If you’re reading this article there’s every chance you love cycling. You’ve probably loved cycling for a long time. But even for those of us who have lived and breathed the sport for decades, there are times when riding just isn’t providing the same level of satisfaction as it once was. That’s where Chris Riordan’s at, and we’re sure some of you can relate. But as he writes, he’s doing his best to rekindle the passion for the sport that’s brought him so much over the past 20 years.
We used to be inseparable. We’d go away for weekends together, we’d sit up watching the Tour, and I’d spend a lot more money on it than I should have. But I didn’t care: it was love, and it was going to be forever! Only, it wasn’t. I’m finally coming to the realisation that I’m actually falling out of love with cycling.
Now I want to make it clear that I don’t blame cycling. Cycling has done everything it could and I hope that we can remain friends … perhaps I could just commute to work on the bike so that we still have regular contact. Besides, we really have to stay together for the kids (we’ve just bought them new bikes). But the simple truth is that the thrill has gone.
With the 20/20 vision that only hindsight can deliver, I can see that this has been on the cards for a while now. I should have seen the danger signs when simply cycling wasn’t enough. I’d started visiting websites for photos and stories, soon I was looking at videos. Just normal stuff at first, but soon I was watching the Spring Classics, Cyclocross races from Slovakia, Cosmo Catalano, I was insatiable.
Then it wasn’t enough to just watch these videos … I wanted to ride a bike while doing it. Suddenly I was watching Sufferfest videos and pretending that I was winning Paris-Roubaix, I was destroying Bertie on the climbs. But deep down I knew that cycling was an unwilling participant in these fantasies.
We even headed over to France this year on a second honeymoon to see if we could rekindle the flame. But surrounding myself with people who were still in such loving relationships with cycling just made me realise how far estranged we had become.
It was over.
OK, enough of this tortured analogy. The simple truth is that for the first time in over 20 years of riding, I have really lost my passion for cycling. If I’m looking for excuses I will say that I put in some big hours training for the Ironman this year. I spent much more time on the trainer in the shed at 5am being eaten by mosquitos than anyone should. I did my usual rides so often that every part of the ride is now associated with some psychological trial or another. I rode with people who were a lot fitter than me and spent a lot of time holding on for dear life.
But if I’m being brutally honest, I trained longer and harder for the Ironman than I have ever done before … and still got my arse handed to me on the ride, because in short, I’m not a great cyclist. Compared to the general population, I’m a good cyclist but let’s be honest: that’s setting the bar spectacularly low.
If I compare myself to my peers, unless I’m going up a hill, I’m sitting on a wheel. When the power goes down, I get spat out the back, and any time I race, I spend the whole time watching people go past. I know that the only way I’m going to get better is to put in more time … but I don’t have more time, and I no longer have the hunger to put myself in the ‘hurt box’ on a Sunday morning ride.
So I think the simple truth is that it’s hard to love something that doesn’t seem to love you back.
Clearly I’ve had things that I was passionate about, but that eventually faded out of my life (rollerblading, techno, Cindy Crawford). But they were things I was only really into for a few years. Cycling has always been there. Letting go of cycling would be like letting go of music, or coffee or Italian food. It’s such an integral part of who I like to think that I am, that to watch it fade away would feel like losing part of myself.
So between now and the end of the year I’m going to try a few different strategies to try and find the love. I’m going to take a camera with me on each ride so that it’s not just about ‘the ride’ and more about ‘the experience’. I’m going to find a bunch of riders who are at my level and see if riding is more fun when you can occasionally sit on the front.
But most of all I’m going to try to reconnect with that 13-year-old who used to ride around his suburban streets on his new ‘racer’; with the 20-year-old who used to roll into the town of Macedon covered in mud after riding the local fire-trails; and with the 30-year-old who had never had a gel or worried about sock length … because he seemed to be having a lot of fun with his cycling.