There was plenty to learn when I took up cycling just under two decades ago. While I’d already spent three decades learning how to run and ran thousands of miles over the years, cycling was completely different. I needed to learn how to ride in a group. How to navigate traffic safely. How to dress for multiple weather conditions. How to shave my legs to fit into the culture.
As that experience built up, I rode longer and harder. Sometimes I got dropped at inopportune times. But sometimes the legs would be good and I’d even help lead the day. But overall, cycling is one of the most humbling sports in which one can engage. Anyone that tells you cycling is ‘no sweat’ hasn’t tried to hang on with a group going 20 mph against a stiff westerly wind on an eighty-degree day. You may not feel the sweat as it blows off your body. But it’s there.
The cycling habit changed in interesting ways once I started doing triathlons. Riding with fellow triathletes, I learned there really is no consistent drafting. Most try to avoid it. Thus there’s no real group mentality. Every ride is a personal venture at staying in sight of someone else. I have ridden lots of miles in the draft of my wife’s bike, however, because we still want to ride together. Finally I put some aero bars on my bike last year and resolved the 20% more wind I was fighting all the while.
But the one common thing I’ve always liked about cycling is the shining skin that results from a hard effort on a warm day. The only thing you really need for joy is sweat. It strains out the bad emotions and if it doesn’t, it reflects the anger you feel at not riding as well as you’d like. And that’s motivation.
Sweat is essentially the nectar of eternal youth. Yet it also stains the body and dries into a salty, dry brine that flicks into your eyes if you don’t wipe it off. In other words, you know you’ve done something when sweat comes and goes. And that’s all you need to experience joy. Some sweat. Go out there and get it.