I have been going back through the (really rather massive) archive of writing that Padraig and I (to a lesser extent) compiled at Red Kite Prayer, partly to recycle old ideas with a new outlook, and partly to understand how we were writing about bikes and cycling then vs. how we do it now. My main takeaway is that, circa 2010, we were very much involved in signaling in-group credibility. We were trying to convince hardcore cyclists that we were as hardcore, maybe even more hardcore (hardcorer?), than they were.
We wrote about pro cycling a lot, assuming that most of our readers were following the sport as closely as we were. We made inside jokes and references, and tried to be “soulful.”
Over time, things got more personal. Life happened to us both, and it stripped away some of the pretense of how we were presenting ourselves. That was a good thing, but as you get more personal, more relatable even, the pendulum swings sometimes into navel-gazing territory. You’re writing about yourself a lot, and if you’re not careful you overindulge your audience’s patience without offering enough in the way of entertainment.
When Padraig told me he was shutting down RKP to start this site, I felt half-a-minute’s sadness. We had, after all, put a lot of work into it. It was a bit like going on a round-the-world trip and then suddenly arriving home. You’re glad to be there, but you’re afraid you might miss the excitement.
He wanted more voices involved in the new site, and he wanted to reset the tone. Those sounded like good ideas to me. Instead of winking at other “serious” cyclists, he wanted to do the most inclusive thing possible. Rather than simply rebooting RKP with new contributors and a whiplash tone shift, he wanted this thing, The Cycling Independent, and of course, I was on board (happy to be asked, actually).
TCI allows me to be as irreverent as I really am, and as bad at riding bikes, too. And instead of trying to write my way into worthiness as a cyclist, I can go back to the original remit of RKP, which was to get people excited about riding bikes. We have come, if you’ll pardon the quasi-pun, full circle.
This week’s TCIF asks, how has your attitude toward bikes and cycling changed over the last decade? Are you ramping up the intensity? Or are you also shifting to a more laid back approach? If you have a mission, beyond just pushing the pedals yourself, what is it? And how are you moving it forward?
We hope you like TCI. If you’re here, we’re friends. Having said that, we can’t do this the way it needs to be done solely as a labor of love. If you get a lift out of our work, help us keep it going by subscribing now. It’s cheap. Like a small Slurpee. Or a ten pack of tube socks.
In 2010, my kids were 4 and 2. They were fully dependent and I was all in. I bike commuted and snuck in some lunchtime rides from work as a way to get any miles, There were no weekend rides. I would ride the Tour de Cure full century woefully undertrained. (Thanks, muscle memory and stored fitness!) Cycling was a way to maintain some fitness and sanity.
Ten years later, the kids are far less dependent and, though I’m still all in, I’m not as necessary on a full-time basis.. So, I’ve recently begun to dream again. To dream about what kind of cyclist I want to be going forward. I’m 55 now. I had a good run in my pre-marriage/family days, traveling all over the country to ride bikes and ski, based on the season.
Currently, I’m still using all of the same gear, more or less, that I used 20 years ago. So, the implementation of said dreaming has been to begin doing the research to replace that aging, worn out gear. Well, I don’t know that I’ll really replace the Serotta (Ti frame). It’s such a sweet ride. But, I dream about dirt roads and gravel and bike packing and chasing a lot of the new singletrack that’s popped up around me. And my old mtn bike still has the original 3.9 drivetrain and v brakes. It was a good ride in its day but, it is now, officially, a hunk of junk. Definitely need to replace that one if I really want to explore the singletrack.
And maybe, just maybe, if I’m lucky and I’ve been good, I’ll get to share some of those experiences with my kids!
Ten years ago, I was 3 years into my serious cycling career (is it a career if you don’t get paid? I once–ONCE–won water bottle and similar in a MTB race). I hadn’t yet met the Velominati. My children were old enough not to be an anchor, and my marriage was over enough also not to be an anchor. So I rode. (My bikes never left pavement.)
Now, I’m rarely on a pure road ride. Like powerboats as a means to get to a sailboat, tarmac is merely a way to connect dirt segments. (I do have one big paved ride a year, from Plymouth MA to Provincetown MA, but that’s mostly just to get a lobster roll and margarita on a deck overlooking the harbor.) I’m post-Velominati. I know a LOT more about tread pattern, PSI, and disc brake service than I ever imagined. No real mission beyond pushing the pedals at the moment, but once things are backish to normal, I plan to put some effort into bringing new riders onto the New England CX scene. My intensity is about the same as it was a decade ago. But my love of the sport is so much richer and deeper as a result of the many more miles under my tires.
Similar to VdD, the experiences are richer. I think this is the natural progression. Heck, I’ve had the image of my riding friend pop into my mind a dozen times today already. Bearded, a little sweaty, and smiling as big as you please after we put in a hard effort to pass a group ahead of us. Fun for sure! Better experiences, but Strava tells me I’m slower (by a lot from 10 years ago). I thing that is also the natural progression. That’s okay with me.
Contained within the last 10 years was a mission (NICA coach for 5 years). That was successful too, and now there are lots more families and kids in our area enjoying pedaling around on 2 wheels.
What’s contained in the next 10 years? Hmmm….nothing’s promised, but I’m hopeful.
A good friend told me to cultivate a more casual attitude.
The especially applies to cycling.
Riding is time with friends.
Assuming I make it, I will be 67 in January. A decade ago I kept tabs on how many centuries, how many long rides, whether I could routinely get my heart rate up over what the published max is for my age, and all that weekly mileage shit.
In 2016 I broke a foot, had a double hernia operation, and crashed and tore my rotator cuff, requiring yet another surgery. It was the year from hell. I got fat and lazy, gradually got back in shape in 2017 and then we moved 33 miles from my job and instead of biking to work, I was in the infernal car for two hours a day. I got really fat.
Thinking health was more important than money I cut down to three days a week in the cube farm. I managed to lose 13 lbs and get back to feeling good, which is subjective but to someone who has been riding lots since 1979, not a mystery. So now rather than counting centuries and miles, its “do I feel fit and good? Do I feel fast and strong?”. Its a matter of good health and good vibes rather than miles or checking boxes and is clearly subjective, but we don’t last forever here and to me, its spiritual rather than getting a hardon over the latest Strava competition.
So yes, I’ve changed my attitude. Still got lots of bikes, still go out and pet them, try to ride lots and ride to the hardware store as well as over the mountain. But its more like that Zen story: I ride my bikes to ride my bikes.
10 years ago it was Doubles and death rides for me. Now like Khal I’ve had 2 surgeries in the last 2 years. I’ll soon be trying to get the weight off and the legs back No more doubles for me. I want to do some touring. Both gravel and paved. I’ll retire next year and have more time.