After a Monday spent doing Monday stuff, I was looking forward to getting out on the bike on Tuesday morning. I did, and it was good, but it could have been great. It wasn’t.
It could be that I expect too much from rides or—despite my aging, misshapen body telling me otherwise—I’ve never really let go of the idea that 200-mile weeks and spending hundreds of dollars to come in 90th place in an endurance mountain bike race is what makes a cyclist a cyclist. I often like to think I’m beyond all that now and comfortable in my role wandering the dirt roads with my camera for 20 to 30-mile rides. But then there are days, like Tuesday, that I instinctively ready my gear, get dressed, and head out on my bike only to look down at my bouncing gut trying to escape the confines of its lycra prison and my bologna loaf looking legs turning the pedals, and think that I’m better suited for hobbies like self-loathing, napping, binge-watching DVRed World Cup football, drinking double IPAs, grilling burgers, farting, and eating white trash Mexican food.
As I huffed and puffed my way up an early, weak excuse of a climb I thought back to my life in western Pennsylvania and how my weekends would be spent trying to map out the perfect climbing route in the mountains; piecing together as many steep gravel and double track roads as I could to ensure pain as possible over 30 to 50 miles. Look at me now, ma!
Once I was warmed up I tried to put all that negativity behind me and think of some of the positive words thrown at me in my bi-weekly counseling sessions. All easier said than done but I did eventually let my mind get lost in the beautiful day, pedaled along and snapped some pictures.
I am lucky that I am able to spend many a morning riding my bike or hiking in the woods and that I have a loving wife and son. I am also lucky that I have dealt with multiple DVTs without stroking out and life-long depression without doing something stupid. None of that is lost on me. But when I get ready for a ride, look in the mirror and debate whether or not I should even let myself go outside dressed in cycling kit, it’s hard to be positive. Hell, I find it hard to even want to help in the shop these days. I feel like every customer is thinking “Why is this fat guy trying to sell me a bike? Obviously, he doesn’t ride, look at this fat fuck!”
As the ride went on I started feeling better and was enjoying the perfect summer day, but still didn’t have good mental mojo. I was out for a couple hours, took a few pics and called it a ride.
Later that day I pondered the ride and the fact that tomorrow (now today because I’m writing this today) is the one year anniversary of my friend Mike’s death. I thought about some of the conversations we would have about riding bikes, my issues with not racing, gaining weight, and the sort of cyclist I had become. I thought of the way he was, and the sort of thing he would say to me when I was in a bad mood about all that stuff.
I’m paraphrasing, but most often the conversations would go like this:
Mike: But are you still riding your bike?
Mike: Do you want to race?
Me: No, I’m over that.
Mike: Are you happy riding your bike and taking pictures?
Me: Yeah, it’s cool.
Mike: Then what’s the fucking problem? Who cares what other people think about you. Ride your bike and take pictures if that’s what you want to do.
Me: But dude, look at me, I’ve gained like 50 pounds.
Mike: Then don’t eat as much and keep riding your bike.
Me: But… but.. but…
Mike: *turns away, sips beer, knows he won.*
Mike could often be like a hairy, bike riding, PBR drinking, straight talking, foul-mouthed Buddha. And he sure as hell never gave a fuck about what people thought of him.
I think I’ll keep riding my bike, maybe not eat as much, and try not to give a fuck about what other people think.