It often takes people a while to transition from “I love riding bikes” to “I am a cyclist.” If you have already made this transition, this article is for you. Out of caution, I would like to add here that you may do this at your own peril because I’m quite accustomed to having my lungs searing, ash on my breath and my legs on fire. In fact, I genuinely feel that a ride is incomplete without that rush!
To become a “cyclist”, one needs to be adequately prepared to suffer. Suffering is our currency. If you are new to cycling, you will probably tell yourself that once you get fitter, you will suffer less when you attempt your favorite climb or that once you buy a better bike your suffering will decrease. But these are just things said by people who ‘like riding bikes’.
A “cyclist” knows that suffering is intrinsic to the sport and even if you get fitter or buy that new bike you always wanted, all that will happen is that you will suffer at faster speeds now. Suffering is not unique to cycling alone but in other sports, suffering is usually brief and unplanned, as opposed to the sheer regularity with which a cyclist encounters it.
Our suffering is planned, prolonged and very much expected. It is a unique heroism for which the audience is none but your own self because being a “cyclist” exhibits no outward sign of the heroics. The reward for being the best is not that you take less suffering to finish the climb; rather, the reward is that you are now able to absorb greater levels of suffering.
The reward of aiming to be the best is that we learn how far we can push ourselves, and thus reveal to ourselves the true mettle of our character. If you can derive pleasure in this growth, then you’ve made the transition to being a cyclist, irrespective of whether you are able to hold 40 kmph+ or 20 kmph.
I have never signed up for any brevet or race with the thought that this event will be a breeze, because I know that suffering is inevitable and now I’ve come to a stage where I enjoy forging my willpower in the stables of pain while my body gets viciously tenderized after each hard effort. This is probably the most difficult thing to explain to a non-cyclist- why do we embrace and seek out suffering?
Contrary to popular perception, the answer to this is not that a cyclist thinks that suffering is the only way to get faster, thinner and stronger. The answer is that a cyclist has awoken to the realization that spending time in the pain cave can educate you about yourself in more ways than just how many watts you can generate or what speed you can touch. It is this realization that shows you that “you are all you need.”
Written by Mirza saaib Beg
Edited by: Nigel Buthello