I love road cycling. Whether crawling uphill or flying downhill there is a tremendous sense of freedom in moving along the road under your own power watching the sights and listening to the sounds of the region you are cycling. You can even extend your pleasure by eating and drinking on the bike. Cycling is the most democratic of sports. Almost anyone can ride a bicycle and enjoy it.
You can even ride the same roads that your cycling idols ride in races such as the Tour de France or Giro d’ Italia. I have been fortunate to ride some of those roads in Europe. It adds a little extra thrill to the ride knowing that you are on the same roads that giants such as Armstrong, Contador, Coppi, Indurain, Merckx and others have ridden. If you are lucky you might still see a few messages painted on the road for Froome or Cavendish from last year’s TDF.
I am not going to speak ill of other sports but what other sports allow a weekend warrior to use their court, pitch, field or arena. Will Wimbledon allow you on center court just to hit a few balls? Any chance of using Old Trafford for a pickup match? Don’t even think of racing a car on the Circuit de Monaco. Yet you are free to ride the Aubisque, Tourmalet, Superbagnères, Hautacam, or Peyresourde.
A few years ago the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI), the governing body of cycling, made it an even more democratic sport by requiring that any bike used in a road race be available to the public for purchase. In other words, while you cannot buy Lewis Hamiltion’s F1 ride to drive on the local roads, you can buy Alberto Contador, Chris Froome, or Vincenzo Nibali’s Tour de France ride. Want Peter Sagan’s World Championship ride, you can have it if you have the cash. If you want one of these bikes, then you should plan on spending at least $13,000 or more. Here is a little tour of what your money will buy, try not to drool.
Coupled with this access to the same bikes the pros ride is the belief that you need the same equipment as well. You NEED a power meter, the latest Garmin, deep dish aero wheels, training wheels, a premium Strava account, n+1 bicycles, and more to be a happy rider. Think about that for a second: the correct number of bikes is always one more than the number you currently own.
We seem to have reached an insidious nexus of product availability and unquenchable consumerism that places cycling happiness n+1 purchases away. No matter what we buy or what we ride, the answer to happiness is to buy still one more. Yet when asked what type of bike to buy, Greg LeMond answered that almost any road bike you buy today would be better than the bikes he rode to victory in the Tour de France. The memories and joys that we take from cycling are in the experiences not in the possessions.
We seem to have forgotten why we ride: the wind in our hair, the sun on our skin, and the freedom to go as far as our legs will carry us. The simple pleasure of cycling. A pleasure that can be reached without a Pinarello Dogma F10 under us, a Garmin to tell us where we are going or a Strava report to tell us if we enjoyed the ride. Maybe it is time to stop worry about what we ride and spend more time riding what we have. To borrow a line from Waylon and Willie, “maybe it’s time we got back to the basics of love.” The love we first felt as a young boy or girl when we experienced the magical freedom of cycling.