There are many, many reasons to start road cycling, but usually it comes down to something that’s drawing you to it. It could be that you’d like to regain some of the wonder of childhood in a more grown-up way. Maybe you get a jealous twinge hearing about your brother-in-law’s epic weekend rides. Sometimes it’s the sit-down, dead-serious talk your doctor gives you about your health that’s making you see the potential of pavement for the first time. In reality, it doesn’t matter what called you here, only that you’ve decided to heed it.
Bikes haven’t really changed much since their inception. They are essentially still just two wheels, a chain, and our momentum keeping us in balance. Most of the big gains in cycling technology have come by way of making the bike more comfortable so we can spend more time in the saddle. Otherwise, it’s pretty much the same machine we learned on as kids, but easier and more comfortable to ride.
The beauty of the road bike is that it doesn’t ask for much. It doesn’t tell you why or when to ride. It’s there waiting patiently if you decide to hop in the saddle and is not hurt when you walk by and hop in your car to head for work. It doesn’t say “you’re not fast enough” or give you guff for not being first to the top of the hill. It can be the perfect companion.
The simple motion of cycling has a funny way of making things clearer, less cluttered, a little slower, and a bit more real. Whether you’re speeding toward a finish line or cruising on a weeklong bike tour, it connects you to the present moment—the here and now—in a way that most things in our fast-paced, high-tech world can’t. It helps bring awareness to the small things—the temperature of the air, the subtle changes in terrain—making real connections to the world around you.
For most of us, riding our first bike was a rite of passage: the electric rush of happiness when we rode on our own and really spread our wings for the first time. Bikes gave us the independence and courage to go around the block, to the store, and farther and farther away into our own adventures.
Now in our adulthood, we’re often just not convinced we can ever get that feeling back. The secret is, being on the road on your bike, listening to your breath, and pushing the pedals is pretty much the same as it was back then. It’s a very low-tech getaway car. Most road cyclists will describe “sneaking away for a ride” or “letting it go on the pavement.” Being on the bike is just you, the pavement, and ribbons of white and yellow lines. For the first time you can shake the day off and look up—really look up—and see the beauty of the world around you.
Road cycling is a means to an end. It’s one way we can ride away from the phone, the house, the bills, the TV, what’s going on at work, how the kids are driving you bonkers. Getting on the bike is the antidote. It’s a mini-vacation for your soul. It’s a time to revamp and breathe—even if it’s just for an hour at a time.
Although getting on the bike is simple, we’re unlikely to have the grace or strength of a professional racer. There’s a lot to learn, and this book will help guide you.
The cool thing is that with every new skill—from becoming a graceful descender to being able to easily grab your water bottle without bobbling—your confidence on the bike will grow. Confidence is a funny thing. Almost like a virus, it can affect your whole life, your wellbeing, and even those around you. Right now you may see yourself as someone who just wants to get into better shape. It’s likely you’ll get there before you know it, and when you see how easy it is to reach one goal, it will be easier to set and accomplish another—one that may not even be on the bike.
It starts with the hill you never thought you’d be able to climb, which eventually becomes the hill you never thought you’d be able to climb without stopping, which then finally becomes the hill that you conquer with ease. That kind of progression in the saddle can also help you wrap your mind around asking for that long overdue raise or realize that dream of starting your own business. You’ll learn what it’s like to try, fall short of your goals, and keep trying again knowing you’ll eventually get where you want to go.