Well it was all that I could do to keep from falling, sometimes its so useless to pedal in the rain,” It’s from “You Never Even Helped Me Fix My Chain,”  my new country song (thanks to Weird Al parody songs are all the rage again): but I need to add Momma, and jail, and a pickup truck, and getting drunk, and a really cool high tech repair rack, and a train…

I’ll keep working on it…

“A little revolution now and then is a good thing,” said Thomas Jefferson, and lately I’ve been getting my revolutions in 5 mornings a week when I ride my road bike. I’ve never been as passionate about anything as I have this latest pursuit; for the last 2 months I live to clip into my pedals and pound out the miles; I am a changed man. I glide through the Florida heat in an exhilarated state of Flow, adrenaline carrying me up hills and through traffic, I’m really living when I’m in the saddle and creativity seems to blossom on my rides. When I am not riding, I am thinking about riding, and when I am riding I am fully immersed, physically and mentally. I’m leaner, I’m stronger, and most importantly, I am fully engaged in all aspects of my life, having a passion (and feeling fit) will do that for you.

The rides induce an altered state of mind, I’m totally focused and aware of my surroundings while also being in a trance, every revolution of the pedal bringing me deeper and deeper into this focus and the deeper I go the more I enjoy the adrenaline and the cardio workout.  I’ve made my share of mistakes,  as any rookie would, whether it is getting flats from riding on too worn tires or falling from going too fast around a tight curve, and I’ve learned a few lessons that work in my life off the saddle too:

* Check your tires before every ride. About two weeks into my cycling experience I began to have really laborious rides, I thought I was just having bad days or my conditioning wasn’t quite up to par (it wasn’t). It turned out, I simply didn’t have enough air in my tires and my bike would have been hard for anyone to pedal (Road bikes have about 130 PSI per tire, so even sitting overnight in a garage they lose a lot of pressure).  I’ve learned to take 5 minutes before I head out and put the bike in the really cool high tech repair rack and check it out (Duh, of course I have a really cool high tech repair rack). I fill the tires before every ride and make sure nothing else is a potential problem. It’s amazing how my bad days went away when I began spending a little more time on preparation!

* Wear a helmet. My bike wasn’t even one hour out of the shop when I had my first fall and hit my head and only avoided coma-land because I was wearing a dorky helmet. Yes, kids, sliding on a little protection is a good thing.

* Sometimes you have to pedal through a bad start. Some of my best rides have come on mornings when I didn’t want to get out of bed or when I thought my quads were too sore to go very far. While I’ve learned to listen to my body I also remember that I am in charge of it, some days I need yo push through my natural laziness and those are invariably my most satisfying rides. When I stay disciplined and remember the reasons I am riding in the first place I can power through any thoughts of quitting. Sometimes you just have to tell your legs to “shut up.”

* Simplify: Cycling is one of those pursuits where you can get pretty involved in buying really expensive equipment, fancy clothing, and hi tech accessories (like really cool high tech repair racks). You can also decide to hire a coach, over-train, or otherwise get so involved in self imposed pressure that you can forget the pure joy and exhilaration of simply riding a bike. It’s good to remember why you decided to get on a bike in the first place and keep your riding very simple. All you really need is a road and air in your tires (and a really cool high tech repair rack).

* Challenge yourself. We get better at things when we meet challenges. I like to set a long term goal, like the 100 mile race I’m going for in September and I like to set short term goals, like, “today I’m going to go find more hills,” or “that draw bridge would be fun to ride over, its only 5 more miles,” or, “I think I’ll do this course twice today.” I find that committing to a course of action is the most important part, I like to write checks my legs have trouble cashing.

* Use all your gears. My son and I were changing his flat on the top of a hill (without the ad of my really cool high tech repair rack) and we watched this middle aged guy struggle to pedal to the top, followed a while later by his wife who was walking her bike. Obviously new cyclists (I think they woke up and decided they’d try biking today) the husband bristled when I suggested that his bride might have had any easier time with the hill if she’d shifted into a lower gear since her chain was still in gears designed more for speed and going downhill.  “Oh, you don’t need those Old Lady Gears,” he told her and off they went, leaving me to wonder if he’d just bought a life insurance policy on her and wanted to cash in. My bike has 20 gears and I use them ALL! Later on my way home, I came upon that hill again and rode up in my old lady gears, thanking God that I had them. Sometimes, I’ve noticed, we tend to lock into certain methods and stick with them, even if we have other options.

* Don’t mess with dump trucks: Sometimes something bigger, noisier, and stinkier than you comes rolling by and the best thing you can do is get out of the way.

*Counter-stretch. I mix yoga into my trainings a couple of days a week because sometimes you need to stretch your body the opposite way from how it bends on the bike. Hip openers, in particular, make the next day on the bike a little easier. It’s best not to always go in the same direction and its a good idea to go against the grain every now and then.

* Friends Make it Better: So, here’s something that works: the slipstream. When you tuck right in behind another rider (or riders) they pull you along like a flock of birds, by taking turns being in front a group can ride much more efficiently than an individual. When I decided to take up cycling, I sort of imagined I’d be riding alone. Then I met a group of enthusiasts from my bike shop (Team Boris) and started riding with them on the weekends and then my family started riding too and I never ride alone now unless I want to. I learned a lot too, Steve Kavalin, the founder of Team Boris, became my unofficial mentor and he shortened my learning curve by years with his gentle advice and wisdom about riding,health, and life. I found a real community by meeting a bunch of people who love to ride as much as I do.

* But Set your own cycling goals. Everyone rides for different reasons: some just to get out of the house and see friends, some for endurance, some to ride triathlons, others to become really, really fast. I think its best if you get back to the reason you started riding and make sure that your group rides and your goals line up. As someone interested in endurance riding, I’m not interested in taking off with the breakaways (well, sometimes I am!) and I don’t really want to ride slow enough that it is easy to carry on a conversation while riding, so I may end up starting with the group but finishing alone. That’s okay because I don’t see the point in training to someone’s goals that don’t match my own. The group isn’t going to get you out of bed or help you ride, that’s up to you.


I know: I was drunk the day my Momma drove her pickup truck out of prison and before I could get my bike off the really cool high tech repair rack she got runover by a damned ole train… And I’ll ride around as long as you will let me, but I never liked to pedal in the rain, you don’t have to call me darlin, darlin; you never even helped me fix my chain… Apologies to Steve Goodman (And everyone else).

{So here’s really cool link to the actual song by Steve Goodman (and sung David Allan Coe) that Word Press isn’t smart enough to display}:

2 Responses to Everything I Learned About Life, Cycling, and Writing a Country Song

  • I joined the ranks of the middle-aged cyclist in my mid-forties after making the mistake of mentioning to my wife that I was considering it. The following christmas I unwrapped an all assembly required box containing a wal-mart road bike. A year later I shelled out well over a grand for a higher-end version at the local bike shop. It has become a healthy addiction. That was six years ago, and at fifty, I can keep it on the big ring, but I must agree with the endurance thing. If I get the urge for speed, I shoot for a personal best and to heck with what others are doing. Love the song lyrics! And DAC!

    • Rick says:

      Thanks Randy, I just rode my first century this weekend and already signed up for my next one in two weeks! Keep on trucking! Rick

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