Why race bikes?
So last spring/summer I started road racing with the UBC Cycling team, taking part of the collegiate racing in the Northwest conference. Collegiate racing was a great introduction into the world of biking racing for me, being alongside people of similar mindsets. Everybody is just a student who likes to ride bikes, and in that sense they probably don’t take themselves too seriously as bike racers. And of course, why should we? Bike racing is just another avenue we happen to go down and explore while enjoying the hobby of cycling.
Cycling itself is a form of expression, a way to extend your body to perform in extraordinary ways. The reason why I got into bike racing was because I’m the type of person who always wants (or needs?) that competitiveness to keep pushing myself to do better. So the collegiate season was like a way to make friends from different US schools, and get a taste of this competitiveness.
After finishing the collegiate season, coming into form late into the season I continued to race at local events. The weekly criterium series were in full effect and it was easy to go roll out and race together, then ride home together. In essence, the racing itself was fast and painful, but it was the endorphine fueled group ride after the race that was even more enjoyable. Coming down from an intense effort, everybody groups up and heads home, chatting about their love of bicycles, and life. This is the good life.
But every racer encounters a moment when they ask themselves why do it at all? For me, and maybe for many others as well, this happens after (or during?) a crash. As it happens in all fast pace events with humans, mistakes happen and this leads to crashes. Crashes vary in intensity, some just a light tumble, others have you violently being attached to the ground. Just a light touch of wheels as you’re sprinting at 50km/h, and in a split second you know pain is coming next. Appendages flail in the air, your face contorts into what is probably a funny picture, and you hit the ground.
You get up, dazed, checking over yourself, hoping that it’s not as bad as it was last time. Phew, no broken bones, it could always be worse right? You recall the rider you saw lying in the ditch as you did your race laps around the circuit, holding his shoulder in pain. As the adrenaline subsides, the pain slowly creeps in, the bruises on your shoulder, and leg. And then you wonder why you keep doing this, why you continue to risk your body race after race.
Pain and suffer
So I originally started writing this article after I crashed out at one of my races. But now it’s almost 4 weeks later, and between that time I can say it has probably been one of the most difficult, or trying times of my racing career. After crashing, I wrote everything above to express my thoughts on racing, and then I proceeded to race again to because honestly I enjoyed the thrill of it, the fact that you’re pushing your body to it’s limits of performance.
Recently at one of my races I was attending, I was sitting in the parking lot waiting for my races as other groups went out earlier. I heard on the radio that there was a crash, but as a racer, you know that crashes happen and I thought nothing of it. Then as the radio calls proceeded to sound, it sounded like the crash was more severe than just a roadside spill and road rash. Then the ambulance sirens were heard, and word of helicopter airlifting was talked about. As time ticked by, our races were delayed and then we were kept in the dark about any sort of details. We sat around, racers sitting around trying to comprend the situation, dealing with it however we could.
We didn’t know whether or not the races would continue, and what to expect. I sat around once again, thinking about why I race. We went out for a short spin to clear our minds, and got word that races would continue so we headed back. When we went back, we learned that the crashed rider has passed away.
How fucked up is that? What do you even do in such a situation? This just brings me back to the question of why we do it at all. Is it worth it for the thrill, the adrenaline of pushing your body to it’s limits, the discover of the abilities your body can do on the limit?