Monday, January 11, 2010

So, you wanna be a bike racer?

I'm getting ready to start my 4th road season and reflecting on how I got here, which got me to thinking about what different people told me when I expressed an interest in the sport. Knowing what I know now, I marvel at the gamut of responses and what all they could have said and what they ended up choosing. What follows is what I think I'd say now and I'd love to hear what you have to say. It doesn't matter whether you've done one race or a thousand. In 500 words or less, what do you think you'd say? (It'd be cool if you'd send it to me direct so I can post it properly labeled and attributed, but feel free to use the comments as well.


So, you wanna be a bike racer?

You won't regret it. Fantastic people to hang out with, but it's really hard. It hurts, a lot. At some point in nearly every race there's a split moment where I think, "this is ridiculous," and then it's gone, replaced by the thrill, pain, resolve or whatever else is required to survive the engagement intact and on target for what I wanted to get out of it.

You'll get to know yourself -- your strengths, definitely, but perhaps weaknesses even more so, and you'll either quit, or begin to address them and become a better person for having done so. In my own case, facing up to a streak of quitter if the going got too tough was no picnic, but racing provided the means to address it, kind of like having the right tools to control bind weed.

Discipline, determination, commitment and optimism are must-haves, or must-develop, characteristics if you're going to do this thing. Even the most fun-loving, beer-quaffing, I-just-do-it-for-funners consistently put in hundreds of hours each year on their bikes.

All that being said, if you're still interested, I'd be delighted to show you the ropes and help you get started.


Marc said...

You'll spend 80% of your efforts to finally figure out that it takes 20% of your efforts to be a bike racer. Find someone or a group to be your mentor.

Squirrel said...

"Even the most fun-loving, beer-quaffing, I-just-do-it-for-funners consistently put in hundreds of hours each year on their bikes.".......I am so in this Cat!

Aaron Pool said...

As an econ major, I read about dollar values to standards of living (how much income buys so many goods of certain qualities) and for sure there are other ways to value this that are used, like education level, quality of food available, level of health care, level of freedom and so on, but to me the beginning and most direct way to measure standard of living would be your level of fitness and agility. I've been lucky to meet so many people of all ages who use cycling to stay active. I also see many people who have ignored physical activity for whatever reason and who than have subsequently fallen to very low levels of fitness. I see kids in college who get out of breath from merely walking around, and I at the same time I watch people 80+ still competing in Masters Races or even in the Ironman. Which one would you rather be?

To me, your level of physical fitness and health and happiness is what basically derives the value you from the other aspects of life such as income, and even education. Though to me education and fitness level can seem to correlate a little.

In any case to me a healthy body maintains and builds a healthy mind, and cycling is a great way to stay and be active. A lifetime sport that rewards more than it taxes is the closest thing I've found to the fountain of youth.

As a sport Cycling builds your strengths and improves your weaknesses, but you don't have to race to see these results. From the different corners and levels of the sport I've experienced the best advice I've ever heard is "ride your bike, ride lots!".