I have been commuting by bike for some time now. I started by riding to and from class as soon as I got to college and this led to me building my first commuter bike my senior year. This love of riding blossomed when I arrived in DC. I left my car behind and moved here relying on only two wheels to get me around the city. There is just something about riding; I prefer it to nearly any mode of transportation in the city. Then around 6 months ago I began my cycling career. No I don’t race officially; but I do pretend to when I pass unsuspecting Segway tourists. I had wanted to graduate from commuting into cycling for some time and when the perfect CAAD10 frame showed up on Craigslist I jumped in. After building my bike I hit the streets and things haven’t been quite the same since. Here are a few things I have learned in my first cycling season:
1. Friends teach faster than discovery
Starting out I didn’t know much beyond pedal hard. The strategies, techniques, and mindsets required to be a good cyclist aren’t all intuitive. I quickly discovered that having friends to show me the ropes makes learning not only much more efficient but more enjoyable as well. My friends dragged me to group rides and down new paths teaching me all the way. This mentoring expanded my knowledge and trained my intuition at a rate my own discovery never could have matched.
My first few times out I quickly realized that I was slow. I guess that’s just the way it is when you start something new, but I really wanted stop being the lead weight at the end of the paceline. I quickly learned that my friends were going fast because they had earned it. They had put in the miles, climbed the hills, and sprinted the straightaways until their legs burned in ways they never knew they could. We all know this as “suffering”, it’s the pain required to go fast. I’ve come to embrace it, to almost love it, because it is the only way to get better. It gives me a sort of satisfaction knowing I laid it all out there, I pushed hard, and am getting faster.
Riding is a joy, that’s why we love it so much. This joy, however, is most acute when shared with friends. I’m finding that not only do I love riding but I love when my friends join as well. There are times we cruise and chat about the happenings of the days and there are times we push each other well past the point of pain. Cycling is a vehicle for relationship; it has grown many friendships in my own life and I’m confident many more have had the same experience.
4. When you cycle, the Tour de France gets WAY more interesting
The Tour is an incredible cycling experience in itself. Knowing strategy (and learning more along the way) made watching the Tour captivating to say the least. These men who conquer mountain stages beyond my wildest dreams and sprint at speeds I never knew were possible become an inspiration to me. They not only impress and entertain me but also empower me to continue to ride and improve. And this wouldn’t be complete without mentioning Jens, shut up legs!
5. Cycling can be therapeutic
Cycling’s draw has many facets: friends, exercise, challenge, speed. Yet there is one that I think drives us all to get back on the bike time and time again and it’s cycling is therapeutic. There is something about getting out there and riding that calms my mind, sharpens my senses, and relaxes my body. Though it isn’t always easy, and sometimes I can’t believe we are about to go over ANOTHER hill it still has a draw that keeps me coming back. It allows me to be where I love the most in nature, getting out away from the city is a breath of fresh air to me. Cycling has become an avenue for me to find equilibrium amid the busy and sometimes chaotic life I live.
About the blogger:
Mike Semmel lives in Washington, DC and rides his bicycle everywhere possible He is a graduate from Purdue University in Electrical Engineering and currently manages a local theater on 8th Street in SE DC. Mike, like most of us, finds plenty of joy (and suffering naturally) in riding solo and with friends in the area. He periodically blogs about life here: http://mikesemmel.wordpress.com/.