TCI Friday

As I have gotten older, I have learned two really critical things about myself (and probably should have learned more). The first is that getting older is a waste of time. I knew most of what I needed to know (but not the next thing) about living a good life when I was 12. The second is that I am, and have been, self-centered. This seems to be one of humanity’s fundamental characteristics, or in fact, one of the things that follows from being an individual of any species and having to make your way through the world.

We are imperfect, and it’s okay.

My 12-year-old self could see that the world was vast and needing exploration. He knew that jumping on a bike and striking out, in nearly any direction, was a solid idea. He was an explorer, still curious, still daring, still charmingly naive. The problem with that kid is that he only thought of himself. At 12, this is not such a problem.

But later.

It’s safe to say that meeting my wife is the best thing that’s ever happened to me. Having a teammate is the best. It makes everything easier, and you have someone right there with you to talk about all your adventures and bad ideas.

They say there’s no ‘I’ in ‘team,’ but there’s also no ‘I’ in “take out the garbage,’ and I still have to do that every Thursday (Friday if the Monday was a holiday). The truth is, the ‘I’ has to find its place in the team, and that means the 12-year-old has to be home at an agreed upon time. S/he has to their part, or else the best thing that ever happened to them is for naught.

As with most of my challenges in life, this manifests itself in my riding. My lust for pedaling over hill and dale can sometimes get in the way of “having a good and healthy relationship.” Once my wife and I brought children into the world, doubling the size of our team, the time available to my 12-year-old self reduced significantly.

But you know how 12-year-olds are. It took me some years to figure out that I was cycling-selfish, that I was hording time that no longer properly belong to me, in order to indulge my many adventures. I suspect this is a character flaw that many of us harbor, willfully protecting our saddle time at the cost of guilt, resentment, and eventually a rollicking good fight.

As ever, I need(ed) to change, and so my riding took on different forms, shorter, sharper, more casual, less ambitious, and I can tell you that having a healthy marriage and being a decent father are prizes well worth the sacrifice. I am seldom, anymore, shattered on the couch at 2pm on a Saturday, which is another, unforeseen benefit of being less cycling-selfish.

This week’s TCI Friday asks, are you cycling selfish? Is this a thing you need to work on? Of course, sometimes the cure is worse than the disease. A life partner may find that having you around more is not actually beneficial to the team. As my kids get older (14 and 16 now) I feel my wife growing protective of her own time, i.e. some of those hours when it might be better for me to be out of the way house. Maybe this is you too?

Join the conversation
  1. khal spencer says

    I definitely cut back on my riding. Back when I met my soon to be wife, I was a newly minted Ph.D. trying to survive in the publish or perish world of academia. I was also on a USCF race team, which gobbled up a lot of time. It became obvious that having a relatinship, high stress career, and full training schedule wouldn’t work. Since my bike racing talents were, shall we say, not world class (or even Tour de Industrial Park class), that went first.

    The other really important decision? Buy a tandem. They say it will make or break a relationship. Well, we got married in 1992, got the Trek T-50 tandem in 1994, upgraded it to a T-200 after a couple years, and bought the Co-Motion Primera in 2006, and are still riding that Co-Mo today.

  2. alanm9 says

    I started serious cycling around the time our first was born so there was never a priority question. We quickly settled into a deal; she ran on Sat morn, I rode on Sun. Still, my rides took longer than her runs, and the kids always looked and smelled better under her care, so there was some friction. Once the kids grew up and ran away she started riding, but she’s much slower so I have to carve out time for my own long rides among a full time job and other activities, so some selfishness remains. But our rides together are the best ones.

  3. Hautacam says

    My personal cycling tide has ebbed so far out I can hardly see the water anymore… maybe there is a tsunami of riding coming back my way? But until it does, my preferred adventure is hiking with my wife. You know those legendary passes and cols that riders “summit” in the TdF and other Grand Tours? Well, if you pause at one of those saddles, and look away from the road, you may suddenly notice that there are hiking paths that can take you thousands of meters up to higher peaks and passes with beautiful views you cannot get from the road — but only if you are willing to leave the bike, and walk uphill. Somewhere in that is a metaphor about my marriage, life, and cycling.

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