By: Garrick Valverde
I don’t believe we’re designed to live such easy lives. Yes, this is a cycling blog. Hold tight for a minute while I ruminate about our existence.
You’ve got it good. How do I know that? I know that because if you’re reading this, you have access to the Internet. That access makes you already ahead of half the planet. If you have a home or an apartment and are then reading this without freezing your fingers off (talking to my Midwest people, halla), you are above the nearly 2 billion people on the planet who live in an unstable housing situation. Also, it’s 2017. Have you ever had strep throat or an ear infection? A century ago, you could have died from it, or if you were lucky, your ear infection would only spread to your brain. So if you have recently posted on Facebook about how terrible 2016 was for you, please make sure and find someone who’s dying of a terminal disease, or fighting in a war, or living in war conditions (cough cough, Syria), and share that post to their Facebook page as soon as you get a chance. Of course we all have our problems. If I’m coming off as belittling, I don’t mean to. Some problems are very much real, but let’s be honest, some are very much not. Familiarity breeds contempt, and I believe cycling holds the antidote. Cycling, for me (and I’m going to make the leap that it is for you as well), provides a means of stepping out of our problems and occasionally seeing that they weren’t really problems to begin with.
As cyclists, we have a unique perspective. We see the angry drivers. We see the man flipping off a group of cyclists in colorful spandex dressed like Peter Pan. We see the people who risk our lives by not waiting to pass us until the oncoming traffic has cleared. We see the curse of our modern lives: the curse of a life that’s too easy. When there aren’t real problems, people tend to invent them. The issue of invented problems, I believe, can be traced back to a kind of biological neglect.
Now, I’m no biologist, but I’m going to speak like I’m one anyways. We’re designed to have to fight for our survival. We’re designed to have conflict because for hundreds of thousands of years everyday existence was physically and emotionally hard. As a result, we carry the badass biological drives past on from our ancestors that allowed them to survive. That biology, not to mention intellect, has brought us a long way. We have striped toothpaste, for example, and bikes made of woven plastic that can be ridden as fast as horses run (I’ll be honest, I had to look up how fast horses run). Yet when our badass biology isn’t satisfied, it turns against us.
Cycling is our antidote. It satisfies the biological disposition that craves physical challenge. On the bike, we make ourselves uncomfortable on purpose. This is real discomfort, not discomfort from sitting in a desk. This is discomfort that hurts so much it rips us from our made up problems and removes us from the modern world. This is discomfort from chasing a gazelle. Ya you read that right, a gazelle. We’re in Africa now, and you’re not getting dinner (aka protein shake) unless you complete the next three sets of intervals! Oh, and you don’t live in a country of 350 million, you live in a tribe of your select riding mates who meet up at 9am when it’s 30 degrees out and prowl the countryside for 4 hours. The tribe regularly discusses the annual return of battle in the spring. You sharpen your weapons and master your skills and fitness. You study the enemy, stalk them on Strava, and give them kudos that are actually passive aggressive and really mean “nice, but you’re still going to lose”.
Okay, okay you’re back in America now. While winning the local race or even a big regional race isn’t ultimately that important, and frankly it will impress virtually no one outside the cycling world, what is important is the sanity we gain, and the perspective from being so uncomfortable we can truly enjoy our comforts. After all, there’s nothing like drinking cold water after a 90 mile hot road race or coming home to a warm house after freezing for several hours riding. We ride, among of course many other reasons, to not be driven mad by this modern world. We ride our bikes over to our friend’s houses like we did when we were kids. We’re adults now, but we still play and we still explore. We suffer daily on our bikes not as masochists, but as human beings who need to calm our badassness, less it spirals out of control and we wind up being the guy flipping off a stranger dressed like Peter Pan.