All I know is this: The ride is inside you

You see, the problem is that you want to keep up with people who you can’t keep up with. Some people are weaker than others. No matter how hard they try or train, they won’t ever be able to keep up with the faster riders when the whip comes down.

You’ve only been doing this a short time, and you’ve seen dramatic improvements that most people never see. But you make the terrible mistake of comparing yourself to people who are far above your physical ability. This causes you frustration, because you want to be as good as they are, which in your mind means “as fast.” I could tell you right now that you’re a million times better than most cyclists I’ve ever met, but because you equate good with fast, you can’t grasp my meaning, or you think I’m flattering you, or you think I don’t get it.

But it’s you, not me, who doesn’t get it.

I’ve been doing this for over thirty years. I learned early on that there are people with whom I can ride on a pleasant pedal, but with whom I can never keep up when they pedal in earnest. It’s futile to want to do so, and ultimately it can poison the real experience of riding a bike, which is inside you.

No one wants to believe that the ride is inside them. They think it’s on the road, or on Strava, or defined by their average speed, or by the number of miles they’ve logged, or in their race results, or in the engraved invitation that allows them to hang with the fast crowd. It isn’t.

The ride is that thing inside you that you can no longer hold in. When you exercise it, you exorcise it, and its release is intensely pleasurable. It leaves you unknotted for a short while, until the need arises to exorcise yet again. Each time you do it you change a little bit, forever.

The physical activity called cycling can be measured against the performance of others, but you cannot express that which is within you through others. You must first understand what is inside you, and express it to yourself.

Over the years I’ve seen many people get into cycling, and then get out of it for all kinds of reasons. The main one, though, is that they were cycling in order to achieve something. Once they achieved it, or once they realized that their goal was unattainable, they moved on to something else. Others cycled because they thought it would provide them with some material gain only to find that it made them much broker than they would have been without it.

The ones for whom the experience was the emptiest were the ones who did it, or do it, solely for the competition.

I am the least competitive cyclist you know. When I ride I’m not trying to beat you. If I were I’d never take a pull, or I’d never race crits, or I’d never upgrade until forced. When I ride I’m experiencing something very private that is frequently dependent on the participation of others, but never defined by it. Each person plays a role in my internal ride; those who ride faster and drop me, those who ride slower and get dropped, those who vicariously ride with me on FB or WordPress or YouTube, and those who ride next to me sharing a joke and a laugh or an update on the family.

Do you really know yourself?

If you do, you will see the gift and be thankful for it until your most final breath. If you don’t, the gift will not look like the thing it is, but rather like something that’s not quite good enough, that needs to be improved upon, or perhaps like something that you can return to the store for one in a more fashionable color.

The ride is inside you, but you have to be brave enough to look into that rather dark place poorly lit, and to accept what you find there. It’s not, perhaps, what you expect. Yet it is the greatest and most wonderful thing of all.

40 thoughts on “All I know is this: The ride is inside you”

  1. Norman Nipnoile

    This is very, very good..Its something I needed to hear at this time.

    1. You are welcome, grasshopper. Waitaminnint, you’re no fuckin’ grasshopper. You’re a hammerhead!

  2. Oh my lord so so true. I get my ass dropped every weekend, and yet I continue to go out and do it, because it’s not about beating the other guys. It’s about transcending myself, and at 51 years old, after a heart attack, every ride is transcendant.

  3. I need to hear this from time to time. Well, tonight is crit night. Time to get my weekly ass kicking…

    1. Nothing like a face covered in sheet snot and your nose sniffing the bolts on your handlebars to remind you that there better be more to it than the race. And good luck tonight!

  4. WM – a great read but I think the fallacy is that it presumes that there is something wrong with getting out of cycling. Different strokes for different folks…

    1. Getting out of cycling is the right thing for lots of people, just like getting out of golf, skiing, marriages, crack, coffee, and those little powder-sugar-coated Hostess mini-donuts is the right choice a lot of the time. Well, not the mini-donuts.

    1. My ghostwriter plagiarizer dude writes all my shit. I’ll pass on your kind remarks!

  5. Great writing, but you already knew that…. Hey we’ll see you this weekend for Districts (aka the #beatdownasswhoopinshityourself party) right? I’ll buy your first 5 beers after the race but you’re on your own after that!

    Regards–

    p.s. you should bring like 18 water bottles and a 20 lb block of ice ’cause it’s gonna be hot!

    1. I’ll be there. Hot? Really? Like, “hot” hot, or just “hot” hot? Last time it was just “hot” hot; never got above 100. Being from Texas, a/k/a the Armpit of the South, I thrive in the heat. By “thrive” I mean “get dropped at the end instead of at the beginning.” Hope all these softy-wofty, namby-pamby South Bay 60-degree marshmallows are up to the challenge! I know I’m not!

      1. I like to think the word “hot” is relative in this case. If you consider the surface of the sun “hot” then the temperature for this weekends race will be downright frigid (batshit crazy logic I know, but what do you expect I live in Bakersfield). Anyway, the beer should help take the sting out of the heat… during or after the race!

  6. Bravo, Wanks!
    Thanks for this.
    (Now if you really mean this, please let me beat you up Crest next Wheatgrass).

    1. Just because I’m not trying to beat you doesn’t mean I’m going to go slow!

  7. Thank you WankYodaMaster! You have great insight, including some of your replies. Always enjoy reading your blog, and laugh often as you write about life situations that I have experienced. This is a great one and articulates that inexplicaple feeling that i get from riding, and why I suit up somedays when I just don’t feel like it, but am glad I did after. “Try not. Do or do not, there is no try.” Just ride! Keep up the great writing, and hope to see you more often on the road… Tim JediBikerWannabe

    1. Ha! Still smiling from the pedal we had up Hawthorne last year. I seem to recollect that you carried me. Hope your year’s going well.

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  9. Very cool! riding has kept me and 4 of my buddies of 30 yrs nanging together. Just got back from MTB ride in Brown County IN for 4 days. Best time we ever had. Sometimes we hammer sometimes we ride and talk about kids, life and love. Either way Lord willing we will keep riding together for many more years

  10. derek kozlowski

    Wank, I shared this with my local ride community, as we go through the growing pains of different groups and rides, etc. Turtles, hammer heads, and everything in between. Your words ring true, and will hopefully cut through some of that so everyone has room to grouw.

  11. WM – I am new here and just been reading for hours (maybe) lol – I love your confirmation email of, You should be working, riding, etc -for a minute I felt guilty – but I am stuck here, like in a good book –

    You are a brilliant writer! You speak from the heart, whether it is something serious or funny! But this one is perfect for everybody. The ride is inside you. It is an ‘inside job” – no matter what I am doing. My life is an “inside job” –
    My rides are all inside rides – every ride leaves me feeling grateful and usually exhausted!

    I heard about you, but I had to google round and round to find this place, and I am happy I did!
    Thank you!
    Oh, nice to meet you – 😉

    1. Hey, thanks for the kind words. Makes my day…or what’s left of it! I had a good internal ride this morning at the CBR 45+ crit, when my insides got handed to me on a fork. Ah, well…! Thanks again.

    1. Thanks!! Of course if you’re a mud bunny, the ride is partially all over you, too.

  12. This pretty much nails it, and just about as eloquently as any prior sentiment about riding ever has for me. The bike, the ride, the experience — man, you’ve expressed it well: it IS inside of you. Well said.

  13. Pingback: Me and The Strava Effect | Penguin On a Bicycle

  14. WOW. How truly insightful, accurate and inspiring. To whom ever wrote this wonderful, eye opening montage Thank You.

    Have a great day.

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