Note: This post may or may not sound like I’m a six-pack of beer and a 5 gallon-sized bag of weed into the weekend, but I assure you it’s only fueled by coffee, too much time on my hands, and cold rain pelting against my office window.
I’ve been doing some thinking lately about my lack of riding (I’ve ridden my bike twice—maybe three times— since the fall of 2020). And in between not giving a fuck and giving a fuck I realized that after 25+ years of ridin’ bikes, I am dealing with a funk so deep I hasten to even call myself a cyclist anymore. Yes, another identity has been stripped away and discarded in the waste bin of life alongside Illustrator, Graphic Designer With a Paycheck, Skinny Guy, Sexually Active Adult, Music Nerd, Employed Man, and Person Who Actually Enjoys Being Around Others. I’ve also been assured by the fat cats up at corporate that Soccer Dad and Photographer are waiting in the wings and joining the others within the year. [Insert heavy fucking sigh here]
I have no proof, but I think the slow stripping away of one’s self-identity is the Universe’s way of preparing us for death, just like senility eases the human brain into acceptance and our unavoidable fate. I mean, the prospect of dying doesn’t seem that bad when you don’t know you’re even alive and you’re sitting in a pile of anus warmed cream corn and Ensure-laced diaper shit. It’s a simple way of stripping any sense of pride from what’s left of our minds and souls and preparing us for the final trip. If and when things happen naturally.
As you can see, I’m dealing with some shit on multiple levels that makes going for a bike ride about as appealing as a colonoscopy via a hungry, not-so-naked mole rat wearing a razor blade bodysuit.
Not riding my bike then leads to weight gain, which leads to depression, which leads me to dwell on other issues, which leads to more weight gain from anti-depressants, which leads to more self-loathing and being too embarrassed by my girth to want to ride my bike. You might be thinking, “Well just ride your fucking bike and nip all this in the gonads.” I wish it were that simple.
In addition to that, I’ve developed a hatred for motorists and a fear while riding that I never had before. Keep in mind I used to live in the city and shared the roadways of Pittsburgh with cars and busses in my day. And my rural riding had me going up long climbs that took ages to climb at 4 MPH and seconds to descend at 45 MPH. Now, my road bike only ever sees the hills of Watopia™, my gravel bike sits in the garage with a busted rear spoke, and my mountain bike seems to only see miles in my daydreams as I deal with the “been there/done that/seen that” of Michigan mountain biking.
Some of that fear started when I lost my good friend Mike in a cycling accident in June of 2017, less than a mile from my home. It’s been nearly 4 years, and I still find myself thinking about what, if any, pain he experienced, what his last moments were like, and even what it may have sounded like.
I see news headlines about former NBA player Shawn Bradley being struck and paralyzed a block from his home, and School of Rock actor/musician Kevin “Spazzy McGee” Clark’s recent death after being hit by a car as he cycled through the streets of Chicago and I am left speechless and ready to have my bikes listed on the nearest classified page I can find.
I read stats and see that in 2018, 47,000 bicyclists were injured in motor vehicle crashes on public roadways in the United States alone, and in 2019 843 people lost their lives. In comparison, According to the International Hunter Education Association, in an average year, fewer than 1,000 people in the United States and Canada are accidentally shot by hunters, and of these, fewer than 75 results in death. To be clear, you are apparently safer to walk around the woods with a weapon DESIGNED for killing then riding a vehicle made for transportation, exercise, and good time having. Can I get another heavy fucking sigh?? Thanks.
Obviously, in the cycling stats above, one needs to factor in the time of day, location, cycling experience, etc. And the hunting stats need to be looked at scrupulously due to being provided by gun-wielding humans, but fear is hard to shake once it creeps in, especially when compounded by depression, self-loathing, and obesity.
My fears come and go, and my desire to read stats of any kind is fleeting at best, but finding the mojo I once had to ride my bike, ANY BIKE, is proving one of my hardest battles.
I usually try to end my posts of mental diarrhea with some shred of hope. Right now, all I have is a plan to build up a 29+ single-track/seasonal dirt road slayer as soon as frames are available and see what happens. I also plan to sell two bikes to help the build along, clear out some mental cobwebs, and free up some valuable garage space.
I suppose not listed in all those stats are how many people are mentally fucked due to having friends and loved ones injured or killed by motorists.
I’m not done with riding, but we are on a break of sorts. It’ll be back, and if it’s not, I can always fall back on identifying myself as an obese, beer-loving unemployed guy who stumbles around the woods and football pitches with his camera taking crap photos. At least until the creamed poo years arrive.
P.S. Happy Memorial Day.