This. photo: Stefan Haworth

Reassessment

Reassessment

by / / 76 posts

Maybe it’s the milestone of aging that I recently reached. It could be an awareness of the unique foibles of this sport/activity/pastime that I practice. Possibly, I just woke up one day and realised that this is a weird thing for a middle-aged man to be doing. The time for reassessment hit me, involuntarily and without warning. And I’m in a bind over it.

I’m sure I’m not the only one here who is over half a century old… of course the big man Gianni is a few more years advanced than I, and nothing seems to have phased his resolve to continue doing what he has done for so long. Like a priest who suddenly thinks that maybe this whole God thing is a crock of shite, I too am ruminating on the concept of Cycling and what it actually is to me, what it provides for me, and how it affects my everyday life. Thing is, my everyday life is 100% Cycling.

Over the summer, I rode my mountain bike a lot more and my road bikes a lot less. There were some outside factors affecting my decision, if it actually was a decision. The lack of a Keepers Tour meant that my previous two summers of avoiding the dirt through fear of injury was no longer a concern. A new bike that was just a total blast to ride meant that it was more often than not the one I reached for when trawling the shed for a steed on any given day. And the requirement, nay, duty, nay, obligation… oh fuck it, the desire to Look Fantastic was waning inside me. Not that I shirked my responsibility in this department, after all, I am not a savage.

When it came time for the inevitable road FRBs after weeks of dirty indulgence, The Mirror was sending me mixed signals. Everything was perfect kit-wise, but underneath the cloak things were decidedly less than neat and trim. Was I becoming a parody of everything I stood for, the very person whom The Rules was meant to be guiding? I started to get if not an understanding, then an empathy with the general population who sees not a late 40s guy in better shape than they, but a shaved-legged, sweaty poser clomping around a café in ballet shoes and clad in a thin layer plastered in logos that leaves way too little to the imagination. I was becoming the guy I hated.

So much so that I began thinking of giving it away. Not Cycling per se, but the Lycra, the cafés, the duelling with tonnes of metal piloted by those who, if given the chance, would gladly run us right over just so they can make it to the supermarket 15 seconds quicker. It seemed that mountain biking, even though there are more variables in terrain to catch you off guard, more obstacles placed in front and all around you waiting to rip skin from bone or even shatter those very bones, was a far safer option. And while not really of the opinion that mountain bikers can wear whatever the hell we want (once again, not savages), at least there is a modicum of modesty afforded by baggy shorts, loose(r) fitting tops and shoes you can actually walk in. Hell, the thought of actually growing my leg hair back seemed appealing.

But not for long. Luckily, I have a good support group of riding friends, who share my passion for both tarmac and dirt. They know how much the tradition, the purity of the road means to me, and rather than let me concede defeat, encouraged me to continue to fight the good fight. The turning point came last night, when our regular Tuesday after-work ride was being discussed throughout the day by email. Who’s in, who’s out, why? I had an overwhelming proclivity that a bunch of guys who predominantly wear black, even in the dark of a winter’s evening, choosing to do battle with peak-hour traffic for the simple pleasure of riding a bike seemed a little, well, crazy. They could’ve belittled me, questioned my manhood, or even outright insulted me, but a few words of encouragement, underpinned with empathy of my thought processes, helped me realise that this is just what we do. So we did it.

And it was good.

So very good, that I wanted to do it again today, something that has been weeks absent. Ok, I went for a mountain bike ride, solo, but the joy of being on my bike was the same as I felt last night, last month, last year. And as I reached the top of the peak, a group of different friends were there, almost by some twist of fate handed down from Mount Velomis. We descended together, and while they knew nothing of the inner demons that I was slaying on the way down, they were well aware of just how much fun I, we, were having.

Never forget the reason we ride. The answer is in the question.

// Defining Moments // La Vie Velominatus // Mountain Biking

  1. Niece piece.  I’ve been riding less over the last six months or so, but not really from lack of desire, just too much other stuff getting in the way, and a horrendous run of flats.  I think I flatted about 10 rides in a row, on 4 different bikes at one stage.   I have really suffered from the lack too, with my mental state going off and struggling with weight and energy levels.  I know that riding more will fix all that.

  2. A welll thought through, nicely written attempt to justify a flawed baseline.

    Mounrain biking is clearly better.  Just look at the picture a the top. Nature, solitude, dirt. What more could you want? Not only an absence of road-rash inducing tarmac, but a complete lack of cars, buses, trains, and starbucks.

    Evoking the carefree dsys of our childhood, playing in the dirt, with no other requirement than to be home before the street lighrs come on.

    No need to shave your legs in some vanity oriented attempt to make the ride more interesting.

    There’s probably less Rules too.

    Possibly

  3. @Days

    A welll thought through, nicely written attempt to justify a flawed baseline.

    Mounrain biking is clearly better. Just look at the picture a the top. Nature, solitude, dirt. What more could you want? Not only an absence of road-rash inducing tarmac, but a complete lack of cars, buses, trains, and starbucks.

    Evoking the carefree dsys of our childhood, playing in the dirt, with no other requirement than to be home before the street lighrs come on.

    No need to shave your legs in some vanity oriented attempt to make the ride more interesting.

    There’s probably less Rules too.

    Possibly

    The road cyclist can have nature  and solitude too – riding through the lanes and over the hills we see the forest not just the trees. Plus we can stay out after dark.

    And we know that it should be ‘fewer’ Rules, although we’re happy with the number we have thank you.

    While I was out on the group ride this morning I was thinking about this article and the things I love about cycling on the road. Being able to ride up to someone and chat to them for a while and when things get serious riding through and off in a well-drilled and well-oiled machine.

    Maybe I will have a moment of doubt one day – I’m of a similar age – but I think it would be if another sport competed for my attentions, not a different type of cycling.

  4. Some of your best work right there, Brett. Chapeau.

  5. Fine piece brett. I’m approaching 60, cycling has been a part of my life for nearly 40 of those. It’s a way of life. I’m a roadie to my soul. I’m all for anyone cycling, any way you like it, as long as you’re not being stupid. I have a mountain bike, don’t use it much. But I might, and I can. I look forward to having more time to ride. Age is state of mind.

  6. @Days

    A welll thought through, nicely written attempt to justify a flawed baseline.

    Mounrain biking is clearly better. Just look at the picture a the top. Nature, solitude, dirt. What more could you want? Not only an absence of road-rash inducing tarmac, but a complete lack of cars, buses, trains, and starbucks.

    Evoking the carefree dsys of our childhood, playing in the dirt, with no other requirement than to be home before the street lighrs come on.

    No need to shave your legs in some vanity oriented attempt to make the ride more interesting.

    There’s probably less Rules too.

    Possibly

    Not better, different.

    Plenty of us live in places where you can ride on the road with a lack of cars, buses, trains, and Starbucks. 15-20 minutes from my house, I’m in farm country with very little traffic. Over Memorial Day weekend, I did about 90kms up in the northwoods of Wisconsin. I can count on one hand the number of cars that I saw, and believe me, there was plenty of nature and solitude.

    Personally, I don’t care what your preferred riding surface or style is. Whether it’s road or mountain or track, or just taking the cruiser down to the coffee shop. There is beauty in all forms of riding if you choose to see it, and there shouldn’t be a competition about which is “better”.

    To paraphrase many who have come before me: Just ride your fucking bike.

  7. Great read! I too am a bit North of 50. I’ve been racing MTB for a few years, and as much as I enjoy riding off road, I cannot forsake the road. There’s nothing like a hammer fest in a big group, whether pushing the pace when I’m in shape or spit out the back when I’m not, it’s always good.

  8. @KW

    Personally, I don’t care what your preferred riding surface or style is. Whether it’s road or mountain or track, or just taking the cruiser down to the coffee shop. There is beauty in all forms of riding if you choose to see it, and there shouldn’t be a competition about which is “better”.

    This.

  9. @Days

    A welll thought through, nicely written attempt to justify a flawed baseline.

    Mounrain biking is clearly better. Just look at the picture a the top. Nature, solitude, dirt. What more could you want? Not only an absence of road-rash inducing tarmac, but a complete lack of cars, buses, trains, and starbucks.

    Evoking the carefree dsys of our childhood, playing in the dirt, with no other requirement than to be home before the street lighrs come on.

    No need to shave your legs in some vanity oriented attempt to make the ride more interesting.

    There’s probably less Rules too.

    Possibly

    Ode to Days

    Ooooo Days.. the “Mounrain” trail never fetter.. clearly.. is clearly.. is but clearly.. just better.
    Carefree “dsys” of Nature.. yo Ralph Waldo Emerson!! no cars.. no buses.. no trains.. just sweat.. just veins.
    Would not.. could not.. on a boat.. or on a plane.. no road is the same.. or better.. not ever.
    Look home.. look home.. oh Shit!! Street “lighrs” are on.. and on.. and on.. and on.. oh come on!
    Ooooo Days.. the “dsys” wane.. bored?? be vane?? just shave your legs.. again.. again.. tis but.. just better.
    But I’m wrong.. not better.. I’m not right.. nor clever.. not better.. not ever.

  10. Nice article, Brett, I enjoyed it.  Recently a friend of mine who works for Ellsworth bikes loaned me a really nice full-suspension carbon MTB, which I took for a quick spin.  It was an enlightening experience, it felt so light compared to my vintage (1995) steel no-suspension Jamis MTB.  I almost bought the Ellsworth.  Almost.  Then I went for a ride on my #1 (Trek Project One) and came to my senses.

  11. @unversio

    Noice…  great semtiment. And total agreement with other replies to my malt-inspired goodnatured trolling of skinny wheel set.

    Seriously,  this is a great blog, with great comment threads.  And I love a bit of good natured rivalry. Youse guys are alrihht.

    And kw’s summary is perfect.  The lste great Freddie Mercury said it best… “Get on you bikes and ride”

  12. Weird. What the hell was I thinking?

  13. Bah! Purists are pussies! Tank top, mtb shorts + hydration pack on my road bike. I’ve got 2-3 times the water you’ve got! And I’ve got a better tan.

  14. @MichalInator

    Bah! Purists are pussies! Tank top, mtb shorts + hydration pack on my road bike. I’ve got 2-3 times the water you’ve got! And I’ve got a better tan.

    Perchance are you from DownUnder?

  15. @MichalInator

    Bah! Purists are pussies! Tank top, mtb shorts + hydration pack on my road bike. I’ve got 2-3 times the water you’ve got! And I’ve got a better tan.

    I think this is hilarious.

    Wearing MTB shorts on a road bike means you acknowledges “normal” clothes don’t work, but lacks the confidence to wear shorts designed for what you are doing.

    Wearing a hydration pack means you are less comfortable.

    Wearing a tanktop “for a better tan” means you don’t know what a good tan looks like.

    But have fun!

  16. not a word about touring? that is done a bike as well. yes bags but where else will the tent, stove, sleeping bag etc go? just back from a month in patagonia. you want quiet?

  17. @Days I really hope ”noice” Is a typo

  18. @The Grande Fondue

    @MichalInator

    Bah! Purists are pussies! Tank top, mtb shorts + hydration pack on my road bike. I’ve got 2-3 times the water you’ve got! And I’ve got a better tan.

    I think this is hilarious.

    Wearing MTB shorts on a road bike means you acknowledges “normal” clothes don’t work, but lacks the confidence to wear shorts designed for what you are doing.

    Wearing a hydration pack means you are less comfortable.

    Wearing a tanktop “for a better tan” means you don’t know what a good tan looks like.

    But have fun!

    Perfect I stared writing a response then I saw that it was basically a bad version of yours.

  19. brett,

    This is quite simply, one of the best articles I’ve had the pleasure to read in a long while.  Very honest and poignant…plus a happy ending – can’t fuckin’ beat that.

    I’m 45 and I absolutely love it when I see guys in their 50’s and beyond laying down the V and looking fantastic doing it.

    Good stuff Brett!

  20. @MichalInator  Hmmmm……I thought I broke a lot of rules with my saddle bag and lumberjack look. Maybe I’m not that offensive after all. Bummer.

    But anyway. ………Michal if that’s your name, I would like a description if your saddle sores after attempting say, oooh, anything longer than 50 miles in mtn bike shorts. As for the short sleeves, try on some real jerseys.  In general they’re more comfortable and can hold more than a sleeveless. And for the hydration pack……

    Ok I’ll just ask, how long have you been off your mtb. (If not your rockers)                                                 P.S. Please don’t tell me that you’re American.  If you are please change your clothing or move to a different continent. Thanks

    P.P.S. He probably rides a $20,000  Road bike.

  21. @Teocalli

    @MichalInator

    Bah! Purists are pussies! Tank top, mtb shorts + hydration pack on my road bike. I’ve got 2-3 times the water you’ve got! And I’ve got a better tan.

    Perchance are you from DownUnder?

    That’s a fairly common occurrence in Los angeles county as well, pervasive on weekends any where near the Rose bowl. or for that matter anywhere in LA county

  22. This is a timely article

    I went from mountain to road back to mountain.

    I never shaved my legs and when I was racing road bike I got razed at first but like the rules say if show up with hairy legs you better be able to dish out some pain, so the razing stopped after awhile. I was always know as the angry mountain biker at the crits.

    7 years ago I moved  and within the first month I got clipped out in the country twice by some rednecks in pickup trucks, not to serious but nerve racking.

    Subsequently I sold my beloved Eddy Merckx because of anger and solely road the mountain bike. I have not owned a road bike since. There are days lately when I really think about the road bike especially after doing a gravel grinding century a month ago with some riding buddies on a pieced together 29er/gravel grinder, while it was painful, there was time for much deep reflection while pedaling in no mans lands on back gravel roads.

    I still do not own a road bike, besides the hairy legs, I do still kit up in the proper fashion for the most part, as if is was hitting the tarmac. Old habits are hard to break, looking good on the bike still goes for the mountain bike for me.

    At this point I am still sole searching as I embark on the potential purchase of another bike, to road or not to road, that is the question and my sole is torn in two right now

  23. @Roger Don’t let a couple of rednecks ruin your journey.

  24. I started out in the bush and was reluctant to try the road despite the urgings of my friends as I felt terribly afraid of traffic.  One day my beloved VMH handed me a brand new road bike and my mountain bike has been neglected ever since.  Whether it be on a solo dive into the pain cave or a friendly group ride, the road seldom disappoints.  Participating this past weekend in a 225k charity ride for cancer as my good friend and cancer survivor’s ‘wingman’,  I met all sorts of wonderful riders…kindred  spirits if you will.  Occasionally as some particularly fast groups went past, I would tag along and burn some matches.  At one point, a lead rider of a pretty quick group sat up only to find that he and I were alone and his mates had shot off the back!  It was great fun and he said to me,” Wait until you hit fifty” to which I replied, ‘That happened five years ago!”  In the future the pace will surely drop off but the smile will never leave

  25. Downhill Wurbauerkogel 1992-94

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