The perfectly unbalanced life

November 28, 2011 § 6 Comments

I always hear people talking about finding balance, especially when it concerns their cycloholism. “You have to find a balance between work, family, and cycling,” is the way I hear it most often expressed.

Of course I always wonder what the fuck they’re talking about. None of the cyclists I hang out with are balanced, at least by normal standards. From the deadbeats who are living on a shoestring to support their bike habit to the guys who are raking in the bucks but nonetheless mentally “checked out” because all they’re really thinking about is the upcoming ride, my circle of friends is a nonstop Rolodex of people who are terribly imbalanced.

When stumped I usually turn to Dr. Google, and in this case I hit the jackpot on the first search result for “finding balance.” Turns out that Finding Balance is a faith-based 501(c)(3) non-profit health and wellness organization with an emphasis on eating and body image issues. Wow. Somebody sure stayed up late one night figuring out a way to pull together the concepts of being a tax deadbeat, religious nutjob, and mean stepmother nagging you for being fat all in one mission statement.

Which one are you?

The more I read, and the more imbalanced the folks at F.B. appeared, the more I liked them. Turns out the Finding Balance folks have categorized people with eating disorders, and if you switch out a word here and a word there and you’ll have a perfect classification system for cyclists. Here, then, is the list:

1. Gravity prisoners are terrified of gaining weight, and tend to judge frames and components as good or bad based solely on weight. They feel extremely guilty if they indulge in a few extra grams for brass rather than alloy spoke nipples. GP’s constantly weigh everything and know their bike’s weight to the half-gram. Their shit breaks all the time, though, because it was designed for 125-lb. UCI Pro Tour riders, and G.P.’s tend to weigh at least 195.

2. Secret purchasers binge on junk purchases at home, in the office, during lunch break, online, or in person—wherever they think their significant other won’t find out about the expenditure. They have separate “secret” credit cards for bike-related purchases and even separate bank accounts. They have elaborate explanations as to why something was actually “traded,” i.e. no cash outlay, and they have detailed parts-transfer systems that allow them to sell used stuff on e-Bay (sometimes through an intermediary), swap with friends, or even have friends make dummy purchases on their behalf. The significant other, however, always finds out, and a spat ensues. S.O.: “You already have four (insert name of bike component or article of clothing here). S.P.: “I got a great deal/This one is so much better/Everyone on the team has it/Fuck off.”

3. Career trainers may not know what to with their bike without a plan to follow. Despite their efforts, they’re more likely than other types to be wankers who invariably flail on race day. Career trainers are always looking for a new training plan, a new coaching methodology, or a new assistive device to enhance their performance (think power meters, power cranks, power cams, rotor rings, tilt rotors, etc.). Their great constancy is their utter inability to find something that works and stick with it. C.T.’s love to have coaches, be coached, and call someone “coach.” As young men and women they spent a lot of time in locker rooms.

4. Purgers are obsessed with ridding their body of unwanted calories and bloat by combining cycling with laxatives, diuretics, occasional vomiting, or staring for extended periods at Frankendave’s fluorescent yellow-fuschia-powder blue outfits, which will result in all of the above. Purgers see cycling as a license to eat whatever they want, never realizing that in order to cycle away that 8,900-calorie lardburger with extra-large fries and a gallon of Coke they’d have to cycle to the moon and back.

5. Motion addicts cycle to soothe stress, deal with anger, even celebrate a happy event; they think about cycling nearly all the time. Shitty day at work? Cycle to clear the head! Fight with your lunkheaded spouse who just doesn’t GET IT? Cycle to reorient as to what’s really important in life! Birthday coming up? Celebrate YOUR day with a li’l pedal! Calendar blocked off for Christmas or Thanksgiving? Hey, babe, I’ll see you after the Holiday Ride! M.A.’s view their existence as a continual pedal, occasionally interrupted by sleep, food, bathing (usually), minimal work, and pesky family members.

6. Extreme cyclists can be counted on to throw a leg over despite illness, injury, exhaustion, or even death. They are devastated if they miss a workout, and they work out seven days a week. After getting hit by a car they achieve notoriety on the hospital ward by having their wife bring their turbo-trainer into the hospital room as soon as they can hold themselves erect without the steel plate in their head falling out. It’s not unusual for an E.C. to do a group ride in the morning, hit the trails after lunch to get some high-end cardio, and finish off with a day at the track to keep their sprint sharp. E.C.’s don’t ever last long as cyclists because their bodies either wear out from the constant abuse, or they become so mentally deficient from the relentless pounding that they become triathletes.

7. Podium punks live for the glory of standing on the podium. They don’t care if it’s an old broken down three-stepper with the paint peeling off the side, stuck out on the edge of some dustblown shithole east of Lake Los Angeles, or if it’s just a makeshift couple of crates with the bronze standing on the ground. The feeling of putting their hands in the air and posting their $25 check on Facebook (it bounced) makes the 3:00 a.m. workouts, the $50,000 in gear, the tens of thousands of miles in travel, and the funny looks of co-workers all worthwhile.

8. Career cyclists immerse themselves in every aspect of cycling and actually make a living in what is euphemistically called “the industry.” This is like agriculturists who grow medical marijuana in lieu of the moniker “pothead,” and oenophiles who parse the distinctions in wine rather than ‘fessing up to the appellation “drunks.” Those outside the circle aren’t fooled: you’ve taken an immature and meaningless activity and tried to bootstrap it into something it cannot be.

Let’s get you fixed, sonny/girlie

Fortunately, the Finding Balance people don’t just identify what’s all fucked up, they have a way to de-fuck it, which is more than I can say for my Camry. Here’s the lowdown, adapted by me to begin the healing process for all my cycloholic buddies:

1. Cyclists of all sizes, wrestling with any form of cycling issue, deserve to have resources available to them to help them learn about and overcome their unique struggles with cycling and control of their impulse to cycle. Getting hit by a car or repeatedly screamed at by your significant other are effective resources, but limited in their application.

2. Cycling is addictive, and left unchecked can affect all aspects of our lives. It’s only a tiny subset of people who think 3% body fat, tiny limbs, a hunched back, and a raccoon suntan look attractive. And those Assos socks you wear with your jeans? Stuuuupid.

3. Unawareness of how much we take care of our bicycles is an unhealthy extreme. I know it cost $8,999.99, and it’s Cav’s favorite ride, but it’s never ever going to be anything more than a bike made of plastic. Please get over it. You don’t have to clean it after every ride (infamous South Bayer known far and wide for post-ride polishings and who now lives in N.M., YOU KNOW WHO YOU ARE) and you shouldn’t put it in your bedroom, hang it on your wall, or put it in the living room as an object. Bicycles are never considered “objays,” even old steel ones with original SR components and pantographed Campy cranks.

4. By being honest about our struggles with cycling, we eliminate the isolation of secrecy and shame, most often clothed in “pride” at our devotion to the “sport.” It’s okay to say, “One business suit and fifteen color-coordinated bib-jersey combos is a PROBLEM.” “One broken-ass old car and four shiny $10,000 race bikes is a PROBLEM.” “One pair of scuffed up Vans and five pairs of high-end carbon wheelsets is a PROBLEM.” “Anything that says Assos or Rapha is a PROBLEM.” “Cycling blogging is a massive, massive, massive, huge-ass, reputation-destroying, braincell-killing, time destroying PROBLEM.”

6. Finding freedom requires examining and addressing all areas of who we are: emotionally (undeveloped), intellectually (stunted), physically (deformed), and spiritually (Eddy was a man, not a god. Okay, not a big god, anyway). It’s okay to be a skinny weird geek, or a chunky muscled geek, but not if your idea of a good time on a sunny Southern California day is the Home Depot velodrome practicing Madison throws behind some sweaty guy with B.O. on an electric motorcycle.

7. It is possible to break free and to experience a much richer life than disordered cycling allows! To do this, however, you’ll have to get rid of your least favorite six bikes and devote one afternoon per week to non-cycling activities. Lunges at the gym to help with your sprint, or time spent memorizing the USADA list of banned substances so you don’t wind up with the wrong supplement don’t count.

So they make a living just being nice?

Fortunately, no–even spiritual, non-tax paying dieters have to eat, so to speak, so Finding Balance encourages you to send them money. You can also purchase religious, tax-free (for them), skinny-inducing books from their bookstore, and set up Finding Balance groups in your neighborhood, sharing your experiences and helping others deal with the shame, pain, rebirth, and recovery from your terrible addiction. I’ve set up a similar program to help cycloholics. Click here to donate to Wankmeister’s Cycloholism Cyber Retreat. I’ll be glad you did!

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