101 Totally True Reasons Riding Bikes Rocks
Only 101 reasons riding bikes rocks? What? There must be a brazillion more, but we wanted to finish up so we could, well, go ride.
- The moment before you know how the ride is going to go; when anything is possible.
- Finding a waterfall.
- Laying fresh tracks on new dirt.
- A snack pulled from your jersey pocket.
- The bell lap.
- The pack fading behind you.
- Throwing down.
- Catching back on. Riding bikes rocks.
- Kitting up.
- Full aero tuck.
- Getting the tyre pressure just right.
- A new road.
- When you’re out there all alone, not a car in sight, and you see a friend who is also riding.
- A chorus of cleats clipping in. Riding bikes with others rocks.
- The sprint.
- Pacing a horse.
- Passing a tractor on a climb.
- Wide-open road, smooth tar, and towering shadows that stretch sideways all the way across the lane.
- Realising you’re totally hanging.
- Dusting the rock garden.
- Having good legs…
- …and great legs in front of you.
- The kind of silence that comes only with friends you’ve been riding with forever. Riding bikes rocks.
- Finding a roadside treasure.
- Laughing out loud like a lunatic.
- A dirt tan.
- Someone else’s moment of triumph.
- Floating up and back through a rotating paceline.
- Brushing shoulders with another rider…
- …and staying upright.
- Dropping someone you’ve never dropped before.
- Changing a flat tyre without screwing up.
- Teaching someone to use all their gears.
- The cat basking in the window that no one else sees.
- The SolitudeBy Matthew Beaudin
The sounds of the road fade into the rhythm of pedal strokes. It’s been three hours on a July evening since I’ve said a word to anyone. Three group rides went by and I was happy to not be among them. Wheels to stare at and hold. Conversations to have. Not tonight. Not most of the time.
People ride for speed, for competition, for chatter, for the shower beer after. People ride for endless reasons, and it’s easy to lose sight of what it means to each of us. It’s racing, it’s bikepacking, it’s following unwritten rules like matching a saddle to bar tape. To me, it’s the luxury of time; time without the tax of words. Time that belongs to only me.
We all take what we need from cycling. The comfort of a habit, the fitness, speed, a sense of belonging. What I need most from cycling is a place I can go alone.
Summer days in the Pacific Northwest feel arctic in length. The sun sets at nine, and tonight I am out for four hours after work. I stop when I want to. I talk when I want to. I think when I want to. Turn around, or keep going; it doesn’t matter. A rider passes me in a full sprint up a roller. The reflex to chase is instant, but I shut it down.
I ride to be my own companion, my own friend, my own enemy. I break down the walls in my head and heart that I spend all day building. Did I need to be defensive over that email? I remind myself to call my mother. How come I’m always a better person, in my head at least, when I’m riding?
I’m a solitary figure on the road, with no one to talk to but myself.
- The ChallengeBy Kelli Samuelson
I’m a bike racer and team owner. You’ll usually find me racing in the USA Criterium series, driving around the country with my team, and working for Zwift all at the same time.
This past off-season I was forced to start my training from scratch after having surgery on my hip. Twelve weeks later I did my first post-op ride outside. It was nothing spectacular, a 45-minute spin on the bike path. But it was like I had climbed Mount Everest. I felt pain and frustration and the itch to do more, but overall I felt total euphoria.
Setbacks are hard, and sometimes debilitating. But with the hardest ones come the greatest reward—and that’s what drives me. Once I got back to regular training, the challenges became harder. Climbing put a lot of load on my hip, so I’d avoided it. But I needed the fitness, and when I was invited on a ride with roughly 3 500m of climbing in just over 80km, I knew I had to do it.
The road went straight up in the blistering desert heat. I cursed my body, my friends that suckered me into this crazy ride, and pretty much anything I could think of. But as the day went on, one by one I passed each of my friends. I wanted to quit at every turnout, I doubted my ability with every pedal stroke, and when rain and hail and snow started coming down, I got downright pissed. I was mad at the mountain, I was mad at the weather, I was mad at my body.
I counted to 10 over and over again. And that’s when something kicked in. When I reached the final summit alone in the freezing cold, I wasn’t mad anymore. I lay down on the cold ground, tears streaming down my cheeks. I had taken on the one thing that had been so hard and I had done it. I didn’t let my body take over my determination. I didn’t give in to self-doubt. My adrenaline was high. I wanted to do more, keep going, and to push even harder. So we did.
- Giving a push, taking a push.
- The spontaneous detour.
- A tailwind on rollers.
- When someone flats just as you’re about to pop. Riding bikes rocks.
- The post-ride beer at the trailhead…
- … bonus if you have camping chairs.
- Mapping your way somewhere new…
- … and making it there.
- Thunk-thunk-thunk of boardwalk planks under your tyres.
- Cows wondering what the hell you’re doing. Tell them “riding bikes rocks”.
- The dirt road flanked by wheatfields.
- Hitting the fastest line.
- Crystal-clear, cold water from a roadside stream.
- “Bridge Out.”
- Belly tickles on a swoopy trail.
- The flying dismount.
- The smell of barbecue at the end of a ride.
- The scent of the coffee shop on your first cold ride of the year.
- Moustache icicles.
- A cheering section of cosmos.
- Riding out the storm.
- Missing the squirrel. Riding bikes and not killing critters rocks.
- Tucking in behind the big guy.
- A water crossing.
- The ride to the ride.
- The SessionBy Louis Mazzante
You know what we need to hear more of on rides? Applause. The joyful clapping of gloved hands that, when amplified by four or six or 10 riders, has the energy of thunder. Also: shouts of encouragement, of “Sweet move!” “Hell yeah!” and “Let’s do it again!”
Musicians call this the session, and cyclists should too. The elements are similar—breaking a metered rhythm to try something new, or to follow an impulse. On a bike, it’s about embracing spontaneity, about winging it, about hitting pause and getting a little funky. Sessions happen when the group collectively realizes that the road they just descended or the jump they launched was so fun that it deserves repeating.
A few weeks ago, riding with two friends, we crested a hill and made a sharp right turn into a clearing. We heard voices ahead. Several riders had gathered near a fallen tree. The trunk was about waist high, perpendicular to the trail, and small logs had been placed on either side, forming ramps. I recognized Joel and Jess, Steve, and some others, but we would have stopped anyway—something exciting was happening.
“You got this!” Jess hollered at a guy speeding toward the obstacle. The rider drove his front wheel into the log, bounced over the top, got wobbly. “Yeah, yeah, yeah!” yelled Joel as the rider unclipped his foot, righted himself, and rode down the backside.
Steve tried, then someone else. Gloria started toward it, but reconsidered. Eric cleared it from one direction, then went for it again from the other, motivated by the clapping and cheering from the group. Our ride that day lasted more than two hours, but my memory of that session is clearest. It was too funky to forget.
- A no-brakes descent. Spending just a little too long at the coffee stop because the sun is shining, the laughs come easy, and the company is good.
- Golden hour at the top of the climb when the rocks are still warm and the shade is cool and the only sound is the faraway hum of civilization.
- Bunny-hopping pothole.
- The sounds: the wind, the hiss of tyres, the chatter, your kid laughing.
- Pedaling through a corner.
- Rolling down the driveway at sunrise.
- The nap afterwards.
- The champagne stop on the New Year’s ride.
- When the paceline falls into formation.
- Seeing the summit.
- The ice cream stop.
- Getting the shot of getting the shot.
- Going hard for longer than you think you can.
- Moving a tortoise off the road.
- Cresting the last climb.
- Coasting to your house.
- Nailing the show-off trick when your friends are actually watching.
- Coming off a descent and transitioning from gravity-fed momentum to your own power.
- A Coke.
- Gazing at an exquisitely notched calf.
- When My Kids Shut UpBy Natalie Ramsland
Somewhere in Copenhagen a gorgeous Danish woman in high heels is gliding along effortlessly in a bakfiets with two perfectly behaved kids in the front.
Meanwhile, I’m trucking up a hill with a two-year-old and a four-year-old who are melting down on the ride home from preschool. The trailer I’m pulling is an audible protest to a day that has gone on just a little too long.
We do not make family biking look easy, or even advisable. If I were in a car, I would simply turn up Johnny Cash and tune out my screaming darlings. From the outside at least, I’d look like I had things under control. But creeping up the hill at 3mph, we are broadcasting dissent to the entire neighborhood.
Onlookers might be wondering, “Why doesn’t that mother stop and attend to her children?” They might see tiny arms and stuffed bunnies flailing and think, “I’ll never have kids.” The trailer lurches and bucks, and I’m just focused on turning over one pedal at a time.
When I look up, the guy watering his garden is not calling the police. He’s smiling at me. The woman walking her pug laughs sympathetically. I hear a passing cyclist say, “I remember those days. . .” I realize that these folks are actually cheering me on. I am more amusing, if not as lovely, as that imagined, ideal Danish woman.
At the top of the hill the kids are silent. The weight is shifting. As we pick up some momentum we are all finally moving together. I’d like to think that time on the bike brings them the same kind of centered calm that it brings me. Maybe they are, like me, just catching their breath. But this moment, I’ll take it.
- Peeling off your socks.
- Making the break.
- Spending just a little too long at the coffee stopbecause the sun is shining, the laughs come easy, and the company is good.
- When someone you respect says you’re riding well.
- Toasty feet in winter.
- Skipping over logs, floating the jumps, pumping the corners.
- In the bike lane, passing cars stuck in traffic.
- Turning the Garmin off.
- Meeting a stranger on the road, and riding together.
- Sticking to a wheel.
- Same time, same place, same crew.
By Guy Andrews
When I started cycling, a ride was simple. You couldn’t be late because they’d be gone. We’d grunt “hello,” and little to nothing was said for the next five hours. Never mind thresholds and power-meter efforts, we’d ride each other into the ground. If you survived, you’d be better for it. Although, as a result, you had few friends and even less to say to the ones you had. Fortunately, times have changed.
It’s 9:20 a.m. and I’m still in pajamas, eating porridge and writing an email. There’s a commentary in my head: I need 10 minutes to get to the cafe, it will take at least that to get dressed, there might be an extra toilet break, perhaps I forgot to lube my chain, but I did it a week ago and anyway, there’s no time. I try not to faff, to fuss and procrastinate unnecessarily. The tiniest distraction can spell disaster.
Luckily they’re still at the cafe on their second coffee, so I slip in unnoticed. There’s a lot of banter, and someone hands out some delightful homemade rice cakes. We stuff them into our pockets and stand around for 10 minutes while someone else fixes a flat, another tightens his cleats, another orders more coffee, and we all sit back down again.
It’s funny that we can spend as much time getting ready to ride as we spend actually doing it. After all these years, it’s still five hours out of the house and although it’s a lot less painful, there’s also a lot less riding. Maybe cycling was simpler once, but so was everything, and maybe faffing is the real reason we ride bikes—because the bits to be truly thankful for are the gifted rice cakes, the pointless chatter about sprockets, and the friendships we forge along the way.