If you are a sissy, wuss, or (insert any other word that one would use to refer to one as weak and/or prissy here), this post will either make you flail your arms about, screaming at your computer or you will simply nod your head in acceptance. You may even leave a comment about how insensitive and mean I am. There will be a very small percentage who will be inspired. Inspired to finally put up, to try harder… To literally HTFU. This post is for you. There will be another small group who says, I’m not willing to do that and I’m okay with it – let those crazy bastards have their speed, I’ll ride with the slow folks and be happy about it. You have my respect and admiration. And one final… Those who have physical limitations but still get out on that bike to put in the miles, you already are hard (even if you believe speed and toughness are always related – they’re not).
Ah, we cyclists are a funny bunch. Some seek to punish everyone else, some just love the ride and others are bitter that everyone won’t ride at the speed of their choosing. If you’re not one of the laid back one’s when you have your ass handed to you, this post is for you. Now, keep in mind, I ride with guys who hand me my ass almost every Tuesday night. Some are ranked, some were ranked at one time and others are budding (hopeful) pro’s and the fast age groupers, and I’m not usually that fast (though I did manage to keep up
once twice, or close to it after an entire season of trying). While I’m not the fastest of fellas, my recovery pace would send your average bike rider into fits. So, how does one go from just your average 12 mile an hour tooler to a stud? HTFU, it’s actually one of the rules of cycling.
Have you ever pushed yourself so hard that you puked? Does your heart rate spike at 95 as you’re catching breeze going around a corner at 15 mph? When you get dropped, do you complain that the others ride too fast – do you leave the group, complain that “it’s not fair” or switch to running? Do you plan your bike rides to avoid hills? Have you ever wished that the group you want to ride with was slower?
The answers to the questions above, for me at least – one of the slow fast guys are: Yes, often actually. No. No. No. No.
Let’s try a few more: Do you regularly start out with the idea of having a nice, enjoyable, easy ride only to end up spending every last ounce of energy you had to give, wondering where that came from? Have you ever done telephone pole sprints? When you get to a hill do you shift down to an easier gear, or up? Have you ever even thought, “this isn’t fair”? When you get to a monster of a hill, something more than a mile long, do you enjoy the ride up almost as much as the ride back down? Do you smile on the way up that hill, knowing that the effort will make you stronger?
My answers are: Yes, regularly. Yes. Harder gear on training night so I have to apply the brakes on club ride night. No. Yes. Absolutely.
Now, if your answers are any different, how can you possibly expect to keep up with me? Some of the guys I ride with are a lot harder than that – how can I hope to keep up with them if I won’t work as hard as they do (though one significant problem of mine is that I don’t take enough days off – so that’s Reverse Super Hard right there).
The answer is to Harden The F@ck Up or don’t. There’s just no pretty way to put it. In the end, there’s no magic way to pedal that bike that will make you ride fast without working for it (I know, I’ve looked for it). In fact, if I really look at it closely, if I were to simply relax at this point, to take it easy on every ride from here on out and just try to enjoy being out on the bike I would get slower. This bit of self-knowledge comes from the adage, “it never gets easier, you just get faster” – I happen to be in complete agreeance with a friend of mine who took the point I made one step further. At first I didn’t quite buy into that, but have found that it is, alas, true.
Now, that is mainly for those who whine – or more, those who complain that other people ride faster, thus dropping them. In fact, rather than only complain about your attitude, allow me to pass on the proper attitude to maintain in such cases:
How fast a group of others decides to ride has nothing to do with me. The reason that I can’t keep up is because I don’t work as hard as they do. If I don’t want to get dropped I have to train just as hard as they do (if not harder). What I am capable of today is in direct proportion to what I did to get here yesterday. If that’s 25 mph, great – if it’s only 16 and the group rides 22, it’s:
Memorize those lines and if you ever get that whiny feeling again, recite them as if they were Gospel because that’s the honest to God truth. My slow ass is nobody else’s responsibility – unless, of course, you are on a no-drop ride. In that case, complain away ’cause you probably got hosed as long as you were faster than 12 mph. Another very important aspect of this little notion is that it’s okay if you don’t want to work that hard. There’s nothing set in stone that says you have to ride so fast and produce this many watts – hell, do what you like! The trick is that you can’t whine about making your choice if others don’t prescribe to it.
Onward. So what is the essence of Harden The F@ck Up? Climbing mountain passes for fun is considered hard, as is technical mountain biking. Cold weather riding (below freezing), riding in sleet or rain storms (not thunderstorms – that’s not hard, that’s dumb) and snow – that’s hard. Riding as fast as your legs will propel you, that’s hard. Pushing passed your limits, puking on a ride – they’re all hard.
Now I started out, as a pure cycling noob, on a Huffy mountain bike three sizes too small and the best I could do was 14 mph for 4 miles. Even so, I took that bike out every day until I found something proper – then I rode that just as hard as I could until I bought an old road bike and I rode the wheels off of that… 17 then 18, then 19 and 20 mph over 10 miles, then 13, then 16, then 20 and 30 miles… Then I bought a real road bike and I pushed that one even harder. I went out every day that I could. Some days I rode hard, others were just an easy spin to loosen up the legs. I rode in shit that would make most people stay inside – and I’m one of the weak hard guys. I was dropped every damn night I rode with the advanced group for a year before I finally started to be able to stay with them – but that didn’t stop me from going out there. I used the opportunity to learn. Who I could hang behind, who would fall off the back, where I needed to position myself so that I wouldn’t burn up on the hills… I watched the fast guys – where did they rest? I learned something new every time I went out. I watched, and rode and trained and kept at it… And after all of that time I finally made it – it wasn’t glorious, I had to hide the last half of the ride, but I did stay on until the very end (call it close enough for government work).
Now, as I wrote earlier, there is no magic pedal stroke that will make you fast. The only thing that works, for anyone, is to bust your ass (or start young – LOL). The problem lies in the fact that you personalize the fact that you’re not as fast as some people. I’ve heard a number of reasons: The arrogant bastards just want to hurt me (or the slower folks), men don’t want to be beaten by a girl – I just heard this one from a friend of my wife last night…
If you truly believe a person riding fast has anything to do with you, that says more about you than them – with one exception: There may be a fast person or two who may want to shake the slower folks who hide in the back (like me)… If you’re one of those hanger’s on, like me (I have to get just a little bit faster), the proper perspective is this: would you want to do all of the work so a handful of others can benefit without helping? You’d have to be pretty arrogant (and kind of a jerk) to feel entitled to making others do all of the work, no?