My name is Snappy and I’m an addict
..and you all respond in unison "Hi Snappy".
So what’s with on-line clubs? Newbies to any online forum are so keen to get involved. They want to contribute to every topic (whether they know anything about it or not) and the forum always open in their browser. Every email notification is switched to 'on' so they don’t miss a thing, and everyone who replies to their topic is a new best friend. (editor’s note: Maybe rewrite this bit and chisel off the cynical edges)
But things do settle down and the newbie reverts to type. We learn what really makes them tick from the topics they keep returning to. You might read “Yeah, I agree those gels are awful…. but maybe they’d taste nicer if we didn’t have to wear helmets all the time?” (editor: NO, NO and NO - that’s gotta go)
Some people start to reveal a dark sense of humour and make little quips that endeavor to brighten the tedium of another long ride report (editor: careful!). Others simply read the topics and hardly ever respond because they've seen most of these subjects before, and only visit the forum to keep in touch.
Forums are most fun when they start and the community is small. There’s the illusion that you “know” everyone who contributes and it feels like your gang. But when it becomes so large and popular that you don’t recognize as many avatars you can feel like you’re talking to strangers. It’s not the same anymore. Things get big, people start to get snippy, because it’s easier to be snippy with someone you don’t really know, and then you get factions and it all breaks up into new smaller groups. This is not unique to online forums. It’s the way of the world. Whole countries, political parties, churches and chess clubs have all been doing this for years.
Jeez, how did I get there? Sorry. Oh yeah, but there is another alternative to the online politics. Put down the mouse and go and ride your bike. It puzzled me that an outdoor pursuit resulted in people spending so much of their leisure time sitting at a computer. (Yes, I’m aware of the irony here, thanks). And that’s the heart of Adelaide Cyclists. Yes it’s an online club, but it’s greatest moments are not when we’re talking to each other online, but talking to each other from a bike saddle, or across a coffee after a ride.
After a year or so I noticed that I was riding more and more, and maybe commenting here a bit less. For a while I was riding once or twice a week. Tuesday mornings I’d be up the bollards and back and then Saturday I’d sneak off for a longer explore in the hills. Then some weeks I added another ride on Wednesday, or maybe I'd go out with those guys on Friday mornings. Not to mention the freedom to swing a leg over and head out alone anytime I felt like it.
I saw two benefits to this. Adding even one extra ride per week caused a jump in my fitness and secondly I got to mix with more groups and meet different people. The catch, and there’s always a catch, is that it all takes time. Time when I couldn’t be with my family and time when I couldn't be working. When people talk about achieving work-life balance they mean the problem of spending too much time at the office for their own good. I struggle to keep a cycling-work balance because if I cycle too much I won’t have much work left. It’s great meeting new people on a ride, but the people dearest to me - my family and many non cycling friends - can be left out of the loop.
As a hobby, cycling works on so many levels:
So you can see how easily people can get hooked on cycling. A side note to that last point. An AFL- mad mate of mine said the other day, “Jeez, it’s transfer season. I never thought Buddy would leave Hawthorn’’. I said “Yeah, I was even more surprised than when Cavendish left Sky last year”. He went a bit quiet. He may have been less confused if I’d told him I was gay.
On the fitness thing, the drive to become fitter became a major motivation. I wanted to keep up with the faster guys. At first simply because it was embarrassing to keep them waiting at the top of every hill, but then slowly I started to get obsessed by fitness and to watch my times or even worry about arcane things like ‘heart rate’. (editor: don’t even mention power meters). It felt good to be able to ride long distances without feeling like you were struggling at the bleeding edge all day, and arrive home feeling fresh.
Want to be fitter = want to ride more = want to be fitter = want to ride...
Hmmm- Does anyone see a problem developing here?
The flip side to this is I have to remind myself that at fifty I’m never going to be a top athlete so who am I kidding. Secondly, I need to be careful not to only choose my rides by how fast or hard they might be. Some people I’ve enjoyed riding with are quite happy going for a once-a-week pootle around town. If I diss them because that ride won’t be good “training” that would be a pretty sad situation.
The take home messages for me: Remember ALL the different reasons why you love cycling, and don’t be a dick. Remember not everyone is as obsessed by bikes as you are, and don’t be a geek!