When you ride a bike more than 200 kms a week, when you race, when you commute daily, or when you are clocking up kms training, cycling becomes a whole lot more than a leisurely activity that you do on the weekend to de-stress or a great way to make the most of a beautiful summers day. Cycling can take over, it can consume, it becomes part of your life, it can be expensive and it can give you the shits!
Take this morning for example. I jumped on the bike at 7:45 am to arrive at work at about 8:45 am, to give me just enough time to shower and eat some breakfast before starting work at my desk. This is how a normal morning plays out; but not today. I got my first puncture at 8:20 am, repaired the wheel with my one spare tube, got a second puncture at 8:45 am, walked to the nearest bike shop to buy a puncture repair kit to repair the first tube, changed the tube, got my third puncture at 9:30 am, repaired the second tube, changed the tyre again, got my fourth puncture at 10:00 am, decided to cut my losses and walk to a train station, arrived at work at 10:50 - nearly 2 hours late.
Now this is extreme, I know; it doesn't happen regularly, maybe once a year you'll have a morning like this, but when it does happen - it really get to you! So much that you'll probably want to go and write a blog post about how annoyed you are ;) Days like these make you wanna pick up your bike and throw it on the tram tracks to let the 5 tonne beast do its worst! In this case there's obviously an issue with the wheel or the tyre that I was unable to locate and I'll now have to go about the process of finding and fixing the problem over the next few days - which will no doubt cost money.
Which leads me to the next issue - the constant expenses. Just when you think you have all you need, something on your bike fails or you lose something and you need to replace it, or, you get suckered into the constant cycle of upgrades and gear improvements. And then when you do buy, you have the dilemma of whether to buy online or support your local bike shop (LBS). It's a tough one, if you buy online you can make massive savings, but you risk high postage costs and purchasing ill-fitting or faulty products. If you buy from your LBS you risk being ripped off but you get the interpersonal service that web shopping lacks.
At a race last week I lost a pair of cycling sunglasses, so I went and purchased a new pair of North Wave cycling sunnies from a bike shop in St Kilda for $90, only to find them on the web for $52 (with cheap shipping) only a few hours later. It doesn't feel good to be ripped off to the tune of almost $40, but what feels worse is the constant spending. Only a few weeks ago I had my stem and my bottom bracket replaced and fitted for nearly $400, in a few weeks time I'm due for a couple of new tyres which will be another $100, and I just bought my 2012 racing license ($214). That's $800 in October alone. And even when all your gear and your bike is sorted, you still have the racing and charity ride costs (if you are into that sort of thing). These events are not cheap, I think registration for this years 'Around the Bay' 210 km option is about $170!
And all that's not the worst of it! What is you ask? It's riding to work through driving rain on a 5 degree morning, getting absolutely soaked and then putting on your wet gear later that evening for the ride home, then having to find a way to dry your soaked shoes for the next days commute. It's riding directly into 80 km p/h winds, barely moving at 10 kms p/h. It's riding in plus 40 degree heat when your water bottles are empty. Cycling in bad weather - that takes the cake.
With 'Ride To Work Day' approaching I probably shouldn't be writing a post like this. I should be talking about all the great things cycling does for us, about how cycling makes you fit and enriches your life. But the above idiosyncrasies are realities, I'm telling it like it is and I'm just scratching the surface here. There's also the countless hours of preparation before and after rides; there's the inevitable crashes and the long recovery downtime; there's the dangers of the road and the everlasting war with inconsiderate drivers and oblivious pedestrians; there's the washing and the cleaning and the tinkering and the fixing; and there's the time spent away from loved ones while you indulge in your passion.
Cycling can suck, it can give me the shits, but I put up with all of the above, I cycle almost every day and I hope to continue doing it for a long time yet. Which means one of two things - I either love it, or I'm completely insane! You decide!