There are all kinds of “rules” to cycling that must be followed if you either, A) want a good laugh or B) are a jerk. These are the rules like, shave your legs (which most cyclists don’t do – even if I do), wear only black shorts, don’t wear socks that are too long or too short… Honest to goodness, if you bothered wasting your time with all of them, it’s like government. There are so many rules you can’t help but violate at least six of them by simply being on the right side of the grass, pumping air.
That said, there is one golden rule that absolutely should never be broken:
Don’t make sacrifices for the sake of looking cool. Cool comes later, as one naturally grows into the sport.
I am one to talk. I was an exceptionally geeky noob. I wore cheap shorts that fit well enough but had me sore after anything more than a fifteen mile ride. Instead of leg warmers I wore a pair of old running tights (my wife’s). I had one nice jersey but my other two were cheap and I often wore old running clothes too. I wore cheap clothing because, at the time, I couldn’t justify spending the big bucks on the equipment and I hoped I could get by on the cheap. The trick is, getting by on the cheap is possible, it just hurts more – especially when it comes to the shorts.
As I grew in the sport though, I went through a transformation. I started putting $100 a month aside for a cycling/hunting slush fund and every few months I’d pick up a new piece of kit or two and before I knew it I’d gone from cycling geek to…well, at least well dressed. During that early period of my cycling I had plenty of opportunities to feel “less than”. Even though not one person I rode with ever gave me grief over what I was wearing, the thought was always present at the back of my mind – seeing some of the more seasoned cyclists in their $300 get-ups was sometimes tough. I always managed to beat it back though and there were two related things that helped with that: First, even though I was a noob, I knew how to ride my bike. I practiced and researched hard, for months to make sure I wouldn’t put anyone else at risk while I learned the intricacies of the sport. Second, I was fast. Not as fast as the racers, but I could keep up with or lay waste to a majority of the cyclists in the advanced group. Fast helps.
Beyond that, the final piece was being true to myself. I didn’t have the 16 pound bike, the $250 shoes, the $150 shorts and the $100 jerseys because my wife and kids and several other responsibilities came first. Sure I wanted to look good like the other guys and I spent a lot of time beating back thoughts of inadequacy but crush the thoughts I did. The problem was not that I was inadequate as a cyclist – I was quite good and I’m a really good guy once you get to know me. The problem was not the other guys flaunting their expensive gear either. In fact, over time I came to learn that most of that stuff makes performing well a lot more enjoyable.
The problem was the thought itself. The notion that I was somehow less than because I couldn’t (or chose not to) afford all of that fine gear was the problem – and that thought came from me. Having dealt with what we in sobriety like to call “stinkin’ thinkin'” often, as it pertains to recovery, seeing it fester elsewhere in my life when it rears its ugly head has become second nature. Stinkin’ thinkin’ is the root of all evil in my life and I’ve learned to become adept at stomping it out because it’s only result is misery…
Left unchecked, stinking thinking is the one thing that can get me to break the second MUST NOT BREAK Golden Rule: Show up.