After the last few weeks, we at VeloVoices were feeling a bit jaded about all the news from the US. So we decided to revisit why we love the sport in the first place – a renewal of vows, so to speak. Over the course of today, we’ll be posting up our ten reasons why we love cycling. Here is the list of Bridie O’Donnell, our expert women’s cycling contributor, in descending order.
Before I was a bike rider, I had to talk about footy tipping and I’m completely crap at footy tipping. Once in Melbourne, an 8-year-old girl out-tipped footy experts for weeks on end, such is the mayhem of the sport of AFL. Being an ‘expert’ in cycling tipping is waaay easier.
9. Delaying real life
Cycling gives me a perfectly valid reason to not be putting my ovaries to the use that God (and my mother) intended, instead using them to compete against other girls in death-defying smashfest races like Ronde van Vlaanderen. “But don’t you want to have children?” people ask me daily, and I reply “yes, but not today.”
When I’m fit enough, I can ride in the midst of a bunch of incredibly fit alpha males and still mock the living bejesus out of them about using their race wheels on a training ride. When I get dropped by them on climbs I’m pathetic enough to understand it’s my W/kg and not a deep-seated personality flaw. Mostly, anyhow.
Stick a pin in all the places you might want to ride and I’m lucky enough to have been to most of them. Fortunately, I have also ridden slowly enough to fully appreciate them, not like those damn speedy race-winning champions I so desperately want to be.
In Italy, even the dodgiest looking service stations serve the most incredible espresso for €1. You stand silently at the bar next to truckers, wealthy businessmen and nonnas and the world is righted for those few minutes in a unanimous appreciation for quality beans amidst the backdrop of plastic tablecloths and dried out brioche (until the short fat former cyclist takes it upon himself to remove his bandana and give me a lecture about my climbing).
Bike riding is an international language. The bike you’re on, the kit you wear, how your legs move, whether you hide your shortness of breath like Judith Arndt or let it all out like Kristin Armstrong, people can learn a lot about each other by the how/why/what/which and with whom you ride. Gestures, nodding, appreciative glances and admonishing expletives are universally understood.
People who own two cars, a holiday house and send their kids to Montessori schools are jealous of my lifestyle. I guess they don’t read my stories about bunk beds and 16-hour van trips across Europe, but if being on the road has taught me anything, it’s that we need very little to be happy. One can survive six months in a foreign country with a bag, a bike and wonderful teammates to play “would you rather…?” with at hour 12.
I have met the most extraordinary people since I’ve been racing. Generous, sympathetic, hilarious, understanding, reliable, supportive and inspiring people. Those who know what this life is like and choose to be in it, warts and all. They motivate, laugh, encourage, push, listen, drive the getaway car and would totally bail me out of a Colombian prison were I to get arrested for attempting to smuggle human tissue across the border. (I can get you a kidney for $499.)
2. Magic Pudding
Every ride, every training session and every race builds in you an incremental improvement. Every poor performance, disappointment and failure has the opportunity to be wiped clean. Tomorrow is another day, a whole new race, with a new winner, a new (perhaps more fatigued) set of legs and an opportunity to test oneself again. Manage the disappointment, find satisfaction in the details and you have a slice of delicious pudding every single time.
In no other way than riding can one replicate the feeling of building up your bike after a long day of travel and setting forth in a new place to discover, explore, and experience: you can descend down a mountain like a thrilling escape from fiends; hear the sound of just your breath as you take on a climb; meander through new streets like a stranger who’s not out of place; and drink wine with friends after a long day in the saddle with immense satisfaction.