Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Reasons for riding

Last week, this week and next are shaping up to be problematic for riding. Last week was taken out by a last minute trip to Vancouver, B.C. to attend to a few family matters. This Thursday I leave for New York for a week for a series of work meetings.

Of course this will leave me with almost three weeks with limited saddle time. Say goodbye to halfway decent racing form. I'm less worried about that though. I can always fake it in a race--use my head and not my legs. I'm also well past the years where racing priorities were put before every other priority in life.

What I don't like is that too much time away from the bike leaves me feeling a bit incomplete.

I started taking bike riding seriously when I was 13. I entered my first bike race the next season. I'm 37 now, so you can do the math about how many years I've been riding, and more significantly how many years cycling has been an important part of my life. Save for a few years in the late-90s following complete and total cycling burnout (working in the racing industry can do that), I haven't gone long without riding, thinking about riding or talking about riding.

Why? What is it that draws me to cycling? What draws others?

I suppose everyone has different reasons. For some, after years of running or football or tennis injuries, it's simply a kinder, gentler way to maintain fitness. For others cycling might be a way to spend time with friends. A way to get to work or to pick up the day's groceries. Some feel like it connects them with the outdoors.

There's nothing wrong with any of these things. I value all of them. But for me, and for a lot of riders I know, there's much more. "Riding is my church and every day is Sunday," a friend once said to me.

He was only half kidding. Cycling was his religion. It's where he found balance and joy, where he thought about the things happening around him, and for my friend the way he approached cycling was the way he approached life.

I don't know if it's because I started riding when I was so young, but there's something about my legs going in circles that completely grounds me. The repetition of movement does something to my brain, creates a state that I haven't found in any other activity.

And when I can't ride for a few days or certainly weeks, I don't feel right. I'll certainly survive the next week or so and will probably have the chance to get in a couple of rides somewhere along the path.

But I'm curious. Why do you ride?


  1. I ride b/c it is one of the most enjoyable ways to stay fit. If you are playing basketball, football, soccer, etc., you have to be focused on those sports. With cycling, you can turn your legs on and turn your mind off for miles. Think, reflect, pray, plan or just take it in. Soak up some sun and see some beautifully secluded areas, especially in our region.

    Racing is fun for other reasons. The team, the strategy & the challenge of physically outperforming one's opponents is the draw there.

  2. It's fun! What better way is there to feel like a kid?

  3. I echo the sentiments of your friend who said riding is my church. I do feel a spiritual connection while on the bike. I also get that feeling of being able to get somewhere on my own power and to be able to stop and start where and when I want to. I can stop to look at a crane in the water and be totally quiet without an engine running or I can try to go as fast as possible and feel like I can almost fly myself. There is no other activity or sport that allows this kind of freedom.

  4. I am going to go with "riding is my church" AND it make me feel like a kid. My legs are sore and I don't care. I can't seem to get all the bike grease off my hands, and I don't care. I got cursed at in traffic again yesterday and I don't care. Because for 1:24:32 today, I got to ride my bike. And that means for 1:24:32 all I had to do was breathe, pedal and try to stay out of the way.

  5. All great reasons. Thanks for commenting!

  6. A fast car does not do much for me but it is easy to idolize a fast clean bicycle. I love the feel of a well tuned drive train, or the breeze and choir of a passing peloton. I like how my legs and lungs feel after a hammer fest... Though it is not my Church if I don't remain grounded, that it could become.