Marolt: Riding like I don’t mean it
There comes a time in a man’s life when it is obvious that he never did, does not now, or ever will posses the physical gifts necessary to compete in the Tour de France. There comes a time about 30 years later when he realizes this.
What a glorious day that is!
At this point, a man can admit that a one-hour bicycle ride is more fun than a three-hour epic; it’s healthier, and he doesn’t even have to wear spandex cycling shorts.
It’s an amazing thing how much money he can save from that day on. Just like that, it makes no sense to spend an extra $200 on a bike part that performs the same function as a cheaper one but that shaves 1 gram from the overall weight of the bicycle. The ironic thing is, now that he can actually afford the lighter piece of equipment in his mature age, the math no longer works.
It’s satisfying to say goodbye to training schedules and carbo-loading. You ride when you feel like it and don’t feel guilty enjoying a juicy steak chased with an ice-cream sandwich the night before a ride. Even if you sign up for a race, it’s now for pure enjoyment and not to prove anything to lots of people who you used to assume cared. Who knew they had other things on their own minds, were taking care of their own business and were never even paying attention to your results?
So what if the extra energy of digesting proteins and fat results in a little singletrack lethargy and the addition of five minutes to the one-hour ride? The newly aware man doesn’t even notice. He doesn’t time his rides anymore!
Speaking of food, does anyone regret saying “adios” to their last-ever PowerBar? Choking down their final Goo shot? Gulping warm Gatorade through a CamelBak tube? Actually, Gatorade is delicious, and now the enlightened man drinks it whenever he feels like it, enjoying long, slow, cool gulps without worrying about catching his breath between them while swinging gently in his hammock.
It’s not like at this stage of life a man doesn’t thoroughly enjoy ditching some completely extraneously worthless weight from his bicycle. The day he chucks his cycling computer into the trash saves a few ounces from the bike but feels like the weight of the world has been lifted from his soul.
Every serious cyclist knows the frustration of checking his odometer after a long ride only to find that the registered distance is actually a couple tenths of a mile shorter than he knows it actually is from riding it dozens and dozens of times before yet never asking the question, “If I already know how far the route is, why did I consult my odometer upon completing it anyway?”
Never again will tears of rage flow because the cumulative mileage for the entire summer is inadvertently erased from the mini-computer’s memory upon changing a dead battery. You can scarcely imagine the freedom of never again having to calibrate the confounded thing to the circumference of a new set of tires. Henceforth, after ditching the digital source of torture, personal-best rides will be measured by the pleasure felt rather than by the number of miles covered divided by the amount of time multiplied by the sustained cadence of X. Freedom is realizing that a handlebar-mounted trip computer can tell you absolutely nothing worthwhile.
Gone are the days of being late to dinner because of the irresistible force compelling you to get a ride in after work. Forgotten are the requirements of checking your resting pulse rate right before bed and upon waking for no explainable reason. Now empty is the drawer full of expensive cycling jerseys you paid dearly for so that the advertisers on those jerseys can pay the actual professionals who wear them, too. Full are Saturday afternoons of great and ordinary fun events that you now have enough energy in reserve to participate in. Shave your legs? Ha!
The craziest thing you realize from middle-age cycling enlightenment, though, is that those years in which you ranked highest in your age category in the town series races, racked up enormous mileage counts for the season and rode 150 consecutive days were the same summers you were extraordinarily grouchy, you put off the family often to accommodate a strict training regimen and your productivity at work fell off the table. Huh, I guess all the incredible achievements on the bike didn’t prove I was a superior human being after all.
Roger Marolt is a reformed bicyclist on a loose training regimen and strict diet of comfort foods. Email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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