Thursday, October 9, 2008
Hobby. Past-time. Recreation. Exercise. Factually speaking all are correct. Cycling is each of those things and yet in a classic case of synergy, it is much, much more than their sum.
Hobbies come and go. Past-times are mentioned in “Jeopardy” bios. A recreation is a pleasant way to pass a weekend day. Exercise is what doctors tell people to get more of. The fact is, when you clip in that first foot in the morning, what’s on your mind is both more serious and less so.
Significant. It’s not a term most of us commonly use, but it often refers to the “other,” that person we consider an outer focal point for much of our energy. It is also an apt description for the position cycling occupies in our lives.
And yet, were anyone to suggest we formalize that relationship, to make some public declaration, such an action would trivialize both cycling and the ritual. Why is it any surprising juxtaposition must be comedic? We laugh at ads that depict a cyclist with his/her bicycle in bed. We get the devotion, but such an obvious expression cruises straight past hyperbole to ridiculous. And so we laugh.
Were someone to walk down the aisle with his bicycle we’d laugh. Get a life. You know you’d say it. But really, in the grand scheme, the object of your affection notwithstanding, it was in cycling most of us learned the true meaning of commitment.
We’ve writ that word large and small. There’s the attack you hold until your legs fill with lactic acid and you slow like an unwound clock, training morning after early morning, the dates and goals penciled into training diaries, and even the refusals, which for most would be the hot stuff in the corner of the bar, but for us is dessert, an extra beer.
Done right, the things you share with your husband or wife are multitude. Your favorite person to tell stories, to crack jokes, share a pretty day, think something through, express yourself in the most physical of ways, or plan a future.
In cycling you learn that getting dropped, bonking, crashing, poor motivation, third flats, being fat, getting pinched, hours of rain and cold and even saddle sores aren’t just something to avoid, but a necessary part of the fabric of the experience. Without those days—without them by the boatload—you haven’t really immersed yourself in the sport. Without a reservoir of terrible times you’ve endured you lack that reserve to draw upon, knowledge that it gets better, sometimes even in the same day. Only a true cyclist knows that you can question the urge to ride and enjoy fantastic form all within a single hour.
The worst times pass. And the best days, they come after months of preparation. The best days we celebrate when we get the chance.