My Two-Wheeled Cycling Addiction
Lowdown: The New Year of cycling beckons us out onto the tarmac, but for one reason or another we can’t go and grumpiness takes over. Resident PEZ psychologist (aka: pundit), Lee Rodgers, dissects the whole problem of a cycling addiction and the suffering it can cause when you don’t get your regular fix of the two-wheel habit.
Definition of Addiction:
1: The quality or state of being addicted (addiction to reading [and cycling]).
2: Compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol [or cycling]) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.
‘What’s the hell is wrong with you?’
‘What do you mean?!’
‘Ah, well, the hysterical tone in your voice that’s got the cat freaked out, for one, and the fact that you’ve just hurled the remote control across the room in a hissy fit because it didn’t work first time.’
This is me, when I haven’t been able to ride for a few days. I know when I start becoming annoyed by inanimate objects – indeed, when I start taking their uselessness as a personal affront – that I really need to go and ride. Unfortunately, a variety of work commitments and poor air quality recently have made this difficult, hence the attack (I still claim warranted) on the remote. Anything is liable to set me off when I’m going through my withdrawal period: Un-openable milk cartons, non-stick pans that stick, children of all sizes – ok, yes, the usual stuff, but I mean, they really get to me.
Even getting dressed for that first ride after a few days of not riding annoys me, getting the shorts on, zipping up the increasingly restrictive jersey, searching out the pump and the other bits and bobs, getting the bottle filled – all these are potential mountains of annoyance. I trudge out with my little rain cloud hanging over my head, drenching me wet through and doing nothing to lift my mood, and then, I clip on, and then… well, you know that feeling well enough I am sure.
The wind hits your skin, the road skims by and you are in motion, riding away from all that hangs over you, even that pesky little cloud. Suddenly you’re passing everything by, flying through the lanes and the valleys, over hills and glens, or deserts, or forests, whatever and wherever, it does not matter – because you are free, however fleetingly, free to ride into potential, into peace, into quiet.
However, this recent period of narkiness and this grimy black mood led me to question whether I am actually addicted to the bike. The answer, unsurprisingly, was yes.
Let us re-visit the second part of the definition of ‘addicted’ to help us here:
2. Compulsive need for and use of a habit-forming substance (as heroin, nicotine, or alcohol [or cycling]) characterized by tolerance and by well-defined physiological symptoms upon withdrawal; broadly: persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.
Let’s look at the facts. I do indeed have a compulsive need and use for a habit-forming substance. Thankfully that substance is not cocaine or heroin (which may be even more expensive a hobby than cycling – just about). This compulsive need leads me to strange behaviors, such as finding myself, when driving in a car over new roads through mountains, almost becoming aroused by the thought of riding up the same road on a bike. Yes, I actually covet that luscious, dark tarmac. I do the same with photographs of roads, sketches of roads, you name it.
“I wouldn’t mind riding THAT!” I’ve been known to say, in a way that sounds as dodgy as it reads.
Speaking of lust (whilst we’re at it we may as well carry on), do you ever find yourself gripping new bar tape on someone else’s bike and saying “Ooh that feels really good!”?
Admit it, you know you do.
The second part of the description speaks of a tolerance for the drug of choice. That definitely happens in cycling. We start out on our first bikes barely able to pedal round the block without falling off, but then, over the years of our addiction, we get to the point where knocking out 100 miles once, even twice on the weekend is not a problem, save for the odd boil on the backside and some weary legs on the Monday. Some of our kinfolk have built up such a tolerance to the drug that is cycling, that they set off to ride across America every year, riding up to and over 300km every day for weeks on end.
The definition then mentions ‘well-defined symptoms upon withdrawal’, of which persistent grumpiness is definitely one. Another is loss of muscle tone, and another is more difficult to define, but might be termed as “loss of like-minded people who will happily discuss the benefits of demerits of tire width, chain lube and chammy cream for hours on end whilst still remaining alert and engaged.”
The definition is summed up by: ‘persistent compulsive use of a substance known by the user to be harmful.’
Well, cycling for sure will not, unless you’re a serial hoarder of Lightweight wheels, lead you into wrack and ruin as heroin and crystal meth will, so perhaps this is where our addiction proves its merits. However, I have seen many a rider transform into a total asshole once he pins a number on his jersey, so, perhaps in some cases this summation is befitting…
All change in a race situation
Joking aside, we are very fortunate, in that we live in places where we can actually ride – I imagine there’s not much cycling going on for example in Aleppo, Syria at the moment – and, for sure, we are lucky that our addiction is beneficial to our health. I often wonder where I’d be, had I that one gene different in me. It’s a sobering thought.
Anyway, bedtime here, I’m up early to go ride, at last…!
Lee Rodgers is a former professional road racer on the UCI Asia Tour circuit now racing MTB professionally around the world. His day job combines freelance journalism, coaching cyclists, event organizing and consulting work. You can keep up with his daily scribblings over at www.crankpunk.com.
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