I stumbled on a search query a few days ago that led someone to my site that bummed me out a bit:
“Cycling is expensive”
There is no doubt that cycling can be expensive; some avid cyclists can drop $10,000-$20,000 on one bike, let alone all of the necessary equipment that goes with it. Helmet, shorts, jerseys, shoes, pedals, socks, gloves, glasses and maintenance equipment. Then you still have to worry about a rainy day bike and cold weather clothing!
For most of us though, cycling is just a touch more attainable and unless you’re planning on going pro, it’s more about the engine than the bike anyway. Until today I had a fourteen year-old carbon Trek 5200 that I bought used for less than a decent entry-level bike and it was good enough that I could ride with just about anyone. A couple of pairs of cheap cycling shorts for short rides and a nice pair for long rides, a helmet and a couple of jerseys that I bought on sale and I was good. The rest of the stuff; a floor pump, shoes and pedals, I picked up as I could afford them. For a time I even used my mountain bike shoes and pedals on my road bike. At the time it was what I could afford (and I never got any gruff about it from the people I ride with).
Mountain biking is even more possible on a slim budget. The high-end mountain bikes are just as expensive but the entry-level high-end bikes are truly affordable. The helmets, shoes and pedals are far more reasonable as well. Though you may have to shill for a State Park pass (I buy mine with my vehicle registration), it’s completely worth it. Also, with the right saddle, compression shorts under my cargo shorts replace the need for cycling shorts except on long rides.
The main point here is that while cycling can be expensive, the outlandish cost has never been a requirement so much as a desire and should never be an excuse to stay away. If anything, it’s been my experience that those who have the legs to keep up with the advanced folks on entry level equipment get more respect than those with high-end stuff. In fact, that I had a used bike with $30 cycling shorts, mountain biking shoes and pedals and a cheaper helmet never came up at the advanced club ride that I frequent. Not once. What did come up, on a regular basis, was how well I made use of that equipment.
So, if you want to get into cycling but are put off by the thought of endless thousands going out the door on a bike, fear not, it’s not that bad.
We should all be familiar with Strava and their challenges, enough has been said and written about them. Endomondo, my sports tracker of choice, has challenges as well, but Endo comes at it from more of an overall mileage or calories burned perspective.
Last year and the year before I spent a lot more time tracking them and even took first place in Michigan for October, but this year I’ve had my sights on other things. That said, I decided to check in to see where I stood…
Here’s how I’m stacking up this year:
National Bike Challenge, Michigan: 10th Place out of 200 (Top 5%)
National Bike Challenge, USA: 446th out of 13,580 (Top 3%)
Just Pedal and Win: 526th out of 236,698 (Top 0.002%)
Crank It Up Fit Challenge: 86th of 29,324 (Top 0.003%)
I’ve always tried to stay in the top ten percent, figuring if I’m there, amongst those of us who are nutty enough to actually track our workouts regularly, I’m doing pretty good. Last season, and especially the season before (the first year I started tracking), I relied heavily on Endomondo challenges for motivation to get out and ride when I’d rather have taken a day off – not that I really wanted to, but because I kept listening to all of the advisors tell me that I needed to take more time off.
This season though, cycling has taken a much more sustainable position in my daily life. I don’t get out to set records or personal bests (though I sure do enjoy them when they happen) so much anymore. It’s more about just being out on the open road, either alone or much more with all of the friends I’ve met at the Tuesday night club ride. It was Mike from the Tuesday night gang who invited me to be a lead bike for the Crim. Matt invited me to ride with their invite only group and Phil who I’ve ridden with countless times over the last two seasons, and Mike McD. who I warm up with every Tuesday night and Carla, her husband and kids that my wife and I and our kids ride with on the odd Friday to get an ice cream cone… These friendships have replaced the Endomondo Ether Awards. I no longer need that kind of motivation to ride my bike or to seek improvement though I do still track my workouts.
I suppose at some level I still enjoy looking at what I’ve done. Whether from a big-picture view such as overall miles or calories burned for a week, month or year or from a smaller perspective such as how fast I was able to climb a hill I ride regularly.
The difference this year is that my iPhone sits in a back pocket in my jersey with the sound turned down more often than on its stem mount on my bike. I used to listen for the mile times to gage my overall speed and track exertion. Today I’m more comfortable in my ability to discern what is pushing and what is taking it easy without the tracking software.
This has been my own experience and while I don’t rely on Endomondo as much as I used to, the GPS tracking programs can be fun tools to stay motivated to put the miles in day after day. At the same time, while Endo does still play a part in my fitness, I’ve fully embraced the rewarding social aspect of cycling. Whatever it takes.