Where have they all gone?

My friend Sue came into town a few weeks ago. She raced pro on the women’s Raleigh team from ’85 until ’88 or so. We pedaled around the peninsula and reminisced.

Mostly we wondered what had happened to everyone. As we ticked through the list it seemed like hardly anyone still rode, and out of hardly anyone, hardlyhardlyhardly anyone still raced or logged big miles.

“Big miles” meaning, you know, 200 miles a week or so.

People quit for all kinds of reasons.

  1. They get busy. Then they quit riding. Then they get really out of shape. Then they feel bad because they can’t go like they used to. The mountain seems too big to climb and they can’t stand the shame of being constantly shelled, or the shame of riding with a group they consider “beneath” them. There aren’t many Paul Foleys out there, former national elite champs who get off the bike, gain a hundred pounds, and then spend three solid years getting dropped in order to get fit again. Paul’s best line? “Weight is neither created or destroyed. It simply moves around the peloton.”
  2. The big crash. They love cycling. They live cycling. It’s all bike, all the time. “Why didn’t I discover this sooner?” etc. Then they fall on their face and get badly fucked up. “Stupid sport. I quit.”
  3. Reeling in the years. They get old. Then real old. Then dead-old. Then they turn fifty and the saggy droops set in. “Is this all there is to life?” and “I’ve wasted decades riding my fucking bicycle when I could have been _________________. Pilates, here I come.”
  4. Fear of flying. People age and start counting their pennies, as in “How many pennies left in the piggybank of life?” Suddenly a bike seems dangerous. All those things you did without thinking, and with pure enjoyment, seem risky enticements trying to trick you into an early grave. “Better take up hiking or swimming or chess or photography or travel or painting or something else that I’ll never be worth a shit at and that has zero adrenaline buzz but hey at least I won’t fall on my head. Except in the shower.”
  5. Boredom. [This has never happened to a bicyclist, ever.]
  6. Kids.
  7. Inability to downgrade. People race hard and then find that when they quit racing it’s no fun, but if they keep racing it’s no fun because their chance of winning has gone from zero to 0 x 1,000,000.
  8. Arms race. Compulsive upgrading eventually shatters the family budget or the 4,000-sf mini-storage unit. Debt, depression, eviction, dissolution, and an e-Bay extravaganza result. “I’m into running now because all I can afford are these nice shoes. With no carbon.”
  9. Family envy. Chick is the only fit one in the family. Other family members badger her to quit because it’s “So dangerous,” i.e. “You make me look like a slob. Plus, I hate it when you’re happy.”
  10. Death. This is why I’m going to quit. Guaranteed.



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24 thoughts on “Where have they all gone?”

  1. All of those have happened and are happening right now, to me.
    I still like riding and do that, but growing grapes seems to be more fun, and when I fall down (still often), I don’t get laughed or yelled at. In fact, Honey and Lucky actually give a shit about I feel when I hurt myself in the vineyard.
    They wag their tails and don’t complain like Freddy Carbonmaster, and
    never ever ask for the latest shit for their collars.

  2. All this has happened to me, except 8 and 10. Growing grapes is so much less dangerous. When I fall (just as often, by the way, which is often), I don’t get laughed at or yelled at for being a Fred. My dogs, Honey and Lucky, actually seem to give a shit as to whether I’m hurt or not when….and they never ask for cash or other bribes; they get to the front and know they are going to get fed, no matter what.
    Riding the dirt or by myself just seems more ‘fun’.

  3. Dying isn’t always a good excuse. I died at Del Cerro back in August only to be reincarnated as a big fat ass here in late October. Sometimes dying just makes it more difficult.

  4. I know who that is and she was the first woman I lost a race to. Old Perkins got me into a verbal “quien es mas crotchety” argument and she skived off down the road while I wasn’t quite through arguing.
    Brilliant teamwork on their part and like Tuco said, “When it is time to talk..” etc. etc.

  5. I was worried that the threat of #10 was going to do me in, but I just got back from the doctor with good news. He said that little odd thing was nothing to worry about, and I should keep doing what I’ve been doing. Yes! Tomorrow I plan to go back to banging on my pedals with every ounce of fierce mediocrity that I possess!

  6. Not quitting, but number 2 did a number on me. Fractured pelvis in 3 places in July and I’m back riding, but certainly hesitant. Did go back to the Velodrome and that’s fine other than being horribly out of shape.

    Tried the rollers again too which was scary.

    Before the crash I took up crit racing (Yes at age 61) and liked it. Remains to be seen if I will do that again. I do NOT want to go through these horrible months again, though compared to many, my injury was not as bad.

    I have to keep on cycling as I absolutely hate the gym.

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