Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Nature or Nurture??



Those that know me best have accused me of being a retro grouch or at the very least, cynical when it comes to new bike technology! I have always found this comment to be somewhat unfair and unfounded, however the older I get and the more I look back on my life, I have finally come to the realization that they are right! I AM a retro grouch. That being said, as I contemplate the reason for my cynical and somewhat caustic attitude towards recent bike innovations, recent being over the last 10 years, I began to wonder why I have turned out the way I am: Is it nature or nurture? Was I born this way, or have I formulated my grouchiness based on years of exposure to others that could be considered “caught in the past,” so to speak? I would argue that my attitude is one based upon nurture and that like the blood that courses through our veins, the cynicism can be traced back through a genealogy of sorts!

Because of this recent epiphany, I feel that I owe a lot of people apologies! Over the years I have not been kind to those who have not seen the world of cycling through my eyes. I have formulated opinions and passed judgment on those whom I felt were either mentally challenged, or at the very least unable to make their own choices and form their own opinions. Then it hit me! All of our opinions have been based off of the influence of someone else. Hopefully that someone else was wiser and smarter and their influence was for our betterment. Hopefully, although the cynic in me will probably think otherwise. What I have failed to realize is that as I have been judged, so have I judged others!

Anyhow, in thinking back over the years I must conclude that everything I stand for when it comes to cycling can be attributed to someone else’s influence. I believe that I was one of the lucky ones. I am thankful for those that showed me that steel rides better that any other bike material. I am thankful for those that showed me that one gear can be more fun than 27. I am even thankful for those that showed me that coasting is overrated. I could continue this list for days.

I would argue that this is not a passing observation but a universal truth: Even the “innovators” in the industry have and are formulating thoughts and opinions based upon experiences from their past and from opinions of others that they respect. Does this make them followers rather than leaders, proverbial sheep of sorts? I would say no. This makes them smart for learning from other’s experiences and formulating a rich and meaningful opinion that has added value to the industry. While they might be innovators to those who come after, they will find they must give credit to those that came before them. Although Gary Fisher may be given most of the credit for inventing the mountain bike, there were a whole hell of a lot of people involved in the inception of that specific contraption. I bet if you asked every one who had a hand in it they will tell you that they did not invent anything. They will have someone in their lives to whom they will attribute the achievement or at the very least, the inspiration.

Those that fall on the flip side of this theory are not so lucky. With cycling growing as rapidly as it is, there are a lot of impressionable people who fall victim to what I would say is bad information and massive marketing campaigns. These are those new to the sport that ride what the magazine advertisements or their local commissioned based salesmen tell them to ride. How many Lance Armstrong look alike-riders have you seen over the last few years?? How many $7000.00 team replica bikes have you seen being pedaled down the road on Saturday morning by some 50 year old with a fat wallet?? Too many! Although annoying, we cannot necessarily fault them for their faux pas. At the very least we should be glad that they have decided to trade their Saturday of golf to get out and participate in their new found “fad!”

The others that fall in a similar, yet way more annoying light, are those that have ridden for years, but have always treated bikes a tool, much like a pair of running shoes. These are the riders who have acquired great bike handling skills and massive lungs but have missed the point when it comes to the beauty of cycling. These riders succumb to the latest and greatest bike and accessories to shave grams off their equipment and seconds off of their individual time trial. While they are out there taking themselves way to seriously I will be enjoying my ride, probably at a slower pace but with an emphasis on the “enjoyment” part. (Also, just to clarify, there are many cyclists with a true understanding and love for cycling that are fast riders. Don't come away from this thinking being fat and slow is the reason for my point of view.)

Both the overly ambitious hammerhead weight weenie and the middle aged weekend warrior with the latest and greatest have merely fallen victim to bad influences! At some point in their cycling endeavors I hope they will have the opportunity to ride because it is fun rather than cool or because its good cardio and they are fast! Hopefully they will go to the garage and find that their brain shock with super duper crazy awesome lockout is bleeding weird fluid and they are forced to ride the old fully rigid mountain bike they had forgotten about years before. Hopefully while riding that old bike they will realize that there is more to this sport than the latest gear! Who knows. . . that ride might change their lives! They might find themselves at the bike shop ordering a “new” fully rigid bike with ONE gear!! One gear!! Who knew you could have so much fun without technology?

As they ride their new badass single speed, (single speed being an abstract object representing any non “conventional” rig), I hope they pay homage to those that came before them: Those that they laughed at or at the very least failed to connect with when they passed them on the road or trail years ago riding their “funny bikes!” Those are the people who deserve a kind gesture as we see them on their bikes. Those are the people who deserve the credit! Please take the time to contemplate those that have influence you! Pay tribute to them! As I have written this entry, I cannot help but recall all who have influenced me to be the cynical retro grouch bastard I have become! I will not name names, for the sake of leaving someone out, however know this: You that have influenced me get a silent thank you every time I ride a bike! You will forever be remembered!

As I have contemplated what I would like to get across in this post, what I have ultimately come to realize is that I cannot fault those that do not see the sport of cycling as I do. Those that have to rely on the armchair cyclist as their influences are victims of situation or circumstance. Horrible as it may seem, I must accept those that choose to ride disc brakes and full suspension while scoffing at our skinny tube beauties. I will accept those that ride two days a month but own $7,000 team replica bikes because they are people too! I cannot chastise those that choose to ride the latest and greatest to impress their friends or because Mountain Bike Action says it’s cool or because they specifically want to kick some ass! I am glad to have the influences that I have had because looking around, I have noticed that “Nurture” can be a real bitch!

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Sado Mascyclism

First of all, let me say for the record that I am not an ultra-competitive hammer-fest loving pain-junky of a cyclist. That being said, all of the pain and suffering that I have experienced over the many years of cycling has recently led me to contemplate what I believe to be a fairly common thread between cyclists of all shapes and sizes: Why do we suffer through the pain and physical discomfort associated with riding a bicycle? Why do we insist on making sure that everyone is hurting as bad as we are? What is it about pain that that keeps us coming back for more? I don't have definitive all-encompassing answers to this question: While I will try to lay out my thoughts as to why this seems to be a common thread in cycling, I am interested to hear your thoughts and explanations on the topic.

A little background

This particular year has been especially different: It has marked a new beginning of sorts! For the last 15 years of my life, cycling has been my passion, my drug of choice. Although I have not spent every waking moment of the last decade riding my bike, the love of all things cycling has permeated my soul, as well as those I have come in contact with. I am thankful for that facet of my existence.

Why was this year different?? Well, this was the first year since I have been married, where I have had the opportunity to focus on training and riding for predetermined events. Training being the operative word! In the past, thanks to a few people (Jon, Delena, KP, and Weidner), I had the opportunity to complete some pretty epic rides or events however I never really "trained" for them. This was partly due to the fact that as a younger, less responsible person, I was already riding enough just because!

Up until the beginning of this year, jobs, mortgages, kids, and life seemed to have consumed my ability to just ride! Well, I was tired of that and decided to do something about it. Although my wife would argue that I was not as balanced as I should have been, I set off to complete the difficult task of juggling life while trying to actually train! I set some goals to complete some "epic" rides and started pedaling! The more I did it, the more I wanted to do it! The more it hurt, the harder I wanted to train! The better I became, the more I wanted to push! Looking back on it, if that's not masochism, what is?

Sometimes we have to bleed to know we're alive

As a cyclist, I will say that the only true gauge of how you are doing is by comparing how bad the ride hurt in relationship to previous rides. I would argue that as you get in better shape, the rides only begin to hurt worse. This is for two reasons: 1. It never hurts any less, you only get faster. Rather than riding to make riding easier, I find that I ride to try to push the limits farther each time. 2. If you are riding with those that tend to be faster or stronger, the sadist in every rider begins to show as the season progresses. With my riding partners, this phenomenon tends to come out more on the inclines of each ride!! Who needs whips and chains when you have a high VO2 max, no pain receptors and a giant mountain pass at your disposal??

My wife has had a difficult time comprehending this phenomenon: When I come home and tell her how bad the ride hurt and that on more than one occasion I thought I was going to die of a brain aneurysm, that I am not complaining, but almost boasting of my accomplishment! The pain and suffering is a direct result of progress and action. Sure it would hurt if I sat on my ass all season and then tried to ride, but that is not what I am addressing. It never ceases to amaze me that after so much training, it can hurt as bad as it does AND it never ceases to amaze me that no matter who you are and where you are at in your cycling career, there is always going to be room for improvement! You can always get faster. . . I don't care who you think you are!!

The bottom line

The fact that cyclist put themselves through so much pain time after time in the name of "fun" proves my point that all cyclists are masochists. Maybe the questions to ask are these: Which ones are the sadists driving us all to the brink of our pain thresholds? Is it that the masochism is a perpetual cycle and the need to hurt drives us to push the limits? The third but less likely option is that we are all crazy and the voice inside our head is the true sadist! You tell me!

Friday, October 12, 2007

Every Silver Lining Has a Touch of GrAY!

Yep! I said it! For those of you who can't handle the pink, hopefully you've had your laugh and can move on to appreciating the amazing mud clearance found on this bike! After the horrible time I had playing in the mud last week in Heber, I'm hoping this will allow me to pedal, no matter the conditions!!

Oh. . . regarding the pink. . . Not only do I love pink, there is a deeper meaning behind it! Chris King donates a percentage of the revenue from their "Pretty and Strong" line of pink products to breast cancer. My dad has recently been diagnosed and undergone treatment for Multiple Myeloma, a terminal cancer that attacks the bones and marrow. Although tragic, this experience has drawn our family closer as well as helped me realize that no day in our lives should be taken for granted! I am forever grateful for the time and effort that is being dedicated to finding cures for these horrible diseases. Please make the effort to support the various charities as you participate in cycling events. Every little bit helps!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

3000 Pixels of Badass!!

Well, here is the official Cycles and Cynicisms blog! Thanks for taking a minute to find it! I thought that these pictures would be some good ones for the inaugural post! I Really wanted to upload a picture and Charles Bronson and a sweet ass picture of a Cannondale however there was just not enough space!! Hopefully the picture of Kerry enjoying the Yellowstone Spring Cycling Tour will suffice! A picture of a sweet Cannondale. . . maybe next time!