La Vie Velominatus: Life Gets in the Way

Life? Ride your bike. Prophet 5:5

There’s no doubt I live La Vie Velominatus. Sometimes I think I live it maybe a little too much, as I’ve been told by independent observers that bicycles and all associated with them dominates my very existence. And it’s true; I work in the industry, dividing my time between editing Spoke magazine, writing (not nearly enough lately) here, and a couple of days a week in the shop. Whenever there’s a spare moment, it’s usually spent surfing the web, and nine out of ten sites I’ll view are in some way bike related. To end the day I’ll settle down with a book or a magazine in bed. No need to tell you the subject matter. (It’s not porn… really.)

Is this healthy? Cycling is by definition a healthy activity, but when one becomes all-consumed by a solitary pursuit, it can be seen as unhealthy in itself. An addiction. Addictions are usually construed as being bad things, but surely an addiction to something so pure can’t be harmful?

Well, not if you aren’t actually riding. If the only link to cycling is from sitting in front of a computer, writing about riding, reading other’s articles about riding, and making a magazine about riding, all to the detriment of actually getting on a bike and doing it, that takes its toll, both mentally and physically.

It’s a Catch 22 situation. You don’t ride, and you lose fitness. And when you lose fitness, riding becomes harder. So you shy away from hard rides. Consequently, you lose even more fitness. Then you get to the point when you say fuck it, and just get your ass on the bike. You ride with your usual crew, you lag on the hills, but you feel stronger the farther you go, drawing on the energy from the simple act of being out, turning the legs and breathing fresh air into the lungs. You get caught up in the little sprints and KOMs, and find you still have something in the tank. Deep, buried reserves forged from la vie. You finish the ride feeling rejuvenated, tired but refreshed. You vow to ride again tomorrow. But there’s a deadline to meet, proofing to be done, a last mintute article to write. Life gets in the way. And so it goes.

I know. I have ridden my bikes probably on average twice a week for the last six weeks. I was supposed to be doing a race this weekend. I’m glad I’m not. The principle reason for not doing it was money, the very coin I’d spent on getting a bike to race on conspired against actually racing. That, coupled with a grand in dentist fees, a visit from an Aussie friend which helped drain the bank account, then an ensuing illness and my race fitness, which was well on track those six weeks ago, has now all but disappeared in a cloud of debt and lethargy.

Yep, life gets in the way of having a life. A life of riding. But I still have a life of cycling, it’s just being lived through other means right now. And that’s better than not having a life at all. I will be back. Vive la vie Velominatus.

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124 Replies to “La Vie Velominatus: Life Gets in the Way”

  1. I can definitely relate Brett.

    On the one side, I feel completely addicted to cycling in one form or another. I’m either thinking of the next ride, or reading about something cycling related.

    On the flip side, my VMH gives birth to our second child in a month, and I can see that my days are numbered!

    At times like this, the only thing that keeps me going is my commute into work. Enough to keep the legs happy anyway. I wonder how long that will last…

    “Change/Life” – it happens to the best of us.

  2. I hear that, brother! It’s like you’re talking about my life too. Here’s to fortune giving us both some time to enjoy the actual riding we too often only enjoy vicariously…

  3. But thankfully, your bike will patiently wait. It will not judge, complain or nag. It will not make unreasonable demands, ask for attention or turn away in frustration.
    And when you are ready it will handle you precisely and comply (vertically)…

  4. My god i know what you mean, i got a job in order to buy the things for my riding (new pair of wheels mainly) but all it does is stop me riding. Case in point yesterday i was actually kitted up and ready to go when they rang me and called my backside in.

    After last weeks poor effort this made me sad, however the sun is out on one of those fantastic crisp Autumn days, so i’m gone.

    My addiction to cycling got to a stage where i wasn’t actually see anyone other that the people at work and my parents, so i decided to take up the hockey again, which i’m reliably told will increase my strength so good stuff all round

  5. Aye, I can completely agree with that. Regular Life does indeed get in the way of La Vie.

    And when it does, as @DeltaMngo says, the commute provides sanctity for pursuance of La Vie, for it justifies regular V-meditation in the guise of purposeful transportation. A reason for La Vie to constantly exist within the drudge of Regular Life.

    As for Brett’s musings on whether one can be classed as addicted to a pure activity; ‘all things in moderation’ as they say.

    I like to believe I think about cycling much more than I manifest my love (obsession?) for it. One way I gauge this is to use the object of my VMH’s arguments to tell whether I’ve got La Vie under control or not. If she’s ranting about That Fucking Bike, then I know I’ve got to reel in in a little.

    Things are quiet on that front for now, so I reckon I’ve got it under wraps at the moment.

    …but I probably haven’t.

    Vive La Vie!

  6. Damnit, we need an edit post function on this here forum.

    Only noticing typos post-submission pisses me off!

  7. @harminator

    But thankfully, your bike will patiently wait. It will not judge, complain or nag. It will not make unreasonable demands, ask for attention or turn away in frustration.

    So true Harminator, sort of like a dog but one that you do not have to feed, just buy fancy bits for…

    And whats wrong with being consumed by it even if you can’t get out on the bike? It is a positive non harmful world that if I was Brett I would be proud to say that was my world.

  8. Nice one, Brett!

    My short life as a Follower has benefited from a Cycling Nirvana stage in my life, one where my only commitments were the gf-VMH & some graduate school. I even lived apart from the VMH for a few months a year, so then it was just cycling & school. I was riding for a few hours a day, every day. I knew it couldn’t possibly last, so I enjoyed it immensely while I was fully ensconced in Big Ring Nirvana.

    Now I’m engaged to be married, I need to finish my degree & quit being so driven on the bike that I’m lazy out of the saddle, and even with these small changes I feel less and less connected to the bike. I still ride 4-5 times a week, with two days off for some healthy cross-training (soccer).

    I know I’ll only have more commitments, and a real job (my friends tell me being a teaching assistant isn’t “real”) and likely children. I don’t know how many of you pull it off.

    My one saving grace is that I feel my connection to cycling, the rhythms of turning the cranks when on the bike, and dreaming about my next ride when off the bike are so firmly rooted deep inside my spirit that I’ll be okay, even when I’m not able to ride as much as I’d like. Vive la vie Velominatus.

  9. That catch 22 is where I have been for a while. I started school over 2 months ago and between that and holding down a part time job I find my self with such little time to do anything else. I get to ride a couple of hours every Saturday and sleep in every 5 weeks. I really look forward to winter break so I can ride just about every day.

  10. Rob – some of us have to buy fancy bits for our dogs too! We’ve had a pound dog for about a year, then this summer she started acting off. Hmm, then she got really bad a few weeks ago, could hardly walk or stand. Turns out she has Addison’s disease, which is a malfunctioning of her adrenal glands.

    The initial vet visit & work cost something along the lines of a very nice new bike, though I’m not sure full carbon or an Al/carbon mixture because I told the VMH to NOT tell me the actual bill. Now she’ll need a monthly shot at the cost of $175 each time.

    I love the dog & I love pets but when I total that up over her lifetime I wonder what the hell is going on. That’s more than I pay for my own health insurance each month! Between the two cats & the dog, our grad school incomes are in rough shape.

    I guess maybe this is a sign to get my arse in gear, finish, and get a decent job. But lordy, $2000 a year on shots?!

  11. Love that photo. Looks the Prophet is saying, “Really? Really??? Shut the fuck up and go ride for Chrissakes.”

    That being said, Man, I hear you. Struggling to get 3 to 4 rides a week in now with full time work and the family.

    But, life is great and I’ll take what I can get!

    Great write up.

  12. I’ve been blessed in many ways – a wife that doesn’t want to be one of those “LFYW” wives and she supports my riding/racing. I also have a job that is low stress and I pretty much come and go as I please. According to our CEO “as long as you don’t burn the place down” I pretty much have Carte Blanche. This means that when the weather is awesome I can say “See you later.” I have the freedom to ride as much as I want. But I still need to be balanced and not abuse or take for granted this blessing. I think balance is a good thing. ANYTHING in excess is going to lead to problems somewhere.

    But the beauty of cycling is that it offers enough of new scenery, new challenges, new equipment, new friends, etc. that it can be the sole (extra curricular) activity in your life and doesn’t leave you wanting something else. I used to be big into paintball. I think I’ve went ballin’ once since I got my Cannondale about five years ago. In fact I just gave some kids at my church all my paintball stuff. I used to be a snobby audiophile snob too but now I got an amp I bought from WalMart in my truck because anything more than the $99 I spent for it would have taken away money toward the Castelli Nanoflex knee warmers I got my eye on. My TV actually has a picture tube because if I had to choose between a Flat Screen and a new chain and cassette the choice is easy.

    Buy through it all I keep in mind that there are other people affected by my riding – this past Sunday I had to choose between going for a scheduled ride with friends or meeting up with my pastor and his 12 year old single malt whiskey for a toast to my best friend’s new daughter. I chose he Balvenie. But the cool thing is that because I chose rightly in regards to priorities things worked out so that I got to riding later with one of the local Hammergurls.

    “Balance, Weedhopper.”

  13. Insightful, and as others have commented, all too familiar. I too have a love affair with my bike. It makes me feel good when I am on it, and to paraphrase, even a bad day on the bike is better than a good day at the office.

    The comment about reading about bikes is well taken as well. Most of my most visited web sites are bike porn. I susbscribe to a couple print editions. Maybe that’s why I am so attracted to this site – the bike and its history is a story of art and beauty that is mostly untold but to a few. The Keepers extoll all that is Right and Proper amongst the gears, shiny bits, roads, trail, sweat and panache.

    My bike is one of my prized posessions, and adore looking at it and think I look like a fookin’ rock star on it. I really enjoy watching the view go by as I push the pedals. And like any cyclist, I am more than a little obsessive about my weight.

    But I am not a racer. Except when there is someone in front of me or a clock on my bars. I did one crit one time. After a few laps I realized I was scared shitless, and a hazard to myself and 20 other people. Sat up, and enjoyed letting them lap me a few times. Ya know what? The peloton stinks. Literally. And I never went back.

    I don’t need more bike shit. I need more time to ride my bike. Living in Seattle, this is a challenge between November (now) and next spring (April). I won’t ride in the rain or in the dark. This is how I mitigate my risk. People get killed doing this stuff, and while I love it, that isn’t how I want to go. Meaning between Nov and April, I’m a weekend warrior, most of which are beset with rain. Still, I got my 2000 miles in during 2011. Hope to up that in 2012.

    La vie velominatus.

  14. you hit something on the head here that i’ve been thinking about for a long long time, except i’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Everyone telling me to ‘earn some money’ yet all i’m doing and have been doing for the last 16months is checking the weather in a morning so i can ride. Averaging 230miles perweek in the Peak District. Fuck em i say, i’ve got all the time in the world to earn a living, just completely obsessed with the bike at the minute but i’m feeling unstoppable.

  15. This is a great thread and brings out the best in the Velominati in that it’s honest, thoughtful and respectful. I have three big things in my life: my job, my girlfriend and my bike. The first two understand why the bike is so important and that I NEED to ride or the other two suffer. I squeeze in as much riding as I can (I’m leaving two hours early today after a few 14-15 hour days in the last week. Guess what, it’s so I can get a decent ride in before it gets dark). Am I obsessed with the bike? Yup. Does the weather matter on days I don’t plan to ride? Nope. Do I try and get as many miles in as possible/ Yes. (And I know it’s about quality than quantity, but here in WI sometimes “quality” is a subjective term: is riding in 25 degrees in February “quality” – I tend to think so.)

    We are united by a common love/obsession. While life does get in the way, I think that’s the underlying point – it gets in the way of what we really want to do.

  16. As Cyclops said: balance is a good thing. Past are the days of hard racing and h24 thinking about cycling, you can do that only when you are young, very young. At my age I try to have a more complete life as long I can train 4 times a week!

  17. For me, the past year has brought three major life changes. Marriage, new baby, and building a house. Thankfully, the VMH knows what cycling means to me and supports me slipping away for a few hours here and a long weekend there. The amount I rode this summer compared to last though is pathetic. But at least I can say work wasn’t what prevented me from riding.

  18. @thom

    you hit something on the head here that i’ve been thinking about for a long long time, except i’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Everyone telling me to ‘earn some money’ yet all i’m doing and have been doing for the last 16months is checking the weather in a morning so i can ride. Averaging 230miles perweek in the Peak District. Fuck em i say, i’ve got all the time in the world to earn a living, just completely obsessed with the bike at the minute but i’m feeling unstoppable.

    It’s all good as long as you’re not some 25-to-30 year old pogue who’s still living at home in the basement and sucking of his parents and not helping out with paying for food or rent or anything (like some friends and cousins that I know).

  19. The scariest thing about this article for me is that it reminded me of something my old rugby coach told me when I was the fittest I’ve ever been at 16 / 17 / 18:

    “For every one week off training you lose three weeks of training”

    When you’re going balls out full Rule V every session that’s a horrible, yet beautiful, thought.

  20. @Buck Rogers

    @thom

    you hit something on the head here that i’ve been thinking about for a long long time, except i’m on the opposite end of the spectrum. Everyone telling me to ‘earn some money’ yet all i’m doing and have been doing for the last 16months is checking the weather in a morning so i can ride. Averaging 230miles perweek in the Peak District. Fuck em i say, i’ve got all the time in the world to earn a living, just completely obsessed with the bike at the minute but i’m feeling unstoppable.

    It’s all good as long as you’re not some 25-to-30 year old pogue who’s still living at home in the basement and sucking of his parents and not helping out with paying for food or rent or anything (like some friends and cousins that I know).

    So you’re saying I should move?

  21. @Marko

    @GianniRemember, we’re trying to encourage more females to post.

    If a tree falls in the forest…

  22. @Jeff in PetroMetro
    God DAMN, man, you’re on a roll. The guy in the next office over is ordering some restraints for me right now b/c I keep killing myself over here reading your responses!

    As for the Stubb’s, not sure I can convince the VMH to go there, although she’s been known to eat a decent steak if it is at nice place. Is Stubb’s a nice place or famous? If either, I bet I can get her to go with the kiddos. If it’s a chain, she’ll never go.

  23. @Cyclops

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    @Marko

    @GianniRemember, we’re trying to encourage more females to post.

    If a tree falls in the forest…

    You mean “If a man says something in a forest…”

    Once upon a time, there was a Velominatus. In a forest. With a laptop. And an internet connection…

  24. @Buck Rogers

    @Jeff in PetroMetro God DAMN, man, you’re on a roll. The guy in the next office over is ordering some restraints for me right now b/c I keep killing myself over here reading your responses!
    As for the Stubb’s, not sure I can convince the VMH to go there, although she’s been known to eat a decent steak if it is at nice place. Is Stubb’s a nice place or famous? If either, I bet I can get her to go with the kiddos. If it’s a chain, she’ll never go.

    Stubb’s is both famous and local. So’s Shady Grove. And they’re family friendly. And at Shady Grove, Missus Rogers can get a Hippie Sandwich. But for the life of me I don’t know what for.

  25. I think this post rings clear for all who work and have family obligations. As a long-time rider and racer of 25 years(gulp), I,too, the bike and tell my wife that the only affair I will ever have is with my bike! Luckily, she loves to ride too so that eases the crunch to ride. With my work schedule I spend significant time travelling in my car to and from work. My bike is like American Express, I don’t leave home with out it! I eek out a ride at lunch everyday to allow me to spend time with family. I always long for those long rides of epic proportion but the lunch rides and occasional weekend long rides will make due.

  26. @Buck Rogers

    @Jeff in PetroMetro Might have to make Stubbs the Sat night gathering for the Cogal, eh? Sounds like it just might work.

    You know, upon further reflection, and a peek at the menu’s, I have to throw my cycling cap in for Shady Grove. That place will please all comers. But, your call, man.

  27. @Buck Rogers

    @Jeff in PetroMetro Might have to make Stubbs the Sat night gathering for the Cogal, eh? Sounds like it just might work.

    I have it on my radar. I’ve got Threadgill’s on my shortlist as well. I am consulting old Austin friends who can shed some light on the subject. Trying to keep it family friendly and Austin local.

  28. Very nice piece Brett. Articulated in a way that, judging by the following posts, has resonated in a very sweet spot for all here in Velominati-land.
    Some parts I was reading thinking, “can’t see a problem?”, others “lucky fucker” and the rest “I hear you”. Spot on mate.

  29. @Buck Rogers

    Love that photo.
    Great write up.

    +1

    He’s such an imposing figure. Whenever I look at a photo of him where he’s looking down the barrel of the lens, its like walking into the Headmaster’s office.

  30. OK, another confession. I maintain my VMH’s Cervelo. She looks fabulous on it. But I also secretly feel like I am playing with a barbie doll when I’m doing so. “Ohh…what kind of new accessories can my VHM have this week that will make her look like Kirsten/Amber/Judith/Marianne/Nichole?”

  31. @Ron

    Rob – some of us have to buy fancy bits for our dogs too! We’ve had a pound dog for about a year, then this summer she started acting off. Hmm, then she got really bad a few weeks ago, could hardly walk or stand. Turns out she has Addison’s disease, which is a malfunctioning of her adrenal glands.
    The initial vet visit & work cost something along the lines of a very nice new bike, though I’m not sure full carbon or an Al/carbon mixture because I told the VMH to NOT tell me the actual bill. Now she’ll need a monthly shot at the cost of $175 each time.
    I love the dog & I love pets but when I total that up over her lifetime I wonder what the hell is going on. That’s more than I pay for my own health insurance each month! Between the two cats & the dog, our grad school incomes are in rough shape.
    I guess maybe this is a sign to get my arse in gear, finish, and get a decent job. But lordy, $2000 a year on shots?!

    We’ve got a mutt and a Great Dane (well, a moderate to fair one anyway) – she was into the vet recently for a bike frame, and before that she bloated and cost me a very nice full carbon bike on that one, since it was also an emergency visit. She has had various other episodes that have, over her life, cost us a small bike stable.

    But I’m happy with the bikes I have, and how can you say “No, I’m going let you suffer while I’m off to buy a new bike?”

    Look at that poonum!

    And here’s the rockstar mutt who has cost us almost zero dollars ever:

  32. @Ron
    Firstly, $2k p.a. on dog shots?? Console yourself that at least you are indirectly spending money on your veterinarian’s bike needs.

    @frank
    Let me think: very tall person, very tall bike and a great dane. There is a circus somewhere screaming out for an act like you.

  33. @Jeff in PetroMetro

    @Buck Rogers

    @Jeff in PetroMetro Might have to make Stubbs the Sat night gathering for the Cogal, eh? Sounds like it just might work.

    I have it on my radar. I’ve got Threadgill’s on my shortlist as well. I am consulting old Austin friends who can shed some light on the subject. Trying to keep it family friendly and Austin local.

    Ironworks BBQ used to be one of the best. I’ll query some of my Austin crowd.

  34. @frank
    you have some handsome looking dogs. For my life style a cat is about all I can deal with. I got her when I was 22 and I am now 30. in that time she cost me a pair of fine Italian road shoes or a pro level helmet or carbon pedals but I wouldn’t trade here in for anything

  35. This rings so true on may levels. I’m lucky in that my time is mine and no one knows how much time I spend on my bike. I’ve lurked her for a while but had to comment on this one.

    (I will say up front that when I race I swim before the ride and run after it. But the bike is by far my favourite. That fact that I just acquired my second bike supports this fact.)

  36. @jen

    This rings so true on may levels. I’m lucky in that my time is mine and no one knows how much time I spend on my bike. I’ve lurked her for a while but had to comment on this one.
    (I will say up front that when I race I swim before the ride and run after it. But the bike is by far my favourite. That fact that I just acquired my second bike supports this fact.)

    Glad that you have found us before it became fatal.

    Hang around a bit and we’ll see if we can cure you of that swim/run disease that you currnetly have! Don’t worry, some of us used to have it but, thanks to Fronk and The Prophet, we were cured.

  37. @itburns

    @Jeff in PetroMetro

    @Buck Rogers

    @Jeff in PetroMetro Might have to make Stubbs the Sat night gathering for the Cogal, eh? Sounds like it just might work.

    I have it on my radar. I’ve got Threadgill’s on my shortlist as well. I am consulting old Austin friends who can shed some light on the subject. Trying to keep it family friendly and Austin local.

    Ironworks BBQ used to be one of the best. I’ll query some of my Austin crowd.

    Yes it was. Totally forgot about Ironworks. Please, check with Austin friends. There’s lots of recent places I don’t know about. I for sure know I’m going to Kerbey Lane Cafe for a stack of gingerbread pancakes. And Amy’s Ice Cream on Guadalupe for a fresh cream and strawberries milkshake. And Conan’s Pizza for The Savage. (I’m arriving Friday night, so I’m going on a gastronical “remember when” tour.) Oh, and I’ll bring back a Mangia Pizza spinach pizza to enjoy in the lovely confines of Houston. My favorite Tex-Mex restaurant, Seis Salsas, got shut down years ago for multiple health code violations (dammit). That leaves me with El Azteca to get my Tex-Mex on. That meal’s gonna happen without my 9-year-old daughter ’cause she doesn’t like Mexican food. I’m pretty sure she’s not really mine. Space alien, or maybe switched at birth.

  38. Help me, Keepers. I must have said something bad again, like Tex-Mex, or space aliens, ’cause I’m in the “awaiting moderation” penalty box. Gracias!

  39. @Pedale.Forchetta

    As Cyclops said: balance is a good thing. Past are the days of hard racing and h24 thinking about cycling, you can do that only when you are young, very young. At my age I try to have a more complete life as long I can train 4 times a week!

    You took the words from my mouth! The balance between Pedale and Forchetta is a message, ever since I learned what your name meant, I have been obsessed with it. Balance between sport and life. We are not professionals, after all.

    I am someone who makes decisions as they come, with the information available, and do as well as I can with what I have. With that as my guiding philosophy, I know I’ll make mistakes, but I can live with them because I do my very best. I had the chance in my life to become a true sportsman, but it was in a different sport, and as my life has evolved, the one thing I think about having done differently is to be more directly connected professionally to cycling. Velominati gives me some of that, and for that I am incredibly grateful to this community. But Bretto – you have walked the path, and I admire you for it. Sure, your profession keeps you from your bike, but you’ve managed to keep it part of your life. Good on ya.

    One of the things that kills me about balance is some of the athletes I used to train with. They were 100% committed to skiing, except the fact of the matter is, they weren’t good enough. I always felt going to the olympics was a huge deal, but why devote your life to it if you don’t have a chance of winning? There are other arenas of sport and competition that don’t demand 4 years of total commitment in order to enjoy the prestige of racing against the best in your class.

    A case in point is a documentary I just watched on the US Ski Team prep’ing for the 2010 Winter Olympics; it was summertime and every one of them is in their summer training and talking about the devotion and how they are driven to be the best. The fact is, they aren’t even the best on their team. Most of the subjects didn’t even qualify for the Olympic team. It breaks my heart to see the imbalance between dedication and results. For me, it is much better to choose the balance that is fulfilling both in sport and life.

    Sport is a hard, hard world, and only one can be the best. Only a few can be close enough to fight for it. The rest of us? We have the sport and a balance between that and life. And life, after all, is a mighty fulfilling thing. I’m glad I have Pedale/Forchetta.

    I ride and train as much as my life allows. I have set ambitious goals. I intend to meet them, or determine through trial that I can not. If I don’t meet them, that’s fine – so long as I did my best to. These ambitious goals, by the way, are not just my sporting goals. They are my life’s goals.

    Set lofty goals, and work hard to meet them. If you fail, fail trying. Whatever they are.

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