Customers at the shop who ask me what kind of riding I’m into, or what gear I have on my bike, are surprised to learn I have about as much experience cycling as I do rhythmic gymnastics. One old fella in particular, a former Olympic and Commonwealth Games cyclist, was shocked that I wasn’t out riding regularly. He pegged my weight at around 180lbs (I’m 175lbs), informing me I had a natural cyclist’s build. I think he envisioned coaching me to Olympic glory when he asked, “How old are you, around twenty?” I told him I was 31. After getting over that news, he remarked how wasteful it was that I wasn’t out training, and that I could still make the 2012 Olympics, because he had been in the Olympics at my age. He’s visited the shop a couple times now, repeating each time his disbelief in my lack of time in the saddle, and unbelief at how much potential I have.
This, of course, got me thinking.
I’m not talking about training for the Olympics, I’m more interested in seeing what level of cycling I could get to. Like the Old Olympian said, I do have a cyclist’s build. In fact, I get mistaken for Tim all the time, and he is a cyclist. I find myself daydreaming now about what bike I would like to get and what gear would look good with it. I picture myself with the weekend riding group, improving rapidly, surprising everyone. I’m quickly miles ahead of the group. Trucks are drafting behind me. I don’t pack water. I don’t need to stretch. How amazing could I be?
Yesterday I had a chance to find out. Jon, Tim’s brother, and I were manning the shop when his friend Dave, a painter, came by. It was a slow day.
A very slow day.
A very, very slow day.
I stress how slow it was to point out that we are responsible people running a responsible business; but one of our responsible business practices is product testing. How can we recommend products if we don’t try them out, right? So we made an obstacle course.
Dave went first:
Dave managed to post a very impressive 28.0 seconds in a nearly perfect run.
Jon was next. Despite his vast experience, the pressure was on:
By managing his acceleration a little more aggressively, Jon posted an incredible time of 27.8 seconds.
It was my turn. With only a couple questions regarding technique, I hopped on the beautiful LOOK 695. To minimize tracking error, and since we had two iPhones, we included a timer in the video feed in case a photo finish was called for:
In case you blinked and missed it, that was a blinding 43.2 second run. I am a horrible cyclist. The worst. I’m Bambi on a 10-speed. If you hear me say something is like “riding a bike,” I mean that it is nearly impossible; that I lack the essential motor skills, balance, and basic application of momentum to even complete it, let alone do it well. Even riding a bike isn’t like “riding a bike”.
I am good at fixing bikes.
I am good at crashing bikes.
I could crash a bike, and then fix it.
But I am pathetic on a bike. Training wheels are embarrassed to be seen with me. The likelihood of becoming even nominally competitive in cycling seems so slim, it’s almost hopeless.
And that is the best reason to go for it – the best reason to do anything.