It’s hard to continue anything, but it’s especially hard to continue riding a bike, and it’s virtually impossible to continue racing one. The average life span of a bike racer is 2-3 years. I made up that fake number because in my experience that’s about how long it takes for a person to realize how out of whack the risk-reward arithmetic is.
Enthusiastic sport cycling may last a bit longer, but not much. Every year I see people get into riding, buy all the gear, do all the rides, make a bunch of friends, and then vanish, which is the time you can pick up some great deals on bike stuff with a well-placed phone call. The people who stick around have a few things in common.
- They actually love riding their bike, however you define “riding” or “bike.”
- They have a schedule.
- They wake up early.
- Riding is an end unto itself.
The people who burn out are a much more diverse group, but here are the warning signs. The problem is that these warning signs also exist among people who’ve been doing it for decades. When a new rider does all of these things, though, get ready for a Roman candle flame-out.
- Extremely competitive.
- Bikes for multiple disciplines before they’ve gotten good at even one.
- Strava/data/power obsession.
- Coaches and/or training plans.
- Huge miles.
- Only talks about cycling.
- Haven’t had their first big crash.
- Extremely focused on gear.
- Huge progress in a very short period of time.
- Big job or family stresses.
If you’re the kind of person who throws herself fully into new things, and you have a pattern of burning out in other new endeavors but really want to hang onto cycling, here are a few tips that will help.
- Make sure that half your rides have no competitive element whatsoever.
- Only own bikes you regularly ride.
- Do half your rides (or more) without a Garmin or Strava.
- Come up with a “longevity” plan with your coach. Coaches hate burnout worse than anyone.
- Halve your mileage.
- Read a (non-cycling) book.
- Set a monthly/annual gear spending limit.
- Don’t do more than 5 races a year.
- Ride with your significant other.
- Learn the names of your children
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