If cycling makes you feel young, it’s probably because you forgot what it felt like

July 18, 2013 § 39 Comments

Every once in a while I have one of those conversations that makes sure I don’t ever have too many friends. I ran across a buddy the other day coming in on Palos Verdes Drive North. I was returning from a race and he was finishing up the all-day training regimen prescribed by his coach. “I feel great!” he said.

“That’s nice,” I answered, knowing that we were going to a bad place, soon.

“That’s why I love cycling. It keeps me young.”

“No, it doesn’t.”

Appalled silence at the heresy. “Sure it does. I feel better now at fifty than I did at twenty-five.”

“Then you must have felt like shit when you were twenty-five.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“When I was twenty-five I could ride 600 miles a week on a saddle designed to block all blood flow to the pelvic region, have boners on demand not to mention an ‘uninvited guest’ every time I saw a cute girl, memorize thousands of kanji with minimal effort, work late, get up early, and remember everything I read the first time through.”

“So?”

“Now I can ride 300 miles a week only if I bookend each ride with a three-hour nap. Boners require advance notice, an engraved invitation and a saddle with a cutout big enough to put my fist through, my memory is limited to breakfast, I collapse in a heap at nine o’clock, get up in the morning only with massive amounts of coffee, and can’t walk ten steps without having to take a pee.”

My interlocutor then pivoted onto the tried-and-true high school reunion comparison. “Yeah, but I feel so much younger compared to the people I went to high school with. I went to my 30th reunion and I was the youngest, slimmest, best looking person there. Most of them were so fat and hairless and in such bad shape or surgically altered that I couldn’t recognize them without name tags.”

“I’m sure that’s true. But bicycling isn’t ‘keeping you young.’ At best it’s slowing the rate of decay compared to your classmates, which rate is nonetheless rapid, irreversible, and accelerating logarithmically with each year.”

“That’s ridiculous. It’s not how old you are, it’s how old you feel. You’ve got to stay young at heart, and cycling keeps me young at heart.”

“Wrong again. It’s how old you are, not how old you feel. The most ancient-feeling two year-old is going to far outlast the youngest-at-heart centenarian ever. At fifteen, death is something that happens in movies and certainly not to you. At fifty, you’re so close to death you can see its outline in the mirror.”

“You’re such a cynic. Riding makes you feel young, admit it.”

“Riding makes me feel great, except for during, before, and after the ride. But it doesn’t make me feel young. I can’t even remember what young feels like.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Young is a state of mind where there’s more possibility than not. Young is an upward trajectory. Young is when forty seems incomprehensibly old. Young is when your mind has more hopes than memories. Young is the stench of hormones and the soup of raw emotions mixed with curiosity, intensity, infinite energy, and lust. Young is never a nine o’clock bedtime, unless you’ve been up for the last thirty-six hours.”

“I’m so much fitter now since I took up cycling five years ago. I’ve already ridden seven thousand miles this year. My kids couldn’t keep up with me on a bet.”

“Your kids don’t need to keep up with you. They’re already miles ahead.”

“How do you figure?”

“You can get on your bike and pedal for hours. Your kids can walk into a bar and get looked at by young girls. They win.”

“I’ve talked to plenty of young girls in bars.”

“Were you buying?”

” … yeah … “

“So which one is younger? The guy who rides all day with other old men and conquers high mountains and has to pay for conversation or the guy who walks into a bar and gets noticed by young women without having to buy?”

“The minute you stop trying, you’re dead. You gotta keep pushing yourself otherwise you stagnate and die. You gotta take the hard road, attack the mountain and avoid the flat path at all costs. You gotta push the envelope to bustin’, no matter how much it hurts, how tired you are, or how badly you want to quit. That’s how you stay young.”

“Not at all. The minute your heart stops beating, you’re dead, and this can easily happen when you get run over by a car while riding your bicycle. The best way to preserve life is not by riding a bike, it’s by staying indoors and watching TV while eating chips, drinking beer, and doing thirty minutes a day on the trainer.”

“But that’s not living!”

“Of course it is. Each person gets to decide how they want to spend their allotment of time. But no one gets to stay young, and no one gets out of here alive.”

“So why do you ride then, Mr. Grumpy Old Fart?”

“Do I have to have a reason?”

“C’mon. You love it. Admit it, Mr. Grumpy Cat Face.”

“I love it. But I don’t know why, and it sure isn’t keeping me young, judging from my hair loss and other objective indicia.”

“Ah, whatever.”

The road had now reached the intersection with Silver Spur, a steep, awful, punishing one-mile slab of pavement that invariably wrung your final breaths out of your lungs no matter how strong you felt. “I’m turning here. Join me? It’ll add a couple of miles and a touch of climbing, but will still put you back in Redondo.”

“No, thanks. That’s too hard a climb for just now.”

“Really? C’mon, dude. The minute you stop trying, you’re dead. You gotta keep pushing yourself otherwise you stagnate and die. You gotta take the hard road, attack the mountain and avoid the flat path at all costs. You gotta push the envelope to bustin’, no matter how much it hurts, how tired you are, or how badly you want to quit. That’s how you stay young.”

He scowled, but made no attempt to turn. “You’re forgetting something.”

“What’s that?”

“The only thing dumber than paying a coach to tell you how to ride is paying him to tell you how to ride and then not taking his advice.”

“Even if it makes you old?”

“Even if it makes you old.”

He had a point, which was, I think, that I’m lucky I don’t have a coach. I tackled the climb and got to the top exhausted and sore and, I’m afraid, just a little bit older than when I started.

§ 39 Responses to If cycling makes you feel young, it’s probably because you forgot what it felt like

  • Peter Schindler says:

    Truer words were never spoken. You have captured the essence of aging. Even if you feel young, the non replaceable parts are wearing out.

  • rich says:

    If cycling makes you feel young you’re riding with a bunch of slow old farts.

  • JP says:

    “Young is when your mind has more hopes than memories.” Every once in a while, amongst all your bs, you write some bumper sticker-quality deep ass shit I really like. Then again that could just be me about to release this deep ass shit. NPR in 10! Can’t wait to feel young flailing with ya!

  • Albacore says:

    Precisely the reason there are t-shirts and bumper stickers that read, “The older I get, the better I was.”

  • DPCandND...FBBC says:

    And…be careful about only riding to stay young. Don’t let that osteoporosis non weight bearing exercise shit come back to bite your skinny little veined ass…lift something, somewhere, besides at the gym. Like hundred pound fence posts and spools of 12 gauge wire.

  • Bill Stone says:

    Cross-Fit. And Hot Yoga.

  • Uncle Tone says:

    The good news about aging is that in about ten or fifteen years your recollection of your youth will be about as precise as your recollection of having read Macbeth in high school. And will be just as important.

  • Mo'Nilla says:

    Is arrested development the same as staying young?

  • Hwy. 39 says:

    You are young and life is long and there is time to kill today
    And then one day you find ten (20, 30…) years have got behind you…

    The sun is the same in a relative way but you’re older, shorter of breath and one day closer to death.

    Oh Dog, that song is forty years old. I’ve been way too happy lately, Wanky. Thanks for pissing in my corn flakes. Excuse me while I crawl under the covers and read The Road and The Bell Jar.

  • Wild Bill 6949 says:

    I haven’t laughed so much reading a blog in quite a time. You’ve really nailed the aging phenomena on this one….

  • R. White says:

    What was that first part?…

  • Skip Barrett says:

    Seriously, cycling won’t make me younger? Man, that makes me sad.

  • Tom Morgan says:

    Cycling can make you feel close to death and once ceased, the contrast may reveal its attraction. I have heard it said that we are never so alive as we are in those moments when we are close to death (excepting natural causes) and sometimes I wonder if my riding is a search for that feeling.

    • Admin says:

      I was feeling pretty alive last night after a Stone IPA and a Sierra Nevada Torpedo, followed by a honking plate of Korean barbecue, kimchi, rice, and yogurt/fruit/ice cream for dessert all concluded with 9:00 PM bedtime. No where near death, or a bike, or the business end of an SUV on road rage, but somehow feeling way alive.

  • Rob says:

    50 is not the new 30. 50 is 50. It’s old. I’m 50 and old. The right amount of exercise and proper diet will help you stay disease free but it’s still no guarantee. It’s the best we can do.

  • bobpete says:

    Being young is over-rated. Sure you’re better looking, may have more sex, are stronger and more skillful at whatever your hobbies are, but… you live with the burden of opportunity and expectation. You’re expected to go to the right school, get a great job, marry a beautiful woman, buy that house in PV, raise a family and send your kids to great schools. Being young is exhausting… And even if you could have been the best biker, runner, skier, whatever your glory sport was who had the time. Most young people around here will probably become over-worked frustrated weekend warriors which is good because we’ll need our social security checks.

    Now being old… being old is cool. You can drink more than you should because what does it matter. You can get up to pee numerous times at night which is a good excuse to sleep late. Trouble sleeping late, no worries there’s a pill for that or for you boomers just get some medical pot, you remember pot right? Sure you could try to hold some cute girl’s wheel on the switch-backs but then you realize she’s old enough to be your daughter, you don’t want to be considered a dirty old man, which is reason enough to just back off and peddle up at an age appropriate pace (like you could have held Tink’s wheel anyway…). Heck you can always sort your Strava results by age and brag about your page 1 geezer results to your wife. Honey I’m one of the stronger old farts on the hill, see you really did marry well. What more should you expect?

    I’m good with old, hell, I am old!

    Forgive me If I were younger I would have made this comment earlier when your blog post was fresh – it does take me a bit longer to figure this internet thing out.

  • Jon Trimble says:

    I ride vicariously with you on the NPR via Robert’s VIMEO capture. That keeps me young without breaking a sweat. What was the question?

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