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  • Writer's pictureJake E

Bike After Racing

Why we keep riding after the racing is over

In order to explain how I arrived at my current motivation to ride, I need to take you back to when I thought I knew why I rode. I considered myself fit in my early 30’s and had pulled away from team sports, in which I was very active throughout college and even beyond with coaching and playing Volleyball.  I was a regular at my local gym, where I also taught cycling classes a couple times a week.  The opportunity to ride an actual bike on the road or trail never presented itself until some friends invited me, or rather, “coaxed” me to do a Sprint Tri (300 yard ocean swim, 5k run and 12 mile bike).  The event was called The Loggerhead, and was held in my home town of West Palm Beach, FL.  I was NOT a runner, I swam way back when in high school and I did NOT have a bike, but I agreed to do the event.  

All the typical thoughts of an athlete ran through my head, except for the one that made me realize I was not prepared for such an event.  This didn’t happen until reality set in, but if you knew me back then, “quitter” or “scaredy cat” would not have been terms to describe me.  So I prepared,  like the determined athlete I knew I was.  I managed to locate a used Hybrid, (part road, part trail bike), slogged through multiple running workouts, and gulped gallons of ocean water in preparation for the event AND rode.  I knew nothing about the technical aspects of the bike I borrowed.  I just knew that it would get me to the finish line.  In reality, it was the one discipline I was good at.   While I did complete the event successfully, I was not aware of how the bike would eventually define me and even then, I thought I knew why I rode.

Eventually, my path crossed with trails, mountain biking AND racing.  I had hit the big time with a new mountain bike, a community of mountain bike racers, and a plethora of techy mountain bike trails to race. I RODE with the excitement of the next race.  I hired a coach and bought a road bike so that I could enhance my training on and off the trails.  I RODE because I needed to get faster. I raced all across Florida, Georgia and Alabama.  Eventually, I moved up in race categories and I RODE because the competition was getting fierce.  Fortunately, I began to drown in the realization, that I could race and do well, but never compete at the highest level.  That was a hard pill to swallow, so I RODE because you just don’t STOP riding. My desire to face this realization did not stop either, but my ego was bruised.  While my self worth remained somewhat intact, I knew I needed to push forward regardless of what the future held.

I believe it was my move to North Carolina that changed my entire perspective on why I ride.  In the early stages of getting settled, I remember meeting people who loved to ride.  I was drawn to this attitude and joined a new cycling community.  This community takes mountain biking very serious.  Do NOT plan on joining a ride unless you are willing to be part of the adventure.  Every adventure includes both difficulty and unexpected joy.  I’ve been on rides where even while using a map, we lost the trail, had to create a new route and our excitement about what we would discover spread through the group like wild fire.  

I ride because my cycling community is concerned about sustainable trails and riding helps me see where improvements are needed in our trail systems.  I ride because young people need role models and there is no greater adventure than adding value to our next generation, which is why I became a coach for Davidson County Mountain Bike Team.  Through NICA’s (National Interscholastic Cycling Association) NC chapter, I teach boys and girls bike skills and life skills.  I have one girl on my team who needs the support of other girls who ride.  There is so much I could say about the community of women who ride bikes.  For now, I can say that this smaller community within the cycling community as a whole, is truly growing.  From skills camps, to retreats, to organized rides, to wrenching workshops, you will eventually begin to see, if you haven’t already, not just one girl or a few, but swarms of girls on bikes.  I ride so I can better my community.

As I bring you to the close of my current motivation to ride, the intention for this topic was to bring to light something many of us have faced: the idea that whatever we are doing in this life, are for reasons unknown.. I hope while reading this, you can recall a time when you thought you knew the whys, but life as it sometimes does, redirects your path. Regardless of what I thought I knew in my racing days, that path taught me many valuable things.  Currently, my riding situation is one of pure joy.  I have fallen in love with the adventure of riding and I can honestly say, I now know why I ride.

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