Reflections on owning the ride, instead of the ride owning you
By Sarah Hansing
We were sitting at the brewery, pints in hand, and discussing weekend plans when my friend Gio looked quizzically across the table at me, and asked “Why do you have such a bad case of ex-racer guilt?”
I hadn’t ever really heard my particular cycling affliction phrased like that before, but he was right. Completely and totally right. My “weekend plans” really consisted of doing nothing but riding my bike for several hours. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Except it can be.
My Strava focused long training miles weren’t necessarily something that I had made a conscious thing to do; it was part of my regimen. It was a habit. It was a borderline obsession. And being asked about my “ex-racer guilt” by a fellow ex-pro definitely gave me pause.
Was it really so important to stay at the top of the cycling food chain? And what’s the trade-off?
Upon reflection, I realized that I had really been giving up a lot of opportunities to spend time with friends. To go different places. To try different things. To expand my horizions and step outside of my comfort zone. I had become tethered to my bike to the point where I actually let my brain tell me that I had to tell people that I “couldn’t” go do … well … anything that didn’t somehow involve me, training.
Turns out my “healthy” obsession had become a barrier to a healthy and well-rounded lifestyle.
And I’m certain that I’m not the only person on two wheels who is guilty of this.
Now that we have Strava, many of us have become racers of a sort. Instead of chasing another rider down, now we chase the ghost. And there are a LOT of ghosts to chase times to beat and leaderboards to climb.
But again – at what cost?
Recently I’ve really made a concerted effort to try to reel myself back in; to skip rides sometimes, so that I can explore other venues and do other things. Maybe hang out with friends that don’t ride, even (I know – weird, right?). And I have to say – once the initial panic of unsettling my routine passed – it’s been AWESOME.
Now, of course I still ride my bike a lot more than the average person. And I still will be damned if I’m going to let myself get “slow” on a bike. But I’m less of a victim of ex-racer guilt, now. I’m almost back to owning my riding, instead of it owning me.
We all know that balance on your bike is important to keep you moving forward; to keep you upright. Turns out balance in your life is even more important, for the very same reasons. There’s no need to feel guilty for not putting the hammer down every time we ride or for sometimes skipping a ride to go on a different adventure.
We don’t always have to chase the ghost.
We don’t have to be bike racers.
We can just be bike riders.
Fat Tire Tuesday columnist Sarah Hansing has been slinging wrenches as a pro bike mechanic for 15 years (with the exception of a one year stint working for Trek Bicycles in Wisconsin.) Epicenter Cycling scooped her up as their lead mechanic and the shop’s crew plans to keep her forever. Sarah loves riding singletrack, wrenching on bikes, and hanging out with her jerk-face but adorable cat Harlan. (Who is a jerk.)