As some of you have probably figured out by now, I am a road cycling NUT. I started cycling at about 5 years of age on various types of two-wheeled bicycles including the famous Banana bikes of the 1960’s. By the time I was in grade 8 (12 years-of-age) I had purchased my own 10-speed racing bike. My kind and generous uncle co-signed a bank loan of seventy dollars for a bike from the Sears department store. I worked hard that year at a paperboy job with meagre wages to pay for that first true road bike.
To be honest, I lived in a rather rough neighbourhood, on the west side of the city of Saskatoon, with my mom and four other siblings. One of the dangers of being a paperboy for the Star Phoenix was collection time. I was always at risk of being shaken down for money by a local gang of young thugs. More than once the newspaper deducted from my wages the money that was stolen by gang members. I eventually managed to pay for the bike via a second summer job at a horticultural nursery run by a Chinese community. I now realize, as an adult, that I was severely exploited by the aforementioned by working an eight hour day each Saturday for a mere five dollars a day.
Like many young teenagers in high school, I rode my bike to school. With a student population of about 1200, there must have been at least 1000 bikes locked up in a nook of the building hidden from public view. By the time I earned my driver’s license at 16, bicycles were pushed into the background in favour of various cars including a 1968 Mustang Convertible and a 1968 Jaguar E-Type roadster. I worked my butt off for those cars, but was never really able to afford the maintenance and upkeep of the Jag. I have to tip my hat to the Brits though, that particular Jag is still amongst the most beautiful sports cars of all time.
I took up cycling again in earnest at age 21 and I have never really looked back. Like many, I enjoyed the first decade of the mountain bike craze, but eventually came back to my first love – the road racing bicycle. As a young man with a family, I still pursued cycling and XC skiing with a passion. The tools of the trade(s) were inevitably expensive, and did cause some family tension about my priorities, yet I always managed to secure a second part-time job to finance my toys.
One of the things most younger riders take for granted today is the abundance of relatively cheap technology prevalent in cycling. In the 1980’s it cost over six hundred dollars for a Polar heart rate monitor. Few of us, outside of sports teams, could even afford such a beast. Fast forward to 2017, and I have a box full of used and discarded heart rate monitors and GPS devices. By far the most important tool for a cyclist to have today is a power meter. The device is indispensable for training (and racing) and has improved my training immensely since 2012. Going from almost two decades of paper-based training journals to the electronic equivalent in the mid 1990’s was also a Godsend. The software applications we use today to gather our training metrics, like Training Peaks WKO4 or Golden Cheetah are metaphorically lightyears ahead of anything we used, even in the last decade.
Over this cycling season I hope to write more about some of the unique insights I have gained about myself and my progress training on a road bike. Stronger, faster, smarter is my motto as I rapidly approach the sixth decade of my life.
It’s never too late to start cycling 🙂
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