There is a Zen saying, you've probably seen it online superimposed on a photo of a sunset:Before illumination, chop wood and carry water; after illumination, chop wood and carry water.The same app"> There is a Zen saying, you've probably seen it online superimposed on a photo of a sunset:Before illumination, chop wood and carry water; after illumination, chop wood and carry water.The same app">

The 6 stages of awakening to a bike

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There is a Zen saying, you’ve probably seen it online superimposed on a photo of a sunset:

Before illumination, chop wood and carry water; after illumination, chop wood and carry water.

The same applies to riding a bicycle. Before illumination, get on and pedal; after illumination, get on and pedal. But we go through several transition phases along the way before we get to roughly where we started.


Think about when you first fell in love with cycling – not necessarily when you first learned to ride a bike (although it could have happened as soon as that), but when you really started to enjoy it in some way. on the other hand that it was going to be your main recreational activity in the future. For me, although I grew up riding a bike and doing BMX races, I really started to understand this in college, when I started going on longer road rides just because than. Career, relationships, money – I had no idea what I was going to do about it once I graduated, but at least I figured out how I would spend each of my weekends for the rest of my life.

When we have that moment of realization, we all look silly, at least by the mysterious gear and dress standards that inform our sport. In my case, I was driving a hybrid that was at least a size or two too tall, pedaling in sneakers, and shielding my eyes from the sun with a pair of wrap-around gas station sunglasses. When it was too hot, I would take my shirt off and put it in my fanny pack. (It was decades before the fanny pack underwent a reversal of dorkiness and finally got cool.) A shirtless guy on a hybrid wearing a fanny pack is pretty much the epitome of velocipedic ignorance, but I do. felt good, and I was too stupid to know any better.


Adam and Eve once scampered around naked in the Garden of Eden, and then they ate from the tree of knowledge and were ashamed. Likewise, when the roadies passed me in the park, their matching kits bearing the names of the sponsors and their cropped legs glistening in the sun, I stared at my sneakers and bare chest in despair. Certainly, there are riders who never experience this embarrassment, either because they were born into a cycling tradition, or because they do not have the annoying gene that causes discomfort. However, for the majority of us, there is a painful time when we realize we are doing everything wrong, and we want nothing more than to get it right.

Hunting and gathering

As you ride more, learn more, consume more cycling-related content, and start following the sport’s elite levels, a Platonic ideal of what a cyclist should be begins to form in your mind. , and the huge gap between you and him can put quite a strain on your brain. In my case, this prompted me to work as a bicycle courier, and eventually to race, which at the time seemed to be the purest expression of my love for cycling.

Whether you are into running, bikepacking, bikerafting, or any other strenuous cycling activity, when you truly enjoy riding a bike, the components, clothing, and techniques that promise to enhance the experience are deeply tempting; a wheelset that would once have looked incredibly expensive now seems absolutely necessary. Spending a week’s salary on a pair of handlebars soon seems eminently reasonable, and you are implementing austerity measures in other aspects of life in order to acquire everything you need to make the bike as perfect as it is. possible.

But it’s not just about the stuff. Besides wanting to have, you also want to do the great miles, the epic bike trip, the scorching gravel leg and lung race. Strava overtakes Facebook on your social media importance pie chart. You gorge on driving experiences, and when you’re not driving you have 15 open browser tabs and you feed off other people’s driving experiences while you’re supposed to be working. It is a time of intense transformation as your physique and bank account are stripped of their excesses and you learn to run lean.


In [insert your favorite war movie here], the hero arrives at training camp a naive recruit, but he quickly traverses the jungle with a packet of unfiltered cigarettes in the strap of his helmet while making sardonic comments with an M-16 slung recklessly over his shoulder. It’s you now, for a quick 60 mile run to shake the legs from yesterday’s grand tour. These well-equipped bikers don’t look intimidating anymore, you now know half of them and subtly nod your head as you pass. As for the new recruits on their pie road bikes and ill-fitting internet fixies, you know what’s in store for them, and you smile puzzled at yourself as, in your mind, you see a brief flicker of the rider as you go. have used. to be. Then you take both hands off the bars, stretch, grab a drink, and step into the drops for the descent.


The feeling that you are finally locked into the cycling lifestyle is intensely satisfying, like sinking into the pedals for a long ride on a beautiful day. But it can also get… boring. Not the riding of course — that part never loses its luster — but everything that goes with it. Matching clothes, careful recording of data, gender bikes each in their neat little boxes: road, mountain, gravel. While you once saw the well-turned horsemen and coveted them, they now seem almost comical in their conformity. Slight variations in seasonal jersey patterns only enhance their similarity, and tire widths come and go in fashion like men’s ties. You’re no longer tempted by the latest and greatest, and you let your equipment wear out and even wear out before replacing it, often with something cheaper. Why even bother trying to follow? It will be back in fashion sooner or later anyway.

Devouring miles is also becoming less imperative; you ride just as much, but you savor it rather than binge on it. Having tried and failed to stop running in the past, I know how difficult it can be to stop rolling over and over like an old sweat sock. But you end up agreeing to stop every once in a while, sit down, and let the rider ahead of you go. “What’s in a rush, anyway?” ” you ask yourself. The faster you go, the faster the journey is over.

From my own experience, you know you’ve hit the disenchantment phase when you start to feel silly in Lycra.


You have changed and your bike has changed. You no longer need to be lying on your cockpit, your bike and your wardrobe reflect that. At first glance, an updated cyclist might take you for an innocent, riding an unremarkable upright bike with a metal frame while wearing casual clothes and shoes. But you are not innocent. You are now the incredibly rare cyclist who can seamlessly transition between life on and off the bike. Not only are you as comfortable on the bike as you are on the sofa, but you wear pretty much the same in both places. Because you have learned one of life’s greatest secrets: If you cycle in flip flops and a T-shirt, even long distances, not only will you survive, but you’ll also be totally comfortable.

As for me, I would never pretend to call myself enlightened, but I look more like my innocent being than ever these days, and I have never been happier. The main differences are that my bike is fine for me now, and when something goes wrong I usually know how to fix it.

Oh, I don’t ride shirtless either, but hopefully I will eventually.

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