I was chatting with my physical therapist the other day while she manipulated my kneecap (which feels much better than it sounds). She, like me, is a middle-aged parent, a professional, and is passionately active. We were talking about growing older, learning our limits, and staying within ourselves--how hard it is to do and yet how important for long-term health and fun. We can't afford a month of poor sleep due to a stupidity-induced injury, there's too much at stake.
Sounds like she's had more luck dialing it back than I have, though. I mean, here I just turned 50, and I'm learning to mountain bike. Prudence was never a strength. My point today is, though, that there's more to it than just imprudence.
Every time I open Facebook or my feed-reader and find one of those links, I think, "Ooo, pretty pictures of bikes," and my finger reflexively clicks, like I'm the proverbial lab rat.
Suddenly, I'm immersed in the quest of some scraggly dude I never heard of as he pedals across Mongolia eating only native plants--because some other scraggly dude crossed Mongolia last year with a cache of Clif Bars, and, like, carrying food is so 20th century. There's a long shot of him crawling over a dirt road that stretches over the gorgeously barren steppes, straight to the horizon. The frigid sun glints off the camera lens. Sparse guitar licks echo with aching loneliness. The guy must be some kind of monk or insane asylum escapee. What a hero! What an iconoclast! No compromises! Extreme privation! YES!
Suddenly I feel small.
I start wondering if I could close my practice for a couple months, beg off from family duties with pleas of "sanity time," stuff some home-grown vegetables and a flagon of well-water into my handlebar bag, and ride to Hudson Bay. That's not outrageous, right? I mean, cyclists tour all the time!
Maybe I could stay a couple months up there, out of radio contact, just long enough to see the Northern Lights, just me. Yeah, that sounds perfect. Well -- I'd take my solar iPhone charger, of course. I mean, I gotta make a vid, dude, the sponsors ain't gonna pay me to dive head first off the grid, and besides, I have to show off my new 30-gram tripod and iOS 7 editing suite, and seriously? I'll need something to do on those 14-hour summer nights.
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I rode geriatrically for the first hour, babying the joints, and then began to pick up a little steam as the morning warmed up and the pollen count went down. My knees ached for much of the ride, but not enough to be considered a red flag, so I pressed on.
For all intents and purposes, I was another middle-aged weekend warrior, out there trying to have a little fun before life pressed in again.
Now, here's the thing I'm getting at: These extreme dudes, God bless 'em, I like watching their vids, because, actually, they're sick (as my nine-year-old would have it). But really and truly folks: we the people have got to find a way to celebrate and motivate the average rider. We are the 99 per cent! I know a lot of fast riders. Not one of them has ever ridden down a railing. And the folks I ride with sometimes struggle to finish the middling distances we attempt.
Yet what I say is, we are the heroes. No -- seriously! I appreciate the ridiculous amounts of time and talent that go into one of those videos. But we're the folks who force ourselves to focus on finishing the dishes/getting Junior to and from the soccer game/completing that work assignment, so we can leave for our (now shortened) ride unburdened by nagging guilt. We are the ones who ride through pain or weather, not because we're paid to, but because it matters so crazy much to us!
If anyone has any ideas how we can create a cultural shift to celebrate the rest of us, chime in. It's time that the folks who keep the bike industry rolling become the norm, not the low-self-esteem exception, in the biking public's mind.
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