I was a goddamned champion*. I was never a great bike handler, but I had built up a reasonable level of fitness and could ride a bike faster than a lot of people. And let me tell you, riding a bike fast is fun. It took years, but my love for riding bikes moved from the kind of firey romance that could inspire an Italian poet to something of a more dull grind. It became a chore in which I began to take less and less pleasure. Ultimately, I decided it was time for bikes and I to take a break.
Recently, however, I have found myself inspired to reconnect with my long-lost sporting love. I'm a slightly different person coming at it from a different angle than I was the first time around. Though I would say that in most respects I'm just moving into the prime of my life, I am 40 now and I haven't done any significant riding in two years. My legs aren't as strong and my fitness isn't as high, but I still have the memory of carving up singletrack, motoring up hills, and torching the competition. To successfully reconnect I know I'm going to need to recalibrate some expectations.
In cycling, like with many things, there is no chance at real success unless you stick with it so consistency is going to be the key. That's going to mean doing everything possible to get started right. Probably the best thing you can do is get a good bike fit. Obviously, this is important on a brand new bike to make sure you get everything set up properly for your anatomy right out of the box. But it is also important even if this is a bike you've put a lot of miles on before. A good bike fit is generally only good for about two years. and if you've spent some significant time off the bike, as I have, your body and what it can tolerate has likely changed.
After spending some time on the trainer, I've found myself taking a long, hard look at my saddle. The two of us have sure had some good times together in the past, but the time apart seems to have changed some things. It wasn't reasonable to expect to be able to jump right back in and pick up where we left off. We're certainly going to need to spend a little time getting to know each other again. However, this is a great opportunity to reevaluate some things. Just because it kind of feels familiar doesn't mean it's the best option now. Hey, people change. I've always said that it's best to be honest with your saddle and yourself if things aren't working out. Cycling is a sport in which capacity for suffering is seen a virtue, but numbness in your sensitive bits is not a normal part of the sport.
My goal with riding again is to play it kind of cool. I'm casually reconnecting with a thing that feels familiar and comfortable, but getting after it all hot and heavy like a spider monkey is not going to be sustainable. As tempting as it can be to try to jump back in where I left off, it's important to remember that I'm probably not quite the same person as I was back in the day. It can be frustrating to remember riding with a certain level of skill and fitness and not be able to reproduce it. My goal is to take the opportunity to remember some of the other things I love about the sport as cycling and I build a new, hopefully sustainable, relationship.
*Clydesdale XC Midwest Regional