I haven’t been cycling long enough to make a grand statement like “the Festive 500 made me fall in love with the bike again.” But it sure did make me realize just what makes this sport so special. But not at first.
When I heard word of the challenge – ride 500 kilometers between Christmas and New Years – I reacted with a half-hearted and non-committal, “why not.” There are so many excuses for not riding over the holidays that I knew there would be an easy out, if and when I’d come to my senses to stick to shortbread cookies and roast turkey leftovers. Maybe it would be the Canadian Winter. Maybe it would be family commitments. Whatever the reason, I didn’t think I’d feel guilty about spending time off the bike.
And then the challenge started. Each morning I’d look at the weather, and set goals for myself. Some days I’d surpass them, other days I’d fall short. But as the kilometers added up, I felt like I owed it to myself to finish.
But then a funny thing happened. I realized that this whole time, my rides had been about getting to 500km above all else. Including actually enjoying myself. It sounds like a trite cliche (because it is a trite cliche) but the destination had become more important than the journey. This narrow focus on collecting miles made riding brainless, and kind of a chore. To fix that, I just went for a ride. I didn’t care about “segments” or PRs, my only focus was enjoying myself. Which meant going further than I ever have, to places I had never been. It meant laughing out loud to myself when it started snowing. And it meant witnessing the most beautiful winter sunset I’ve seen all year, and not caring one bit that I didn’t bring my camera along to #proveit.
And that’s how I made it to 500km. And that’s what I’m going to take into 2015.
This summer I went a bit bike crazy. As I mentioned earlier in the season, Isabel and I picked up vintage Raleigh cruisers to commute and get around the city. We quickly learned that with a bike, Toronto is so much smaller, and ripe for exploring. I was hooked, but soon had to come to terms with the limit on speed and distance a 40 year-old cruiser could manage.
So I bought a road bike.
From there, it’s been a steady progression towards further, faster, and longer. It meant waking up early most days to go for a ride – even when the weather dictates you should stay in bed. It meant obsessively tracking my goals and achievements on Strava. It meant renting and borrowing bikes while on vacation just to get the fix. It meant falling off and fracturing my elbow. And it meant getting back on two weeks before my doctor said it was wise to do so.
In the short time that I’ve been riding, I have noticed a big difference. My average speeds on the bike has increased. And my weight off the bike has decreased (not by design, but appreciated nonetheless). Because I came to it so late in the season, I have become obsessed with making the most of the few mild days we have left. Which has meant lots of layers and frozen toes. But along the way, I have loved (mostly) every minute of it.
As I write, I’m coming up on 2,000km traveled, in about 10 weeks of riding. Which I’m pretty happy about. But I’ll be happier if the season can extend just a few more weeks, before I have to start looking at indoor training, as to not undo all the good work done so far.
In what’s proving to be a bit of an Indian Summer, this weekend saw the 2014 version of the Tweed Ride – a fashionable fundraiser / bike ride through Toronto. Participants are encouraged to sport traditional British cycling attire (think tweed jackets and knee socks as far as the eye can see) and ride handsome vintage bikes. Since Isabel and I both got vintage Raleighs this summer – and I happened to be sporting quite a distinguished mustache – we decided to take part.
The ride itself was relaxed. A lot of ringing bells, waving crowds and “pip pip cheerios!” Wrapping up in Trinity Bellwoods Park, all participants were treated to a delightful tea party. Prizes were awarded for a variety of categories, including “Most Awe-inspiring Mustache” which I just happened to win.