Adele Archer introduced me to the idea of writing a note to my former self. She said it would be “a very cathartic exercise!”
If only I knew back then what I know today.
The above picture is of me, taken about the time I first became serious about cycling. I was an adjunct professor at the time, and had been cycling more seriously for several years. I was concerned about my health, stopped eating meat and dairy, disposed of my car, and began using my bicycle as my sole means of transport.
So, what would I say to my former self 🤔
Yeah, what would you say?
Well, I’d begin with a discussion about cycling. There is a lot we could discuss but cycling will be a common thread throughout the remainder of your life.
We can start there. I love cycling but am pretty well informed already.
You are young, and you think you already have all of the answers. Well, you don’t. You have inconceivable hardships ahead, and a move you never imagined. So, pay attention, if you can.
First of all, be more patient. Don’t make dramatic lifestyle changes too quickly. It may seem easy for you, but very difficult for your friends and family. Remember, food is not only providing nourishment to sustain your health, it is also the focus of social events. You share food when you visit, and entertain. Don’t make it unnecessarily difficult for those around you. Take the time to explain why you are making changes, and involve them more in the process.
You are right about this. I have already seen the consequences.
Recognize that cycling is your sport. It is an integral part of your life now, and always will be. You’ll have a lot of opposition but persevere. For you, the benefits greatly out number any possible detriments.
What kind of opposition?
Friends that aren’t interested. Employers that don’t support bike commuting with secure bike lock-ups, and adequate change facilities. Municipal governments that have never heard of dedicated bike lanes, traffic calmed streets, or bikeways. I told you it wasn’t going to be easy.
Purchase the best bike you can afford, and always upgrade it with better components when necessary.
Find hills to climb. Think of them as your friend. They may be difficult at first but will make you a stronger, better cyclist.
I don’t mind hills. It’s just there aren’t many in these parts.
There are always hills. You just need to search them out.
Learn to clean, and lubricate your drive train. Do it regularly. It will reduce the wear and tare on your drive train. And while you are at it, learn basic bike maintenance. You need to be able to install a new chain and cassette, replace your brake and shifter cables, fix a flat tire, install new tires, true your wheels, replace a broken spoke, and re-pack your hubs and bottom bracket. Don’t worry. It’s not difficult, and there are a lot of resources available to help.
But bikes require specialized tools. And they are expensive.
That’s true but cheaper than a tank of gas every week, or annual car insurance.
You are not fast. You are built for endurance. Open water swimming, distance running, and road cycling are your sports. Accept you may never win a race, but will always finish strong.
That’s true. Runners and cyclists are always passing me on the road no matter how hard I try.
If you learn to train properly, instead of just going out for a ride when you please, you will get stronger, faster, and more confident.
How do I do that?
I told you. Find hills, and climb them repeatedly.
Purchase more than one bike. You need one for the roads. Maybe two. One to train on. The other for organized cycling events. And, you need one for getting around the city to commute, and run errands. You may even want a mountain bike to enjoy the trails as well.
How can I afford it?
Make bikes a priority. Instead of spending money on a car or public transit, invest in your bikes.
Live where the weather is suitable for cycling all year round. And where the municipal government, and local businesses are supportive so you have a safe commute on dedicated bike lanes, and traffic calmed streets, and at the end of the trip, a secure place to store your bike for the day.
Yeah! I hate the snow and ice in these parts.
Learn to dress for all weather conditions. The heat. The cold. The wet. Weather is no reason to stop cycling. You need a waterproof kit – booties, pants, jacket, gloves, and helmet cover. And, learn the benefits of wool. It keeps you warm, even when its wet.
You are right. I need proper cycle clothing, especially those padded shorts. And spandex 😂
Build a bike shop. Find space in the basement or garage for your bikes. A place where you can store them out of the weather, out of site, and where you can work on them easily. This will encourage you to keep your bikes in good running order at all times.
What more can I say 🤔
What about women? My education? And, a suitable career? 🤔
Well, I have one last suggestion for you. Don’t procrastinate. Get to it! I waited too long, and don’t want you to make the same mistakes.