Some people live to work, while others work to live. However many of us cycle to work – then while at work spend our time organising rides, checking the forecast, and posting on cycling forums – and then cycle home again.
Friday night drinks are curtailed in favour of weekend racing. Housework skipped in order to degrease a chain or replace brake pads. A cyclist never has spare time on his hands.
During the winter months, the bite cycling takes out of life appears to be the biggest. Days are short, time for training compressed. Now spring has arrived and summer appears to be on its way, lighter evenings and longer days are to be savoured. Training is no longer a battle against the cold, a forceful effort to galvanise muscles against the elements. Discarding the thermal layers in favour of just shorts and jersey, this is when proper cycling happens – the glorious summer season has begun. Effortlessly, it consumes every waking hour.
Most of us remember when our lives were not like this. We used to be normal, regular people, with normal regular jobs and pastimes. Weekend mornings were spent in bed hiding from hangovers. There was time to phone your mother, hang out aimlessly with friends, to invest into a career. Cycling is selfish. Or rather, to be a cyclist demands selfishness.
It would be odd to think that there just happened to be a cycling-shaped hole in my life, and that fortunately that particular pastime came along and neatly filled it. The truth is that cycling saw the glimmer of an opportunity, barged in, and made itself at home and then started to boss everyone around in it.
Often I think cycling is a substitute for so many of the other things society thinks I should be doing. Putting in those extra hours at work for the chance of a promotion. Going to bars and clubs. Spending money on jeans and shirts, paying installments on a sports car, heading for exotic beach holidays for an all-over tan. Instead it’s lycra, bicycles, training camps and a tan that starts at the ankle and ends just above the knee.
At some point I know I’ll experience an epiphany; one day cycling will seem ridiculous. The hours spent training; the fruitless races (and even the fruitful ones); the need for acceptance and approval by a tiny clique – to impress other cyclists and be acknowledged by fellow racers. That cycling is more an excuse than a substitution. Even though I know that day will come, for now I’ll fight against the doubts. I’d still rather be out on my bike than anywhere else.