road, on a cool February day we again found the comfort that comes with our old friend, the bike.

  7. TominAlbany

    The bike gave me a confidence about my physical form that I never had growing up. I’m 5′-6″ and I didn’t hit 100 lbs until sometime my senior year of high school. I wasn’t a jock in any way, mostly because I figured as the small kid I couldn’t learn sports. Always picked last was also a thing.

    I started to ride as a kid, of course and it gave me freedom. I restarted riding in my early 20s and did things! Centuries. All-day mountain bike epics. I started skiing and working out so I could get better on the bike. Almost 55, I consider myself a decent, recreational athlete. I’ve kept it up all of these years because I love it AND it became social.

    Essentially, the bike gave me a life and a little confidence. Hmmm.. Thanks, bike!

  8. Parker

    Hope your your times lighten up, Robot. Reflecting on the discussions and questions you raise, and responses to them, has brightened some of my own time.

    While a few cycling challenges have left me feeling pleased, and humbled by others, only one altered my life, the first, a self-supported tour of 2,500 miles 1965. It wasn’t well planned or well executed. But it did enhance my confidence regarding persistence in physical undertakings. That was during a time I didn’t want to self-identify as using a student deferment to avoid the draft. So, with a good bit of lingering self-doubt, I volunteered for Marine OCS. And thereby gained substantial confidence about my physical strength/stamina and, more importantly, about semi-controlled recklessness concerning life in general. Enough that I waited nine years after eventual academic graduation before pursuing the career most obviously linked to it. In the meantime, I built a log cabin, felled trees for a logging outfit in northern Ontario, canoed several of Canada’s wilderness rivers, and hiked its Bruce Trail. Am pretty sure I’d’ve missed all those things had I not bumbled my way thru that 1965 bike tour. Not to mention not now having a reasonably satisfying level of strength/stamina.

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