Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why We are Here

There is a kind of intrinsic beauty in the mating of a person and machine; an elegantly simple union, resulting in a powerful and liberating experience.

Cycling is the best sport, the best outdoor activity, the best past-time, the best... everything.  If we didn't believe that wholeheartedly, we wouldn't ride as much as we do.  It frees us from our daily grind.  It allows us to leave the office, the house, the stresses, and the worries of our lives well behind us - if only for a few hours.  We ride with our friends (whether they are with us or not), and we use that time to rebuild what the day has torn down.

As a child, most of us still remember that key moment in our lives - that one, pivotal experience which we will never forget: riding for the first time without training wheels!  At that moment, a person feels that there are no limitations - anything is possible.  The bike becomes a symbol of freedom.

Mind you, it is not our means of escape, but rather, it is a sanctuary itself.
I still remember my first experience riding without training wheels... I was a late bloomer - all my friends had already learned to ride.  I don't know why it took me longer to figure it out, but it did.  It wasn't a lack of trying - and my father helped as much as possible.

One day, while at a friend's house, I hopped up on his bike to give it another shot.  In moments, I was free - flying without anyone's assistance!  There is no way to explain what happened; why I was suddenly able to ride.  Something just clicked, and I was off... doing circles in his driveway.

So it was a little anticlimactic.  I didn't venture far, and it was years before I rode with any kind of regularity or goals.  But a significant goal was accomplished.  I was free!  (and more importantly for a young boy, I was now a "full-fledged member of society")

The cycling community has its cliques, its snobs, and its anti-social people.  On the whole however, it's much like a family.  We bicker, we quarrel, but in the end - we all work together to get to where we're going.  We are friends and we are "brothers in arms," suffering and working together to reach the summit or overcome whatever nature can throw at us.

From the 1st Assault to the 35th, riders have reached the top, jumped off the bike, changed clothes, and volunteered.  They help the other finishers find clothes/food.  They help load bikes onto the trucks or direct traffic.  They help at rest stops along the course, and so on and so forth.  Just as we take pulls, we help those around us to achieve this massive undertaking because that is the nature of our sport.  (again... the best sport in the world.)
  • Though it isn't the only reason to do it, shaving our legs is a Rite of Passage - a symbol of our dedication to the sport and to the community.  Aside from the long list of practical reasons for a male cyclist to shave his legs, being recognized as a "full-fledged member of this particular society" is probably the biggest reason to do it.  It's an unspoken rule - but understood.
A wonderful example of what cyclists do for one another can be seen in Chris Horner's actions in July of 2008 at the Cascade Classic.  With over a mile to the finish (uphill), Chris helped another cyclist - from another team - who had crashed, totaling his bike.  Rather than leave the young man to walk the final stretch (possibly missing the time-cut), Horner said, "get on," and pedaled both the cyclist and his bike to the top!  (Click Here for more pictures.)

Cycling is a wonderful sport and creates comradery at every level.  Top Pros help each other out all the time - it's inherent to the nature of the sport: drafting, rotating pacelines, pointing out holes in the road.  This kind of community is just one of the reasons cycling is the Best Sport Ever.

-Peter Kay

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