My absolution. My altar.

Saved By The Bike

Saved By The Bike

by / / 151 posts

Addiction is typically defined as a bad thing. Addiction to drugs, to alcohol, sex or even work is usually portrayed as a condition to be battled, to overcome. The same sources may recommend a strict regime of regular exercise and healthy living as the perfect antidote to the bad addictions that befall an overwhelming majority of the general populace. We are convinced that an ‘exercise addict’, ‘gym junkie’ or ‘health nut’ is a tag that we should be proud to hang around our necks, not something to be fought. But take away the words ‘exercise’, ‘gym’ and ‘health’, and all you’re left with is an undesirable character of questionable sanity with bad skin and rotten teeth. And no-one wants to be that person.

I’ve known, and know, a lot of people with a lot of addictions during my life. Moreso, I’ve been/am one myself. Both good and bad. The one unifying addiction throughout has been Cycling. It seems Cyclists are of the predisposition that doing something, anything, is best done to excess. I don’t really have any Cycling friends who ‘just do it on the weekends’, as one might play golf or go to the movies or ballroom dancing. Ok, those ballroom dancers seem to be a bit obsessed, too. But Cyclists, no matter how hard they try to kick the habit just seem to keep coming back, over and over again. And I’ve never heard a doctor or so-called expert tell a Cyclist to give that shit up before it sends them to an early grave. So what we’ve got ourselves is a ‘good addiction’.

Long before I ever read the tale of Guns n Roses’ bassist Duff McKagan’s pancreas exploding and his subsequent absolution through mountain biking (in BIKE magazine sometime in the 90s), I’d been fighting my own demons, and using the bike to help conquer them. Still am. Being a hard-drinking/drugging bassist (then later a DJ) and mountain biker myself at the time, I drew a lot of comparisons between us. I took some inspiration from his story, despite not being a fan of the band, and used it to tip the balance in favour of riding rather than partying.

I’d also been surrounded by a lot of other Cyclists who had delved a lot further into the sport than I ever had, and who had their own personal battles to fight. Some were up against alcoholism, others drugs, depression, or failed relationships. And on more than a few occasions, I heard the term “saved by the bike” quoted. Among all the turmoil, in the maelstrom of a life gone awry, their constant saving grace, the rock on which they could rebuild a solid foundation for happiness, or at least some form of normality – contentment, perhaps – was the bicycle. It was always there for them, silent, trustworthy, reliable, even if many other aspects of their situation weren’t. I wouldn’t hesitate to wager that it still is there for most, if not all of them. I know it is for me, and always will be.

Whenever I need saving, I know where to look.

 

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus

  1. i have to say, part of my addiction is simply that i live vicariously through those PRO who I look up to

    some days…..and those are the good days…when i was flyin

  2. @scaler911

    I agree, there isn’t much of a relationship there that lends to traction nor validity in a single word of it

  3. @scaler911

    Santorini…nice!!

    wife and I are talking about returning to italy soon for a trip, maybe greece, malta…

  4. I think everybody should relax, take a lung full of whatever floats your boat and enjoy….

  5. @scaler911

    @Gizmo

    For me the reason why cyclists become so obsessive about it is the difficulty. I like to walk in the forest near where I live. Without any real training or commitment, just a (fairly) decent pair of walking shoes and some base fitness, I can walk for miles. The other day, I visited some friends and we climbed their local ‘big hill’ – a pretty testing lump of rock. You know… I’m pretty good at walking. I can get to the top.

    On the bike, it’s not the same. For every pedal stroke up a testing incline, I am reminded of my lack of commitment. Even when I’ve been quite committed: have I been committed enough. I get to the top of a hill; but it wasn’t a mountain. It’s not Ventoux. It’s not Angliru. And if I ever make a trip to Alpe d’Huez, I’ll never do it in 43 mins. There is no end to the challenge and that’s the appeal.

    I’m a photographer. I’m always looking for the perfect sunset. I know that it doesn’t exist. But it doesn’t stop me looking.

    I don’t know. I’ve spent 10 days on Santorini in the Greek Isles and this is as close to perfect as I’ve seen:

    (do understand that I get your point tho)

    Off the west coast of the Isles of Lewis looking towards Nova Scotia (probably a few ‘000 miles away) Scotland…sunset

    or

    after a storm

  6. @ChrisO

    Did you just cut and paste your reply from some other trolling you prepared earlier ? Sloppy work.

    As someone who waisted literally, like, a century teaching English, I say that this is the correct response.

    Nothing more disappointing than boilerplate troll.

  7. Nova Scotia is one of the best places I’ve ever had the luck to visit. So cool, as well as Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. For me it was one of those moments when I wondered why I’d traveled across the globe, yet had neglected the loveliness in my presence.

  8. @frank

    You and Cyclops, et al, make a good point that is distinguishing.  However one characterizes their cycling life, a “good” addiction is fun, enjoyable.  A “bad” addiction is only ever briefly so and then decidedly and permanently not.

    @Sandy154

    One bit of advice they give to newcomers in NA is “Keep your mouth closed and your ears open.”  Pretty good advice in general, really.

  9. @PeakInTwoYears

    @ChrisO

    Did you just cut and paste your reply from some other trolling you prepared earlier ? Sloppy work.

    As someone who waisted literally, like, a century teaching English, I say that this is the correct response.

    Nothing more disappointing than boilerplate troll.

    Wouldn’t that be “wasted” not waisted? Insert emoticon.

  10. I used to ride with some older guys, one of who leaned toward evangelism.  One day he brought a friend with who was studying theology and had a serious clean bike obsession.

    This future theologist asked my buddy Tim “Are you religious?”

    Tim answered without hesitating “I’m religious about my bike”.

    The clean theologist didn’t come on any more rides with us.

  11. @ElHardeen

    Stalking these articles and comments for a few months now, but never felt truly compelled to reply until this one.

    Been on and off the path of hard drinking and heading toward oblivion when, in a moment of clarity on my twenty-third birthday, decided to completely stop cold turkey. No weening down, no easing off, just stop. Having stopped before and never sticking with it, I knew something had to fill the gap, as self destructive behavior doesn’t just go away.

    Fortunately I had been riding on and off by myself, as well as once a week with a local shop’s evening ride, and a few of the riders were nice enough to take me under their wing by bringing me out to the much faster and more difficult morning rides in the area. Quickly gained an appreciation for the incredible feeling this intensity of riding could give a person. Also became familiar with the incredible physical and mental suffering beyond which any bad night of drink could provide. And of course, I got my ass dropped. A lot.

    Never was much of one for moderation, and have always done everything in excess. With hard drinking the gratification was immediate, however it only lasted as long as the drink and rewarded with nothing but pain and the anxiety of actions forgotten the next morning. Hard riding provided immediate pain and suffering which at times made one question their motives for participating, but rewarded with an incredible and lasting feeling of strength and accomplishment. Both activities when taken to excess could provide similar feelings of euphoria and excitement, but cycling provides a much more sustainable and lasting feeling, whereas the feelings provided by the drink fade into a hangover the next day.

    The most grueling rides can completely crush my very will to live and make me never want to ride a bike again, however this feeling never lasts the ride. Even after a vicious headwind-both-ways 160km ride, 60km of which were taken at 45km/h before I succumbed to the pain and dropped off the group, leaving me to ride the remainder alone. Upon its completion I was left in a condition barely allowing me to unclip and climb off of my seat. Regardless, all I felt was pride at my accomplishment.

    Almost a year after stopping I still don’t consider myself an alcoholic, but would certainly not say I was in control of my life. Now however I will proudly call myself a cyclist, and finally have a feeling of control in my life, and my future, for the first time I can remember. A few years of my life have been wasted, quite literally, but now as I approach my twenty-fourth birthday I have everything to look forward to, and a welcome new addiction to tend to.

    Wow. Incredible story.

    Having been an endurance athlete for as long as I can remember, I skipped all the school parties in favor of training or, when joining them, drinking juice because I didn’t even want to drink soda. Even though I had my first beer with my dad around the age of 5 or 6, I’m guessing, and was freely allowed to drink at the house (so long as I stayed at the house and poured my own drinks – “you have to know how much you’re drinking, don’t let anyone pour for you”, my dad used to advise me.)

    But the biggest lesson I was taught by this experience was the high I’d feel at the end of a 10, 11, 12 hour workout – just destroyed – and over the moon. My dad, feeling the same buzz, used to tell me that the quality of an earned high is worth a thousand cheap highs you get from drugs or booze.

    I like to drink, and I love getting a good buzz. But the fact is, I just like the taste of good beer, wine, scotch or the odd martini or margarita. The buzz is a side effect that I enjoy but its not why I drink. And, the best buzz in the world is have as good as that high you get after a good long ride. A high which lasts, by the way, for a few days and even weeks, months, or years later, you’ll still think back on those best days and get a little high again.

  12. @wiscot

    Wouldn’t that be “wasted” not waisted? Insert emoticon.

    Thank you for noticing. I’m here all week.

  13. @ElHardeen Very eye opening sir.

  14. I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I took a women MTBing as a first date. Well, date #2 is tomorrow. The bike is truly amazing indedd.

  15. @RedRanger

    I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I took a women MTBing as a first date. Well, date #2 is tomorrow. The bike is truly amazing indedd.

    Maybe on the 3rd date, you can bust out this:

  16. @scaler911 by the 3rd date I hope to be busting out something else, and it wont be bike related.

  17. @scaler911

    Jesus H Christ.

    Thanks be for the kickstand.

  18. @Sandy154

    I have to say, as the founder of this heap, it makes me really happy to see people share their experiences. This helps others grow and feel commeraderie. I call this thing a community, and I’m proud to say one of the things that sets us apart  from other cycling sites is this characteristic, and the nothion that we don’t sit around talking about what kind of bolt is the lightest and will make us fastest.

    Its all about the bike, but life fits in there somewhere, too. You might be at the wrong site if this doesn’t appeal to you. And that’s not an affront or judgement.

  19. @RedRanger

    I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I took a women MTBing as a first date. Well, date #2 is tomorrow. The bike is truly amazing indedd.

    YES!!! Good luck, sport!

  20. Good morning America.

    Its beer o’clock in Sydney and I’ve just stumbled upon a local supplier:-

    I could give up anytime…

  21. @Harminator

    Good morning America.

    Its beer o’clock in Sydney and I’ve just stumbled upon a local supplier:-

    I could give up anytime…

    Damn the music seemed better at the time, but maybe that was the amount of Leffe in the system!

  22. @PeakInTwoYears

    @wiscot

    Wouldn’t that be “wasted” not waisted? Insert emoticon.

    Thank you for noticing. I’m here all week.

    Missed a trick there old man – should have pointed out that your teaching years were indeed a bit narrow in the middle.

  23. @RedRanger

    @scaler911 by the 3rd date I hope to be busting out something else, and it wont be bike related.

    Don’t tell me you go running too…

  24. @RedRanger

    @scaler911 by the 3rd date I hope to be busting out something else, and it wont be bike related.

    And just to jump ahead optimistically, as a wedding present, you can get her one of these, with your name (sort of) on the down tube

  25. @scaler911

    @RedRanger

    I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I took a women MTBing as a first date. Well, date #2 is tomorrow. The bike is truly amazing indedd.

    Maybe on the 3rd date, you can bust out this:

    Sweet baby jeebus. For every completely awesome restored tandem you bust out something like this. How do you even use that thing? If I google it am I going to have to burn my laptop afterwards?

  26. @frank

    @Sandy154

    I have to say, as the founder of this heap, it makes me really happy to see people share their experiences. This helps others grow and feel commeraderie. I call this thing a community, and I’m proud to say one of the things that sets us apart from other cycling sites is this characteristic, and the nothion that we don’t sit around talking about what kind of bolt is the lightest and will make us fastest.

    Its all about the bike, but life fits in there somewhere, too. You might be at the wrong site if this doesn’t appeal to you. And that’s not an affront or judgement.

    Frank, a reasonable and tolerant response, which is to your credit.  Personally, though, I favour  slightly more statements pressing of the same underlying point, thus: “Dear Sandy, if you don’t like the site, don’t fucking read it. We don’t come around to your house and shit on your carpet, so don’t do it to us. Dickhead.”

    As for the rest of you: tremendous reading.  My cycling, like my participation in this community, is currently at a low point, due to pressures of work and family and life. But I have been missing both, and will be back to both with more vigour when circumstances permit.  Meantime, the occasional trip here, like the occasional bike ride when I can get a couple of hours, is a welcome tonic and cherished accordingly.

    Brett, well played, mate.

  27. @Deakus

    @Harminator

    Good morning America.

    Its beer o’clock in Sydney and I’ve just stumbled upon a local supplier:-

    I could give up anytime…

    Damn the music seemed better at the time, but maybe that was the amount of Leffe in the system!

    Grange Hill? Argh . . . the flashbacks, the flashbacks! Thanks for posting, now I’ll have Just Say No in my head all weekend.

  28. @the Engine

    @RedRanger

    @scaler911 by the 3rd date I hope to be busting out something else, and it wont be bike related.

    Don’t tell me you go running too…

    3rd date? That would be some kind of triathlon then?

  29. @the Engine

    @PeakInTwoYears

    @wiscot

    Wouldn’t that be “wasted” not waisted? Insert emoticon.

    Thank you for noticing. I’m here all week.

    Missed a trick there old man – should have pointed out that your teaching years were indeed a bit narrow in the middle.

    I didn’t get that year at Cambridge, but my student eval’s were fabulous.

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    @RedRanger

    @scaler911 by the 3rd date I hope to be busting out something else, and it wont be bike related.

    And just to jump ahead optimistically, as a wedding present, you can get her one of these, with your name (sort of) on the down tube

    Do this first. Weddings are expensive and prevent you from doing things like this.

    The more I think about it, the more reasons occur to me to do this first. For instance, If you do this first, and she loves loves loves you for it, and later you decide you want to marry her,the more likely she’ll be to cut you slack on post-wedding n+1.

    Speaking of therapeutics (we were, weren’t we?), I’m off this morning for five days of flyfishing on the sunny high-desert Deschutes River in Oregon, my old home waters, with a few men of intelligence and good taste. They’re letting me fish with them.

  31. @xyxax I have been reading about those. Pretty nice actually.

  32. @PeakInTwoYears Enjoy the fishing!

    One of the most beautifully atmospheric pieces of film…

  33. @PeakInTwoYears

    @xyxax

    @RedRanger

    @scaler911

    The more I think about it, the more reasons occur to me to do this first. For instance, If you do this first, and she loves loves loves you for it, and later you decide you want to marry her,the more likely she’ll be to cut you slack on post-wedding n+1.

    Post-wedding?  If she digs cycling, why wait?  Do your wedding registry at your LBS and the V-Shop!

  34. Beautifully written.

  35. @VeloVita I like that way of thinking. Although she is only 5’4″ so a 29er may not work for her.

  36. @RedRanger if your new prospect’s name is Sara, I think your plans are out in the open.

  37. @RedRanger

    @VeloVita I like that way of thinking. Although she is only 5’4″³ so a 29er may not work for her.

    I just can’t bring myself to touch that one even though you’ve set it up so beautifully

  38. @Marcus nope, not Sara

    @the Engine please do.

  39. Wow, cheers to all who shared stories.  You are all quite inspiring and frankly, I’m proud to be a member of this community.  I’m still battling my demons daily. And at the risk of offending Sandy (I’m kidding) I want to encourage all of you to keep telling your stories. They are valuable and empowering.

  40. I find myself planning my next fix within hours of coming back from a ride.

  41. Truly wonderful to read all these stories and the catalyst for all of them being shared, Brett’s article.  I too am a proud member of this community and recently quit smoking for several reasons.  Firstly, I’m gonna be a dad in November and secondly, because I climb like Sisyphus.  It’s three weeks since I quit and last week as my cycling buddy followed me up a climb near St Andrews, his HRM alarm went off for the first time ever.  He thinks he was ill or something but I think that I laid down some V for the first time in my life.  Sweet vie velominatus, and thanks to you all for sharing.

  42. @snoov

    Truly wonderful to read all these stories and the catalyst for all of them being shared, Brett’s article. I too am a proud member of this community and recently quit smoking for several reasons. Firstly, I’m gonna be a dad in November and secondly, because I climb like Sisyphus. It’s three weeks since I quit and last week as my cycling buddy followed me up a climb near St Andrews, his HRM alarm went off for the first time ever. He thinks he was ill or something but I think that I laid down some V for the first time in my life. Sweet vie velominatus, and thanks to you all for sharing.

    Looking forward to a good view of you back wheel on Saturday then

  43. One of my favorite articles on this site. Well done, Brett.

    -Dinan

  44. All right, I am going  right out and ask, I have been in southern California for 6 months and have been riding solo up and down the mountains here. I am gonna come out and ask right now, I would not mind a riding partner now and then! I don’t know anyone down here and I am a slow and antisocial jerk.

  45. These excellent articles and threads continue to move me, make me laugh and make me think.

    I have been cycling for a year, and now here I am 17 kilos (2.77 stone, 38 lbs) lighter and finally aware of in what a gorgeous part of the earth I live. Addicted? Fuck, yes! Addicted to living a happy life until my legs fail me.

    @anthony sands “slow and antisocial” sounds good, so I’d be in if it weren’t for those bloody 5600 miles between us.

  46. At the risk of being the 2nd most unpopular poster in this thread I can see what Sandy is saying as often addiction comes about as a result of the choices we make ourselves rather than them being inflicted upon us. I dabbled in various substances that many become addicted to in my youth but made a choice that whilst the high was great I understood the risk of repeated consumption so refrained.

    I get that others dont have that restraint and watched friends end their lives far too early because they were unable to stop themselves despite help from me and others.

    If speaking about these issues within this site helps people deal with their issues and they benefit from the support then I am all for it and say good luck to you all, life is too short so try not to shorten it any further. I cycle because I love it and many would say I am obsessed with it but it keeps me fit and is my “me time” away from the 9-5.

    Sandy if you dont like what people have said just move along and say nothing, you haven’t made any positive contribution to this thread. Everyone else just ignore Sandy, by responding he gets what he wanted which is a reaction to his little strop.

  47. Interesting article. I’m trying my damnedest to get addicted to cycling. Catch 22 though. If I ditch work I won’t have any money to buy cycling gear but work gets in the way of using the cycling gear.

    I suppose I can take crack AND go to work…

  48. @Deakus

    Hadn’t seen that in forever, thank you. The Deschutes: gorgeous, cruel, fragile, snake-fanged, sweet, and harsh:

    We put in ten-hour days away from camp, to avoid getting skunked. The river was being a bastard fish nazi this trip. Some days we saw more rattlesnakes than trout. But I still love it.

  49. Thanks foor sharring your info. I truly appreciate
    your efforts and I will bee waiting for your next write upps thank yoou once again.

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