Jason Keil

Jason Keil is a writer whose work has been published in the Phoenix New Times, AZCentral.com, Phoenix Magazine, and OnMilwaukee.com. He also co-hosts the podcast What The Fork.

The Price Of Cycling

I was reminded on the day of this writing how frustrating endurance sports can be. Especially cycling. 

Less than five miles into my planned 50 mile ride, my rear tire went flat for the second time in a week. As I pedaled further, I was overtaken by people who are in better shape and have superior equipment. My second-hand Cannondale CAAD8 looked like a Ford Pinto in comparison to the sleek rides passing me on the left. I felt my jersey ride up and my shorts fall down. My saddle caused such a pain in my ass I felt as if my taint would tear in two. 

Never has a sport made me feel so self-conscious. I felt like Molly Ringwald watching a bunch of Andrew McCarthys and James Spaders pedal by in the Pretty In Pink prom finale that was supposed to be my weekend long ride, dressed in form-fitting bike jerseys highlighting their favorite beer, college team, or one of the races they probably won as I tried to cover up the grease stains on the jersey I received from my fundraising efforts a year ago. I often wonder if Lance Armstrong's money would've been better spent on one of the $10,000 bikes that are often reviewed in Bicycling magazine instead of EPO. 

That morning, I threw in the towel and gave up on my 50 miles. A feeling of defeat came over me as I only logged half my intended amount (In my defense, I logged 20 miles the day before riding to and from work).

I find cycling so vexing. Unlike running, which is my first love and was part of the solution to my loss of 100 pounds four years ago, the enjoyment of clicking into your pedals and climbing up elevations seems to be 60 percent determined by the quality of your equipment. Athletic ability plays a huge part, but it seems like you can invest in an edge with aerodynamic wheels and helmets.

With running, your biggest expense is your shoes, which will last you at least a year. You're going to pay at least 15 times more to get a shiny bike, and then you're going to need cleats, pedals, gloves, and then you have to be fitted onto your equipment. Then, if you want a saddle that doesn't require a pack of ice on your junk, a few more Benjamins will provide that luxury experience you desire. 

Don't get me wrong, I am well aware athleticism and intense and consistent training is involved. Most days, cycling can be amazing. I like the balance of it. For every uphill, there's a downhill waiting. In a scenic city such as Phoenix, the views as you make your descent can be breathtaking. I don't listen to music when I'm pedaling, so I feel more in tune with my surroundings. Like running, it can be enjoyed alone, but it's so much better with a group.

I still like cycling. Putting together this laundry list of cons doesn't even begin to outweigh the pros that come with taking it the sport. Inspiration and motivation passes me by on the road often. Then there's this guy, who I follow on Facebook. He's out there everyday, and makes me wonder why I even complain at all. 

I had noble reasons to even take up the sport. I did it for a girl. When we knew things were going somewhere, she mustered up the courage to tell me she had multiple sclerosis. She was unsure how I’d take the news and was surprised when I asked, “What can I do to help?” Bike MS was her answer.

Last year, I rode over 50 miles in the scenic mountains of Sedona and raised over $900 for The National MS Society. That girl eventually became my wife and here I am again, getting up earlier on a Saturday than I would on a weekday, putting lotion on my butt, and strapping on my helmet for a ride. People find this fun, and I suppose those people probably have the money to allow them to do so. I, on the other hand, think that my fun is coming. I just hope it's sooner than later.

Epilogue

I mentioned I took up bicycling for a noble cause, which is the other reason why I shouldn't whine so much in a blog post. The week my wife finished her first Ironman triathlon, she was diagnosed with MS.  Instead of sulking, she amassed a huge team of her friends to go on a bike ride to fund MS research and has been one of the top fundraisers in the state of Arizona the last two years. It was pretty inspiring to me. When she could have easily felt sorry for herself, she decided she would kick the disease in the balls.

My wife currently shows no symptoms because she monitors it with medication and remains active, but it's something that we don't want to be part of our future. If any of this inspires you and compels you to donate, I recommend you express this feeling by generously donating to the cause. Please click here and thank you!