Happy New Year!
Last year at this time I announced a bold and audacious resolution: To only ride one (1) bicycle for all of 2018.* If I failed, I’d have to (gasp!) get rid of some of my bikes, or (even worse!) run. Crazy as it sounds, I was highly confident that I would succeed in adhering to this resolution for the following reasons:
I was burned out on maintaining a bicycle fleet so large I’d lost count of it;
I was kind of over road riding anyway.
All I needed, I figured, was a second pair of wheels for the Marin—a 29er set with narrow-ish tires to cover me for road and non-technical mixed-terrain riding. So in the spirit of optimism, I put together just such a set and installed it. But while the bicycle handled ably, it also looked like something you’d use to deliver Chinese food in Midtown.
Now, to be clear, I have nothing but respect for the hardworking people who deliver food by bicycle. However, that doesn’t mean I want to ride their bikes for recreation. I mean hey, I respect the hell out of firefighters too, but I’m not about to go mountain biking in a rescue helmet with an oxygen tank on my back.
Nevertheless, I figured an important part of this commitment was overcoming my petty aesthetic hang-ups, and so I pushed on undaunted. However, 11 days into 2018, my resolve was tested again when I broke a spoke on my 29er wheelset while climbing. “No problem!” I thought to myself. “I’ll just pop another spoke in there when I get home.” But of course I never did. Instead, I increasingly took advantage of the loopholes I’d allowed myself, and by March I decided that not only was I not over road riding, but I also wanted to start racing again. So as spring arrived, I figured I’d just ride whatever, do a final accounting at year’s end, and take my lumps as applicable.
Well, as I write this, it’s December 30. I’ve just completed my final ride of 2018, and so the reckoning is nigh. As per a thorough audit of my Strava account, here is the situation as it stands:
Total miles for 2018: 6,436
Total number of rides: 260
Total number of rides in violation of resolution and concomitant loopholes: 65
Now, as per the terms of my resolution, I must run three (3) miles per violation, which comes to 195 miles of running. Fortunately for me, I did do some running in 2018, but unfortunately, according to Strava, I only ran 47 miles, which means I’m in still the hole for another 148. Furthermore, if I don’t run all those miles by tomorrow (and I suspect I won’t be able to pull off five and a half marathons in a single day), I incur a double-mileage penalty—either that, or I have to give away one (1) bicycle per un-run mile.
“Okay schmuck, just bottom-line for me already,” you’re undoubtedly thinking at this point, which is fair enough, so here you go:
I’ve got to run 296 miles this year or else give away 148 bikes.
Like using a credit card, it’s easy to see how failing to apply discipline to a one-bike New Year’s resolution can quickly mushroom out of control. However, unlike using a credit card, it’s also easy to wave your hand and forgive your own debt, which is what I’ve decided to do. Do I feel guilty? Maybe a little. However, in so doing I’m part of a rich tradition of creating a rigid ethical code and then weaseling out of it that’s at least as old as the Catholic Church (see: Indulgences), if not religion itself.
Also, I learned a lot from attempting this resolution, and isn’t that really what matters? Here are just a few of the vital life lessons my ill-advised dalliance with bicycle monogamy has taught me:
You should have as many bikes as you want
They’re bicycles, not Hummers. Your tailpipe emissions are still zero after all. (Unless you count flatulence as tailpipe emissions, but even in that scenario, you’ve only got one ass no matter how many bikes you own.) If one bike’s enough for you then consider yourself lucky. Or, if you want separate dedicated 23mm and 25mm tire road bikes and a mountain bike for every day of the week, then why the hell not?
Once a roadie always a roadie
When it comes to road riding, I’ve got a lot of baggage: decades of type-A attitude immersion, extreme anal retention, and getting dropped like a hot burrito all take their toll. At the same time, threatening to leave road riding made me realize I never will. Sure, Lycra-free dirt rides are delightfully liberating, but when it’s been raining for three weeks and the trails have reverted to axle-deep mud bogs it feels just as good to ride the tarmac on a bike built for exactly that purpose. Plus, it’s enough with the gravel bikes already.
None of this even matters anyway
It’s really easy to get caught up in mileage goals and fitness routines and results. But you know what’s even easier? Quitting! Unlike your job, you’re free to say “Fuck it,” and bail on the bike at any time. Sure, it may seem demoralizing, but that’s only if you frame riding a bike in terms of success and failure instead of simply having fun. You owe it to yourself to take every consequence-free opportunity to quit that you can.
Because life’s hard enough as it is.
*With enough loopholes to make Donald Trump’s accountant blush.