If you own a bike and like to go for occasional rides on a local bike trail with friends and family at a nice pace and enjoy other’s company as you ride, I am here to admit that you are perfectly normal. You probably are able to keep most things in your life in perspective and can understand that just because you like to go for a ride now and then it doesn’t mean that you need to go ride your bike in traffic, or in hundred mile rides, or travel to ridiculous destinations just to ride your bike or generally let a nice little pastime take over your life.
I envy you.
I’m not like that. I have a somewhat manageable personality disorder, you see; I have one switch and it is either on or off. It’s not a thermostat, there are no graded settings. All of my life I’ve struggled with my inability to do things I love in moderation; its a joke in my family, “what’s he going to do now?” So, when I first got on a road bike as an adult; I was flooded with childhood memories of riding my bike everywhere, thrilled by the capabilities of my new fast bike, and physically exhilarated by the exercise of the ride. And, there you have it: a good memory, a physical challenge, and an elevated heart beat:
“I want to do this all the time, I am never, ever going to quit riding this bike!”
At one time I was addicted to golf, you know: lessons, endless driving range hours, always another piece of expensive equipment, videos, gadgets to improve my game and there was always a glimmer of hope that I’d get better, just a little better. But golf and I were a bad match, we ended up hating each other. The harder I tried at golf, the more aggravated I became when I failed to play well and the more aggravated I became the more I failed to play well. It was a merry go round I couldn’t get off. People used to tell me, “You try too hard.” HOW THE HELL DO YOU NOT TRY TOO HARD? I finally bought a boat, learned to relax, and quit trying to master golf. Everyone in my life was happy with that decision (although I still have bad dreams about trying to tee off from an area surrounded by trees and ground so hard and uneven that I can’t get the ball to stay on a tee unless it’s in a spot where my damn backswing hits a tree branch and then the… okay, I’m breathing again.)
Cycling lends itself to obsession in a much more positive manner. Hard work is actually rewarded: Suck at hills? Go ride hills, you’ll get better at hills. Trying harder is actual a good thing in cycling, it gives you positive feedback. Cycling is a community built for addictive personalities: there are plenty of enablers in the form of other riders, local bike shops, and charity rides full of other demonized souls. You are not the only one.
The joy of a simple afternoon ride after work is my meditation time, on these rides I don’t obsess, I just bliss out and work off excess energy. My weekend rides are my training rides, there I set some goals and try to see how far I can stretch, but even an exhausting day on the bike is better than a good day on the golf course (not that I had many good days on the golf course). The bike combines my love of being outdoors with my need to see how far I can push my old body. I find a little satisfaction with every sore muscle or cramp: I’ve done something that day.
My obsession is much more manageable now. I have been riding 4 to 5 times a week, averaging a hundred fifty miles a week until very recently. Right now, in the Florida winter, I’m only riding once or twice a week as I’m in a gym the other days. I’ve engaged the services of a personal trainer and I am rebuilding my Dad bod in order to become a stronger and faster rider. That sounds healthy and balanced, doesn’t it? I mean, its not like I’m addicted…
Ok, I’m addicted. It’s glorious.