Don’t burn out

July 19, 2017 § 31 Comments

It’s hard to continue anything, but it’s especially hard to continue riding a bike, and it’s virtually impossible to continue racing one. The average life span of a bike racer is 2-3 years. I made up that fake number because in my experience that’s about how long it takes for a person to realize how out of whack the risk-reward arithmetic is.

Enthusiastic sport cycling may last a bit longer, but not much. Every year I see people get into riding, buy all the gear, do all the rides, make a bunch of friends, and then vanish, which is the time you can pick up some great deals on bike stuff with a well-placed phone call. The people who stick around have a few things in common.

  1. They actually love riding their bike, however you define “riding” or “bike.”
  2. They have a schedule.
  3. They wake up early.
  4. Riding is an end unto itself.

The people who burn out are a much more diverse group, but here are the warning signs. The problem is that these warning signs also exist among people who’ve been doing it for decades. When a new rider does all of these things, though, get ready for a Roman candle flame-out.

  1. Extremely competitive.
  2. Bikes for multiple disciplines before they’ve gotten good at even one.
  3. Strava/data/power obsession.
  4. Coaches and/or training plans.
  5. Huge miles.
  6. Only talks about cycling.
  7. Haven’t had their first big crash.
  8. Extremely focused on gear.
  9. Huge progress in a very short period of time.
  10. Big job or family stresses.

If you’re the kind of person who throws herself fully into new things, and you have a pattern of burning out in other new endeavors but really want to hang onto cycling, here are a few tips that will help.

  1. Make sure that half your rides have no competitive element whatsoever.
  2. Only own bikes you regularly ride.
  3. Do half your rides (or more) without a Garmin or Strava.
  4. Come up with a “longevity” plan with your coach. Coaches hate burnout worse than anyone.
  5. Halve your mileage.
  6. Read a (non-cycling) book.
  7. Set a monthly/annual gear spending limit.
  8. Don’t do more than 5 races a year.
  9. Ride with your significant other.
  10. Learn the names of your children

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