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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Boredom. [This has never happened to a bicyclist, ever.]
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.”
- Death. This is why I’m going to quit. Guaranteed.
Check out the new Cycling in the South Bay Swag Store. Buy cool stuff and support cycling advocacy!
And for $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blog and support people who support cycling, on and off the bike. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!