Why I Ride
*Written by Steve*
“Why do you ride?” is a question most cyclists have been asked on many occasions, and it’s easy to respond with the clichés like fitness, weight loss, or #outsideisfree. My answer has changed over the years from utilitarian purposes, to social outlets, and everything in between.
I’m getting ahead of myself, let’s rewind to 2012. I was 24 years old, 160kg, and working in a sales job that for every dollar I earnt I lost a piece of my soul. I was miserable, angry, and to be honest I don’t know why people were even friends with me. I decided at some point between 2012 and 2014 to actively make a change and to turn my life around, not just physically but emotionally and mentally. I quit my sales job and got myself a job helping young adults with disabilities (mainly Autism Spectrum Disorder) get their first job and to maintain it. I took a hefty pay cut taking that job, but as each day went on I felt a little piece of who I am slowly coming back to me, piece by piece. I worked in that job for about 12-18 months and realised that I wanted to do more, be more, and to make more of a difference. So I quit my job and studied Psychology at University for 3 years. At the time I was living about 7km from University and was sick of using public transport, refused to pay for parking in the city, and walking was just a bit too far to do regularly. Which is when a very good friend of mine (you know who you are) suggested I buy a bike and ride to Uni. No finding parks, no waiting for buses, I could just arrive at Uni and lock my bike up near whichever building I was in for the day and then ride home after, PERFECT! I promised myself I’d never wear lycra though…
Just like riding a bike
Let me make this clear, I’ve never been fit or athletic. My idea of exercise was standing at 1st slip on the cricket field, bowling right arm off spin (read as: pies that somehow got wickets), and then sinking 10-15 beers after. Back then I was known as cankles (calf + ankles for those playing at home) to the cricket boys, which while being harsh was indeed quite accurate. So I bought a bike, a 2015 Avanti Giro with 10sp 105, which honestly to this day is still an absolute banger of a bike and I genuinely believe I got it for a complete steal.
My first ride was exactly 4.76km with 3m of elevation. I almost cried on the “return” trip it hurt so much, and I couldn’t sit properly for a week. I had no idea how to change gears, how to steer properly, and I was terrified of falling over. I still to this day don’t know why I didn’t quit then, every piece of historical evidence about my decision making would give me 1.01:1 odds of quitting, but for some reason I didn’t. Still proud of myself for that. My rides gradually got longer and longer; 5km, 7km, 10km, 12km, then I rode to the beach for the first time 25KM! I was starting to get hooked, I wanted to ride longer, faster, further, and with more climbing.
Me, myself, and Norton Summit
Ask any Adelaide cyclist what their Norton time is and they’ll know, 5.5km at 5% just 12km from the CBD, what’s there not to love? My first venture on Norton is the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I only made it about half way and had to stop 4 times. My 2nd venture was to the top, and I stopped 6 times. My 3rd time I only stopped twice. Then finally I made it to the top of the climb without stopping, in a portly 35 minutes and 16 seconds. I realised at this point cycling had awoken something from deep down inside of me and I learnt something I was oblivious of up until this point, I have quite the competitive streak (to those currently friends with me; I’m sorry, but also you are welcome). According to Strava I’ve ridden up Norton Summit 356 times in 4 years, and my fastest time is 15 minutes and 48 seconds. Yep, 20 whole minutes faster than my first time.
Socialising and coffee, occasionally interrupted with riding a bike
I am unashamedly one of those guys in lycra who sits around at the café for hours on end with his mates talking about riding bikes, buying bikes, and cycling fashion. It’s bloody great. There is something truly amazing that happens with socialising and mateship when it comes to cycling. I can’t quite put my finger on what it is exactly, but I’ve made some of my best and closest friends through cycling. Perhaps it’s the joint sense of adventure, perhaps it’s the constant push and competiveness to go faster and further, perhaps it’s the joint comradery of helping pace a mate back home who has blown up, or perhaps it’s the banter and genuinely hilarious moments that happen out on the road. Most likely it’s a combination of all three, and others I can’t think of right now. I would not have half the quantity or quality of friends I have right now if I’d pulled the pin on cycling after that first ride.
Now that I’ve had the thought, I’m going to have to try
The competitiveness that cycling awoke in me has opened so many more doors I could have imagined, and changed my view on why and how I go about things. One thing I’m now overtly aware of is that when I think about whether I could be capable of doing something, I need to give it a shot. Which leads us to early 2016 when I first became aware of the idea of ‘Everesting.’ Everesting is the pinicple of stupid ideas gone too far. It’s a simple concept, you can choose any hill in the world and ride up and down it until the total elevation gain of your ride is then height of Mt Everest, 8848m. “Gee, I wonder if I could do an Everest one day” I recall saying to myself. Yep, you can see where this is going. February 2016 I attempted, and completed an Everesting purely because I was curious if I could. I’ll most likely make a separate post at some point about that day as it is a whole story within itself, but I’m pretty stoked that I could, in fact, do an Everesting (Cue distant thoughts of doing another on a more challenging climb).
Stats, numbers, and upgrades
I’ve been a car guy most of my life, I’ve modified numerous cars, and spent far more money on said cars than I care to admit. One of the things I loved about modifying cars is going over all the nitty gritty, ‘this type of header will give better low down torque while this type will give slightly less torque but more power in the top end’. I honestly looked at that kind of stuff for hours and hours every night. Fortunately for me, in comparison, cycling is noticeably cheaper and far better for you than modifying cars, and has just as many stats and parts to nerd out over. Power data, HR data, how many grams is this stem, what gradient is this climb, how fast can I go, how fast did your mates go, what time is sunset? How many espressos can I have in an hour before I die? Not many of my friends would be surprised if I ever measured how many hours I spend going over every possible thing to do with cycling, and I love it.
Where does that road go?
Spend 5 minutes looking through my Instagram and you’ll notice a trend, I ride my bike and photograph it in really pretty and breathtaking places. I’m of the opinion that I’ve seen more of my home town, more of places I visited, and more of where I’m currently living than I ever would have if I had never started cycling. The bike gave me the ability to travel up to 250km+ in a day, at a speed where I can genuinely appreciate the scenery, while still looking at a map afterwards and thinking “geez I went THAT far?” I’ve often looked at roads and wondered where it goes, and since cycling I’ve turned down those roads often, sometimes to an incredible experience, and other times to a dead end road with a man holding a shotgun at the end offering to share some of his cartridges with you (true story); both are memorable in their own way.
Oh yeah I also eat a heap more than I used to but have lost 67kg because of cycling which is kind of cool.
Where’s the route going today?
So why do I ride? Well, I could link people to this post and say here is a convoluted answer. Or I could just say the truth. It helped me become the best and happiest person I’ve ever been. Currently I’m a Speech Pathologist working in Launceston, Tasmania. It’s cold, dark, and wet, and I haven’t been riding my bike as much as I’d like. So in part this blog post was a way to kick-start my motivation again so I can reach my milestone of being literally half the man I was. Apart from that, who knows? I’m just going to keep living my life, and if I see a road that looks interesting I’ll make the turn and see where it leads, or maybe it’s time to #bringbackfatsteve.