It’s October and in the world of pretend bicycle racing that I’ve created, autumn means it’s time to restart my annual winter training log. I like to say that I am a Pretend Bike Racer (PBR) because the races that I participate in and the efforts that I go through—while the efforts are strenuous and taxing—mean almost nothing in the context of the real world. If I were to stop squeezing myself into my Lycra man-casing and never pedal another stroke, the net effect on the world would be so zero. If I were to stop bikes, I would spend more time at home, and I’m guessing that my family would probably appreciate my increased presence at home (I am pretty gassy, so the air quality trade off may be a real concern).
But the thing is—I like to pretend that I’m a bike racer. I’ve said before that amateur bike racing is a lot like being in a tribute band: we wear the same clothes; use the same equipment and some of us (insanely) take the same drugs. We then hit the stage in our costumes and do the best version of Screamin’ for Vengeance we can pull off (my Pretend Bike Racer tribute band is a Judas Priest cover band called Fakin’ the Law). There are even a select few among us that are talented enough to be mistaken for two-wheeled Rob Halfords, but for the most part we are a pack of enthusiastic amateurs who don’t always hit the high notes, but strap on the leather chaps anyway, even if we have almost no chance of strutting around in those chaps on the podium (not only due to not winning races, but also due to the obscenity laws of most US states).
And that is one of the biggest challenges of being a PBR, you have to train and prepare for hours and hours just to get your ass kicked. You can’t just show up to a bike race and have any effect without first grinding out hundreds of training miles. This is why many racers quit racing after they move up through the category system. They can train a little as a category 5 and win some races, train some more as a cat four and still get results, but once they hit category three and have to race with category ones and twos, racing stops being fun—because they have no shot at placing anymore. The fun gets sucked out of racing because they associate fun with winning.
We grizzled PBRs know that racing bikes only for results is a sucker’s bet. I have raced for over twenty five years and I have won exactly three races. Three. Let’s say that I’ve averaged ten races per year for the last twenty five years (I race more than ten races per year, but 250 races has a nice sound to it), that is a total of 250 races, which makes my winning percentage 1.2%, or, to put it another way, the odds that I lose a race are 98.8%. That’s a pretty depressing statistic. Washington Generals depressing.
So why would anyone race bikes at all? I have no idea why you fools do it, but I can tell you why I still race. It’s fun. I like putting on tight clothing and traipsing about my neighborhood. I like fancy bikes and shine bike parts. I like lining up on a starting line and feeling like I have to both poop and pee. I like making plans for races and trying to help my teammates win. I like knowing who’s fast and seeing how they win races. I like being so tired after early morning races that I can barely muster the brain power to process basic information. I still race bikes because I stopped associating fun with placing. I’d like to say that I have moved into a state of higher consciousness when it comes to connecting fulfillment with my status on the results sheet, and I have done that for the most part—but if given chance to show the world my leather chaps—I will take that opportunity in a heart beat.