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« Ride the Long White Cloud | Main | Capillary Action »

Riding my bike: Then and now

It’s taken me the best years of my life to reach the best years of my life. That statement is certainly true of cycling.

I find nearly all forms of exercise a chore, with the exception of riding my bike. Although I will agree that even that is not a pleasure when I am below a certain level of fitness. It becomes a pleasure when my level of fitness allows me to ride at a level where I am happy.

I remember in the 1980s living in Southern California, great weather, wonderful terrain, hills etc. However, I didn’t enjoy riding because the pressure of my business, didn’t allow me enough time to ever get fit enough to ride at the level I wanted to ride at that time.

It had not been many years since I had quit racing, and I still expected to ride at that level. Hammer up the hills is what was in my psyche told me, but my mind was making a promise that my body couldn’t keep. The result, I suffered horribly. It became a chore.

I still had that racing mentality, it wasn't about just enjoying a bike ride, it was all about how hard could I push my body. The competitiveness of beating, or even just hanging on to the wheel of someone at a level of fitness way above mine.

When I was racing the bike was simply a tool, a piece of equipment necessary to participate. Even training rides with others were unofficial races, always trying to be first to the top of a hill, or always having my front wheel ahead of the rider next to me. (Known as Half-Wheeling.)

Today, I have reached an age where I have nothing left to prove to myself or anyone else. Just to get out and ride two or three hours is an achievement in itself. I am content to ride without pushing myself to the point of exhaustion.

Speed is less important, just the distance I can cover. More miles equate to more time on the bike, and more cycling pleasure. I now remember what it was like to ride in my early teen years before I started racing.

For me cycling started out as a means of escape from my dysfunctional home life. I would stay out and ride for hours, and on weekends I would even cover close to a hundred miles at the age of thirteen or fourteen. All this on a Hercules Roadster with a Sturmey-Archer 3-speed hub gear, the bike must have weighed around forty pounds.

Mostly I rode alone because none of my friends were willing to cover the distances I did. I grew used to, and even enjoyed riding alone. This still is the case today. Now, a ride on my bike is almost sacred. I enjoy social situations, and good conversations, but not while I’m riding.

Riding is still often my "alone time," I have few thoughts and it becomes a form of meditation. I am at one with the elements, the temperature, the wind, even the rain on occasions. I am at one with the terrain, up or downhill, the road surface, smooth or rough.

Lastly, I am at one with my bike, it becomes an extension of my body. The closest thing to human flight without actually leaving the ground.

It is still not about the bike, it is about riding the bike and all that goes with it.


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Reader Comments (8)

Beautifully said, Dave.

September 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterRGT

Great post - the pleasures of the bike, a lifelong gift. Just for fun this morning, I rode my oldest bike, a 1975 Bianchi. It, and I, have our share of dings and touch-up paint, but the riding never gets old.

September 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEd

Great Post Dave. Looking forward to getting more post like this.

September 27, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTim Wilson

Bravo! Well put.

September 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPhillip Cowan

70 bloody years I have been riding me boik. I have to agree once again with most everything that Dave has said. "Why don't you go riding with a bunch of guys" my wife of 54 years says. Well NOTHING and I say NOTHING can top the thrill of riding ALONE no pressure from anything. I am NOW constantly passed by young bucks on super duper high tech C/F wonder very expensive bikes and I just say to myself "Been there, seen that, done that" Time to reflect time to relax time to enjoy that's what riding a bike is all about.NO rush NO panic No pain just enjoyment. BUT I have to admit that as I age, returning from a 50 miler and having to climb up the bloody hill to get home, is getting more of a challenge. Even use to old granny gear when the wind is blowing to wrong way, BUT get up the hill I do and will continue to do as long as I can. SO as we use to say "twiddle your arse off chaps Its good for you"

September 28, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

Dave, what 'big' chainring do you use these days? You did an article on it - http://davesbikeblog.squarespace.com/blog/2014/3/12/46-big-ring.html

September 28, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterResty

My reason for joining a cycling club was to appear sociable on my CV. I joined the A5 Rangers CC and narrowly failed to achieve evens on the fairly hilly 10 mile TT. https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B0Ax-SUntlgGa2lzZzlLYVVNa0E/view
Luckily I don't have to pretend these days and continue to enjoy solitary cycling in the area, occupying my limbs and freeing my mind. Some people will never get this but you have captured it here. You can do a balanced turn in a plane or on a bicycle but nowhere else; a bicycle is the epitome of freedom.

September 29, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterpeter

In the 1950s when I was racing we used a 46 front ring. on the back depending on the race 14 to 18 winter training back cog 20-22 lots of twiddling those days Agree Dave? or did you use anything different?

September 29, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjohn crump

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