Close your eyes and imagine it. The raw cold that bites the exposed skin, causing you to squirm. The nervous energy, focused as two points of force pressed and drawn back under your cheeks. Feel it first with your skin, then let it thrum deep in your chest. Your field of vision is narrowed to just your handlebars, the matte finish line tape and water in your eyes. Make that deep breath count, for it will be your last before the plunge. As the race official puffs up for the whistle blow, you ask yourself: why am I doing this again?
Let’s take a real good look at what we do here. Tomorrow, ECCC riders will have driven at least two tanks of gas worth just so they can exercise at the crack of dawn on dangerous pieces of equipment at death-defying speeds, ready and willing to risk neck and limb to move up a slot on the results sheet because complicated points system, that’s why. Most people can usually find at least one thing about that last sentence that sounds unappealing. Chances are after hearing your explain your sport while riding rollers at the gym, they feel the need to point it out to you— as if this was some new perspective you had never considered before. And this whole time, you thought everyone was comfortable sitting on a bike seat. You tell them the long hours getting massive leg muscles and a hunched posture is a worthwhile price to pay for bike racing. Then they say, what for?
The circular nature of this all-too-familiar conversation is probably like your workout: mind-numbing and getting you both nowhere. There might be a vague reason or two that got you hooked on bike racing, and a dozen more that justify its place as a good activity. Turning this article into a listicle of “Why We Bike” is at best lazy writing and at worst pedantic to a fault. Will enumerating five or ten reasons be enough to get people off your case and accept your pastime? Is there a minimal level of appeal or pragmatism that we need to achieve to choose how we use our time? This sport is not my first love. It’s probably my seventh when I think of things I would rather spend my time and money doing. If you are getting a bit too much existential dread explaining bike racing to others- or to yourself while cranking mile three out of five of a hill climb- why this sport is worthy of so much pain and emotion, use mine:
Because. That’s why.
Never mind that bike racing is just the literal and metaphoric vehicle for basically all of my social and fitness time for the next seven months. Or with all the stress of long-term projects, saddling up on weekends is how I deal. I do not do this to feel better about myself. Indeed, anyone that has actually ridden hard before can tell you this sport makes you feel the opposite of fresh, pretty and accomplished. Racing bikes might make you feel miserable or fantastic; it does not really matter which. Heck, the reason why you come every weekend might not be just for the bikes. Hands up if you are here to meet cute people in spandex, and keep them there if you think these venues are the best and worst places to meet said people.
For the rest of the world that will not be getting up at ungodly weekend hours the next couple of months, they may never get this sport. It’s too easy, too hard, or not just right. Great, that’s like half of humanity’s problems right there: miscommunication, or not conveying what we really mean to say to people. Now more than ever is it easy to sit comfortable, anonymous and critical of what others do. Not everyone is going to understand exactly what you say or do: too bad for them. It’s not their problem, and their issue with it is not yours. To those however, meditating instead on your race strategy/survival plan— I salute you. For your upcoming season, race as hard as you want. Why?
Because. That’s why.