I didn’t think I was that into bicycles, but I think I might have a problem.
Sure, I know, compared to most people, I do a lot of bicycling. I try to get in three good rides a week, and I’ll hop on an indoor bike trainer on those days where I just don’t feel like getting soaked to the bone outside, or spending more time cleaning my bike than riding it.
But it’s not like I’m constantly posting times or data on workout efforts to a fitness app for everyone to see.
The reason I bike that often is because I have bad knees so I can’t go for a run. An MRI seven or eight years ago showed worn down cartilage in addition to a torn meniscus; the orthopedist suggested I stick to low-impact activities to make what was left last as long as possible.
At the time I was starting to do triathlons as a way to get back into shape after a few too many bacon double cheeseburgers. I hadn’t done very much biking since high school, when I frequently found myself riding around town because my parents had suspended my driving privileges, usually for not doing my homework. I rode a lot.. In the long run, it was great cross-training for soccer and track, but I hope my own kids take note that I have made it much further with my brain than my athletic ability — so do your homework.
I also had a mountain bike in college for getting around campus, but pedaling back up the hill to my dorm was the extent of the mountain biking I did at the time.
By the way, I still have that mountain bike. I keep waiting for the folks at Tsalteshi Trails to do a vintage bike race night; but the fact that I won’t get rid of that bike is probably a symptom of the problem.
As I was saying, the doctor told me to stick to low-impact activities, so the running part of triathlons was out. I still do the swimming part, though in my opinion, the best part of the triathlon swim was finishing it so I could go get on my bike.
Still, I didn’t think I was any more obsessed with cycling than anyone else is with their particular workout. But the signs are starting to show up more and more.
First, there’s my social media feed. I like to think of myself as a well-rounded person, but I would say 90 percent of my photos involve me on a bike. The rest are of my dogs and I hardly ever post anything about my own kids. My son once noted that I treat my bikes better than a lot of people treat their spouses; but maybe I should be paying a little more attention to my family — I’m sure my teenage kids will love that.
Then there’s the fact that when I talk about my bikes, it is more than one — many more than one, and I continue to add to the collection. There’s the old mountain bike, a not quite as old mountain bike, a new mountain bike, a fat bike, a road bike, and, just recently added, a cyclocross bike, which is basically a road bike with knobby tires. So that’s six bikes, which some may say is more than you actually need. In fact, there are heretics out there who say you just need one bike and you can just change the tires for different surfaces. But why take all that time changing tires when you can just swap out bikes?
In any case, the ‘cross bike isn’t just a ‘cross bike, it’s a single-speed ‘cross bike. That means just one gear for going uphill, downhill, and everything in between. And I think that’s the point where I realized I might have a problem.
I ended up going with a single-speed bike for what I thought was a good reason — even though I was looking for used models, a single-speed version was less than half the price of the multi-speed bikes I was scoping out, and I figured saving a few hundred dollars would be good for my marriage. (See, I can put my family before a bike!)
The thing with single-speeds, though, is that everything is hard. Either you’re pedaling way faster because you don’t have a big gear to shift into, or you’re struggling not to fall over because you don’t have a granny gear with which to make it up a hill. Because of that, you have to put a lot of thought into something I had never given a second thought to before — the number of teeth on your front chain ring and your rear sprocket.
And that’s when I started to think I might be way too into this. (I’ve got a 40-tooth chain ring and a 16-tooth sprocket, if you were wondering, but I’m thinking about trying an 18-tooth sprocket — those hills get pretty brutal by the end of a race.)
And if you don’t believe me when I tell you how much effort I’m putting in to riding that single-speed bike, well, I just might have to start posting my data to one of those apps …
Reach Clarion editor Will Morrow at firstname.lastname@example.org.