Crisis of confidence

It happens to everyone, usually after a massive crash. It goes like this.

Day 1 (en route to hospital with full morphine drip): How’s my bike?

Day 2: When can I ride again?

Day 3: I guess I can’t ride this weekend.

Day 4: I guess I can’t ride for a few weeks.

Day 5: I guess if I can’t ride for a few months.

Day 6: I wonder how much of this is gonna be covered by insurance?

Day 7: I wonder if I’ve still got a job?

Day 8: If I ever mention “cycling” again I’ll be divorced. Again.


Then the rehab begins. It’s worse than the accident. Or, you spend a month posting stickies on the fridge because even though you didn’t break anything, your closed-head injury has left a few too many open spaces on the fill-in-the-blank test.

“Remember to pick up milk.”

“What is milk?”

“Remember to wake up.”

“Remember to write down name on back of hand for easy reference.”

Somewhere between the shuffling return to work and the final hundred sessions of physical therapy (“Okay, today we’re going to practice bending your elbow two degrees. It’s really going to hurt until you scream and beg to be put to death, but just bear with me,”) everything changes. A flood of questions spring up.

Questions like this

“What was I thinking? I’m too old to be dressing like a Circque d’Soleil reject.”

“My dog, I could have died in that crashtacular fredsplat that’s gotten 54,000 hits on YouTube. Then what would I have done?”

“All the money I’ve been spending on … bicycling? Really?”

“I just can’t bear the thought of dying so young and leaving all that cold beer in the fridge. It needs me.”

“Even the thought of getting back on a bicycle terrifies me. Not to mention what it does to my friends who have to ride behind me.”

“All the years I’ve wasted on bicycles, my whole life has passed me by! And for what? Strava?”

Answers like this

Fortunately, I’ve seen this happen to lots of people, and they solve the problem rather simply: they quit cycling and go back to being normal people. However, a few really do sit on the fence and angst over it. “Should I quit cycling? But I love my friends! But how can I do something so dangerous? But it’s so fun! But the thought of riding makes me break out in hives. But I like hives!” Etc.

So, to sum up, here’s a handy-dandy set of answers that will fit every catastrophe that has resulted in the soul searching question, “Am I really cut out for this?”

  1. In life, high risk equals high reward. In cycling, high risk equals little to no reward and/or life-altering disasters. Choose accordingly.
  2. The older you get, the more it is going to hurt when you fall six feet off the ground onto your head, even with a helmet.
  3. The faster you go, the more likely it is that something will surprise you and cause you to fall six feet off the ground onto your head (see No. 2 above).
  4. Most people prefer to die in degrees behind the wheel of a car rather than in one fell swoop on a bike, being taken out by a car.
  5.  There are no answers in life, except for in cycling, where even though there are lots of answers, they are always the wrong ones.
  6. If you have to choose between your life and your children, it’s time to sell the  the bike and turn parent or sell the kids and turn pro.
  7. Cycling is not a metaphor for life. It is life. And a pretty bad life, might I add.
  8. No matter how badly you were hurt, no one really cares. I mean they do, but actually, they don’t.
  9. Best tip for not getting in high-speed crashes: avoid them. And sign up for the world famous Marina del Schenectady cyclocross skills class offered by “Inches” Polnikov.
  10. No matter how crazy you think your cycling addiction is, you’re right.
  11. If you got smashed flat tomorrow or wound up in traction, the NPR would still go off at 6:40 AM on Tuesdays and Thursdays. But after the ride I’d sure as heck bring you coffee.
  12. Life is not about conquering your fears or achieving great things or being happy. It’s not “about” anything.
  13. For every person who gives up cycling, fifty other middle-aged idiots will blindly take it up with power meters, electronic shifting, and disc brakes. And they will crash spectacularly. Cf. David Hollande and virtually everyone on Big Orange. And Prez.
  14. The only difference between your weird cycling life and your weird normal life is that in cycling no one cares about how weird you are because everyone is breathing too hard and trying not to crash or get dropped on the Switchbacks.
  15. Your friends are your friends, two-wheeled or not.
  16. And get well soon.


24 thoughts on “Crisis of confidence”

  1. 17. You’re so vain, you probably think this post is about you. It’s not, except that it is.

  2. I can relate. It’s been almost 8 weeks since I left PCH in an ambulance – and haven’t been on a bike since. This was my first bad one too, and it definitely changes your perspective. If you happen to see me “driving” my bike to the coffee shop, I know you’ll understand 😉

  3. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math…

    Pcrash = Pday x (S x Tcyclists)/(1 – Nbabyseals / Nnpr) + R x (C$ / Nmiles) + (W x Nsig) / (A x R)

    Pcrash = Probability of Crashing
    Pday = Probability it is an NPR day = 2/7 (a constant as you point out)
    S = Speed
    Tcyclists = Total number of cyclists riding together
    Nbabyseals = Number of baby seals riding
    Nnpr = Number cyclists riding the NPR
    R = Your race category
    C$ = Cost of your bike
    Nmiles = Total number of miles cycled so far
    W = Your weight
    Nsig = Number of times sig other (or anyone) said you’re crazy for cycling
    A = Your age

    Note, the first expression is referred to as the “Faster You Go” term, the second as the “More Expensive the Bike” term, and the last “The Harder You Fall” term.

    Interestingly the answer is always greater than 1 and more ironically 42, which just happens to be the Answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything.

    Legal disclaimer…you may reproduce this equation only for a large nominal royalty fee or free beer, which ever is greater…

    PS heal well

    1. Fuggin hilarious, Carl!!

      Except, actually, you do have to be a rocket scientist to understand that. Or to have passed 3rd Grade math. So, I’m out on both scores.

      1. It’s forgivable…after all, you are a lawyer.

        My only regret, I wasn’t out there to finally take the sprunt. The video clearly showed baby seals as the only survivors to the finish…I missed my chance to beat the pros. (with all due respect to the fallen of course)

  4. So timely. My favorite questions post crash/hospitalization/rehab have been: 1) Are you going to ride your bike again?; 2) Are you going to commute by bike again?; & 3) Are you going to commute by bike via Ballona (aka Bologna) Creek again? Thank you so much as I can now randomly cycle thru 1 – 16!

    1. And the classic, “Are you going to be a moron again?”

      Answers to all the above, we know, are “Yes.”

  5. Ah…fuck, Wanky…this one was awesome! Well done. So many of those questions and answers are relevant!!

    I’m stuck with love for riding, except when I’m not. But, the only time I’m not is when I’m depressed from everything in life that’s not about riding. Which is some kind of fucked up, insane paradox…I think.

    Anyway, you remain amazing. Thanks.

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