Monday, August 25, 2008
“You’re addicted!” The only way you’ve avoided hearing that phrase is by either not telling people you ride most days of the week or by not actually riding most days of the week. Such sins of omission are entirely understandable. Keeping the peace, or a low profile can be difficult enough when you’ve got a tan like a panda bear and legs as hairless as Michael Jordan’s head. The full story has been known to cause non-cyclists to think your last known address was Area 51.
But addicted? It’s not like any of us would ever say, “I can stop this any time.” We don’t pretend our lives could go on without cycling and remain fulfilled, enjoyable. And shouldn’t that be the definition of addicted? Shouldn’t a true addiction be something we are honest about, the thing without which our lives would lose some luster?
We, ourselves, can joke about being addicted to cycling. About how when we miss our riding we get the DTs. How we get neurotic without that outlet.
No matter how we joke, most people simply don’t understand our devotion. From following the racing, to structured workouts and, of course, the numbers of hours we spend in the saddle each week, our love for the sport can seem unnatural, even unhealthy. And anything done to excess must be unhealthy, right?
But here is where I find the difference remarkable. True addictions narrow one’s world. Whether drugs, alcohol or compulsive disorders, addictions define a person’s world into necessary and unnecessary and as the disease progresses, less and less is necessary. Meals, jobs and eventually even loved ones can be determined expendable by the brain hijacked by the disease.
What cycling has done for my life is anything but. I don’t think anything else in my life taught me the value of hard work the way training has. My interest in cycling has led to learning about physics, metallurgy, physiology, GPS technology, blood chemistry, metabolism, diet, European cultures and cuisine, Hannibal, and wine, not to mention expanding my knowledge of other subjects I was already interested in including geography and photography.
My experience can’t possibly be unique. But universality is no standard by which to judge. The epiphany I came to in defending my love of and devotion to cycling is that the sport has made my world bigger. What it has done for me is nothing short of miraculous. It has exposed my weaknesses and foibles like no shrink could. I give nearly everything in my life greater effort thanks to cycling and there’s a chance that I’m a more tolerable person to friends and family.
I doubt very much the definition of addiction includes feeling better about yourself.