I get asked this a lot as a competitive cyclist but what I find even more interesting are the stories I get from other athletes. Many of us have similar tales about how we get that point in our lives where it’s time to race. What I also find interesting is what keeps athletes coming back for more year after year.
In this article I turn it over to Tony Young to tell us his story. Tony has been riding with me for about 4 years and one of the first athletes I coached. I am proud to be Tony’s coach and even prouder to be a friend. His accomplishments as a new competitive road racer have been amazing and I look forward to riding and racing with Tony as soon as it warms up!
As Tony goes into his 3rd year of racing he will be writing some articles here at PPC. I can’t wait to see what the readers think of his work.
Why I ride?
Well, first a little about myself. I rode bikes back when I was a kid like most other kids growing up in a subdivision back in the 70’s and 80’s. We moved when I was about 13 to the country in small town Indiana where there was not much bike riding for me. No neighborhood kids to hang out with and ride. The roads were winding and hilly and seemed very desolate with trees and farms all along the road. Looking back at it now though it’s the kind of roads and landscape that I enjoy riding on. Although, the roads were in pretty poor shape back then!
So after graduating and moving out of the parent’s house, I was living on my own with some buddies. A friend that I ran around with would talk about riding his bike and somehow it was enough for me in the spring of 1989 to scrape all my money together ($170.00) and go to the local bike shop to see what I could afford. I ended up with a blue Nishiki Century ten speed touring bike! That bike was my pride and joy. It was beautiful! I bet I put less than 100 miles on that baby in the first 3 years of owning it. I thought five or ten miles was really doing something back then!
Now fast forward 20 years and everything between (i.e. wife, kids, job…) I was at a physical and mental cross roads, what can I do next? I am in the best shape of my life (other than when I got out of Marine corps boot camp). I have been working out for a few years, weight training, running, I just completed P90X! I need a goal or challenge to conquer! Oh, what’s this… “Ride to conquer Cancer” (RTCC) a 150 mile bike ride. 75 miles out one day and 75 miles back the next? I think I can do that! I still have that blue bike somewhere!?
I knew a few people who rode bikes but I really had no interest up to this point. I didn’t even know that there was a bike shop in my local town… I found my old bike which was not in that bad of shape. (I had it serviced a few years back when I bought a mountain bike for when the family went camping.) I oiled up the chain and off I went on my first real bike ride. I think I rode about 10-12 miles that day. It was great! The next time I think I rode 22 miles. Then I was off riding as much as possible!
I was reading and talking to people to learn as much as possible from whatever source I could find, I even bought books on line. (I am still learning) I rode mostly alone while training for the RTCC benefit. After conquering the 150 mile ride I started riding with the bike shop owner and the others that would get together for weekend and recovery rides. There is a lot to be learned just from watching others. After a few years of enthusiast riding I joined a developmental race team where I met my coach. I raced for this team for 2 years with some success. I hold the 2011 Midwest Regional Masters Championship GC title for Cat.5, age group 40-45. The following year I cat’ed up to a 4, but with work and family obligations I did not race much. It was a very disappointing year for me as a racer! The coach said hang in there… there is going to be years like that if you race long enough.
I switched teams for the 2013 race season and had a very successful year of racing. I had a very focused year of training set up by my coach, Rob Grissom at PPC. I met most of my goals and even exceeded some of them. I have a great team with lots of support from all the riders and sponsors! But in order to have a successful year you really need the support from home as well! (That will be another post for another day.)
So this brings us to the title of this little article… Why I ride? What started out as a charity and fitness goal turned into more… When I first told my wife that I was going to join the race team she said “why can’t you just ride for the pleasure of riding?” My response, “I don’t know, I just wana’ race!” But actually I do know! I ride and train and try to keep myself in shape. At age 44 I want to know how I stack up physically with other guys my age and younger. The feeling I get when I can beat the younger guys is priceless! It also hurts the pride when a 14 year old stomps your butt in the ground, but there’s always next time! It is humbling when guys older than you stomp you too, but that’s just reinforcement that I can still get better the older I get! I want to do this till I can’t do it any longer!
I ride because I can cover a lot more ground than running using the same amount of time. I used to run only and would find myself getting really bored of the same old roads, trails and loops that I frequented. With riding I could go farther and see new things, travel roads that I always thought I wonder where that road ends up? I like the idea that if I need to take a break and stop pedaling for a bit I will still be rolling forward, unlike running where if your legs aren’t moving neither are you!
I have a friend that has had knee trouble for a few years and after two knee surgeries is still having pain enough that he can’t run any longer. I have been trying to get him on a bike for years with no luck up till a few months ago. He texted me out of the blue and told me that he bought a bike and had rode 10 miles the first day and he enjoyed it! I told you, you would love it! He said he has no knee pain when he rides as opposed to the pain when trying to run. Now when I talk to him he is riding for 2-3 hours when he has the time. He said he is trying to get 10-20 miles in at least every day, on a mountain bike.
I will close by saying that one of the best things about riding is riding with your friends, at least for me. I know that there are those that don’t like riding with others and that’s fine. For me though I enjoy riding with people I know and trust. The conversations you share on rides the things that happen on the road like near misses with chickens standing in the road, or deer darting in front of you as you fly down a hill at 30-40 miles an hour! (by the way, what happens on the road, stays on the road! Just sayin’) Even if you are not racing, bike riding is a past time that can be enjoyed by most everyone! It will help keep you young and healthy if you follow proper safety while riding. That includes picking good safe roads to ride on. There are many more benefits from riding but we will have to discuss them more at another time!
Till next time,