|*Image found here|
I believe that 2013 was the pinnacle year of cycling for me. Not only did the summer bring more hours in the saddle, but I rode the entire year, regardless of weather, more than I had any year prior. It wasn't just time in the saddle that made me believe it was my peak though. I enjoyed every ride I took with rare exception throughout that year.
Sometimes enjoyment came from what I learned on the ride, other times it just permitted me an opportunity to understand something about myself. I took on longer distances than I ever had prior, I tried my legs at climbing rather than avoiding it like the plague, I intentionally traveled through snow storms, and I pedaled through what were arguably the most dramatic rains Colorado has seen. It was a fantastic year - warts, so to speak, and all.
As the year drew to a close, I started wondering if I could bring about even better results in 2014. Perhaps I could make a plan that would allow for fewer mistakes and greater returns. I started to plan and attempt to figure out what would make for progress in the year to follow.
Part of those plans included the possibility of a custom bicycle. It was something I'd considered for some time, and, as my presumptions went, if I'd had pretty decent results with something off the bike shop floor, surely creating something made just for my measurements and peculiarities would be even better. A true bike utopia, I imagined.
As you may recall, the results were far from the blissful ideal I'd thought they would be. I rode through the summer on the new custom, assuming that I was to blame for the problems. My body was not in the shape it had been in the summers prior, I hadn't been riding the same distances either, and I just felt off for lack of a better way of stating it.
While the failure of my attempt sunk in, I began trying to figure out how to get myself back on course. My thinking was that if I tried again with a custom and it ended up being a good fit, I could get myself righted and the good feelings and fitness would resume once again.
There were lots of reasons to try again with another custom, despite the fact that there were possibilities to be found without going through the unknowns a second time. Still, I wanted desperately for something I seemed unable to find, and as hindsight always seems to provide a much clearer view, I was determined to right a wrong.
During my second attempt, I was sure I knew what I was asking for in a bicycle. I had learned my lessons and was certain that after the not-so-great first round during which I had requested a fast, light road bike, perhaps I needed to take a step back. Maybe my request was part of what had steered the ship in a wrong direction and the best sort of road bike for me would combine some speed with the ability to do really long distances? So, as I moved forward, I kept these thoughts in mind as I planned to combine two separate needs into one. What could go wrong?
While riding during my "epic" year of cycling, I had come to the conclusion that multiple bikes (or at least as many multiples as I owned) were not the answer for me. I wanted to figure out a way to combine many types of riding into as few bicycles as possible. Throughout that year (and the year to follow) I sold off bikes as they seemed at the time superfluous.
For example, why would I need two road bikes? I had one that was a bit heavier but was perfect for carrying a little extra stuff and great at getting me over the really long distances in comfort. I also had one that was quite light and fast and though it caused a few physical issues when covering long distances, it was the right choice for speed.
As I started to sell off bikes, the heavier option was the first to go. In retrospect, it was a horrible decision because it was a fairly ideal choice for those days when I want to cover distance, but don't have it in me to deal with the fatigue of a light road bike. It was comfortable, it was (or I was) fast enough when needed, and it gave me the opportunity to reflect as I rode rather than being entirely focused on picking up the pace.
Eventually, the lighter bike was sold as well in an effort to trade up to something even better, or so I thought, which in turn provided the impetus to begin truly looking toward the possibility of a custom bike. I had a bit of the grass is always greener thought process going on and I believed that if one thing was good, something else, this fictitious creation I was making in my mind, could be even better.
Theoretically speaking, it would be better. It would combine the best worlds into one machine and I would have - finally - achieved the perfect bike.
The problem with theory is that it is just that. Sure, it is at least partially based on practice, but the entire premise of the theoretical is that one is supposing an outcome based on current knowledge, perhaps some research of others work or findings, and a bit of the unknown.
Ah, the unknown. The undiscovered is what motivates me to try out the ridiculousness that is often in my head. The lure of making something that seems unlikely or even impossible come to fruition. I cannot seem to help myself. There is something about the possibilities with the yet-to-be-discovered that is entirely seductive. Like a Siren calling to me, I seem to follow the hypnotic song, unaware that my demise is just around the corner.
So, as I planned out the second attempt at a custom road bike, I was sure that I knew where I was headed and while there is always the possibility of things going wrong, I felt confident and sure in trying out this new possibility. Two bikes in one; what could be be better?
While the bike itself is precisely what I asked for, I'm not sure I was in the right head space to make a proper decision or to truly understand what was needed in a second attempt. After first round faltering, I believed I was well aware of my needs, only to be smacked in the face with reality as I continued to ride. It's difficult to ignore a failure when it's entirely of my own doing.
This year has been an abysmal attempt at improvement. I thought things were headed down the right path when fairly early in the year we had a good stretch of somewhat clear weather and I was already out on the bike, racking up miles. Most of the rides were simply for transportation, but it was a good start, I thought, at heading in the direction I wished to go. I was anxious for clear roads so that I could begin adding to my distances. I was ready, I thought, to start breaking personal records and setting new goals.
The thing is, riding never really picked up any sort of momentum. There are various reasons for it. I could blame injuries. I could find fault with bikes. I could look at situations, or work, or any number of possibilities for scapegoating. I ride, but it's not the sort of riding I'd hoped to do.
The amusing part is that it's not really lack of momentum that seems to be the trouble. It's relatively simple to keep propulsion going once getting started, but I've lost something along the way that has brought in self-doubt. All of the supposing and thinking and theorizing - it's all created a situation in which I hesitate with decisions. I vacillate with whether to ride because I know longer distances aren't possible. Instead of appreciating and savoring what is doable for now, I concern myself with the whys of being unable to accomplish an arbitrary goal that can easily wait; I think on the many things that have gone wrong instead of focusing on what is very right.
I believe part of the problem is that I feel the need to repair a situation that I myself started, when in reality, I believe everything that has transpired is part of a process of discovery. I've spent too many hours thinking if-only sort of thoughts, when in reality that time could've been spent utilizing what I have, riding whatever short distances are possible, and accepting that not every week, month, season, or year is going to provide the same outcome. As in life, if I never experience the lows how can I truly appreciate the highs? This may not be my greatest season of cycling, but it doesn't mean that everything needs to come to a screeching halt either.
With that idea, I know that I have to reclaim a piece of me that seems to have nearly vanished. I have to salvage something that was taken by another part of me. It's a strange situation to be in a tug-of-war with myself, but I have to accept that there are certain limitations on me at the present and little is ideal at the moment. However, it doesn't mean some things are not possible. I can enjoy the riding in moderation that is possible and understand that it is perfectly acceptable, perfectly imperfect.
We are passing the midway point in July and as much as I can feel summer fading away, all is not lost. Summer is not the end of riding and every day presents an opportunity and a choice. I can choose to wallow in failed theory and injury, or I can learn from mistakes and cut myself some slack, which seems the healthier - physically and mentally - option. I'm prepared to enjoy the time I do have on a bicycle, allowing my body, along with its two wheeled friend, to take me where it will, where it is able. I may have needed a bit of time to realize what I was doing to myself, but I'm ready now; I'm taking back the bike.