6 Reasons Why I’ll Never Stop Road Cycling.

By Tom Demerly for tomdemerly.com

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The Kalamazoo crash has gutted us, frightened us, saddened us. It’s horror stabs our idyllic vision of springtime riding like shattered glass to an inner tube.

Collectively, we bleed.

But I will not stop riding my bike on the road. Ever. Here’s why:

  1. Riding a bike is freedom.

Unfettered, human powered, wind in your face freedom. It was our first freedom as a child and it remains the purest human powered freedom. Freedom isn’t free. The cost is risk. I know if I stay at home in a false cocoon of synthetic safety I will still die one day, having never truly lived.

So I will keep riding.

  1. I am fit, even though I am old. 

What do you call a 50-year-old marathon runner? A cyclist. Riding a bike is easy on my old body. And the wind that blows over my skin is the wind of a younger man’s life. I will never give that up.

Hospitals are crowded with the obese, the decrepit, the infirm and the physically disadvantaged, either by bad luck, neglect or age. But for now, I am not one of them. One day I will be, it is inevitable.

Until then, I will keep riding.

  1. Cycling is a beautiful sport. 

Bright colors from flashing leaves and green grass, sleek fabrics and delicate looking bikes sailing on pavement in wind-whisper silence. Sun-splashed glimpses with blurred peripheries. Riding a road bike is an opulent aesthetic feast for the senses.

When I ride I am fully engaged in a bubble of exuberance and vitality. My problems in the world fade. There is only speed and toil.

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Cycling has given us heroes and villains, big and brave; the dashing and arrogant Jacques Anquetil, first man to win 5 Tours de France, the simple and hardened Eddy Merckx, the abrasive and rugged Bernard Hinault, the affable and tragic Greg LeMond and the hate-able and controversial Lance Armstrong.

I will forever be both a fan and a practitioner, and I will never give that up.

  1. Riding a bike is one of life’s only fair exchanges.

You put in; you get out in roughly equal measure. Few things in life are that equitable, that fair, that rewarding. Toil your entire life at a career only to have it negotiated away. Raise a child who becomes a criminal. Fight a war that is revealed as a ruse. That’s life.

But this is the bike, and every time you push the pedal down the bike goes forward. Every hill is hard but if you do not stop you will reach the top. If you keep riding with the devotion of a religious zealot you will be rewarded with fitness and strength and vitality. Heaven is just a promise. Riding is real.

I do not know if I will go to heaven or hell, but I know if I keep pedaling I’ll get somewhere.

  1. I want to belong.

We have our own language, our own uniform, our own conventions and quarks. My legs have not had hair since I was 18. I never wear shorts unless I am on a bike. I only use sunscreen on my arms and back of my neck.

These are the marks of club membership, the universal club of the bike rider, the devotee’, the enthusiast, the disciple.

The great cycling writer Maynard Hershon once wrote about “drawing the snug blanket of cycling around us”. It is a blanket that contains only my closest friends. Only they have seen me at my weakest, my strongest. Only they understand.

I belong to them, they belong to me, and cycling holds us as common to each other.

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6. I want to be alone.

If you are an introvert who lives mostly between your ears then the bike is precious solace. In ten pedal strokes I am free. I ride my own pace, choose my own route. My only masters are fitness and fatigue, gravity and inertia. They are fair but ruthless arbiters. And I enjoy their quiet and stern company.

A quiet and urgent narrative instructs me on the bike. Things are simple. Go as fast as you can, never give up, come back in one piece.

The rest of life is not so straightforward. So I ride.

I’ve worked in the bicycle industry for 39 years. It was my first job. My lifelong best friend died on a bike. I’ve earned and lost a fortune from bikes. My second avocation, airplanes, was invented by a couple brothers from a bike shop in Ohio.

Riding a bike has given me a decent living, decent health, a decent outlook and a better than decent life.

That is why I’ll never stop.

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25 comments
  1. h2ofeo2 said:

    I’ve been on my bike since I started riding the back roads in Ohio one summer when I was in High School. (1970)- It was the same year I started running. Love both the sports equally, with swimming right up there also. I will still ride my road bike to train but I prefer my mtn. bike these days for many of the reasons you mention above, but mostly for safety. I’d rather fall into a cholla cactus and have it be my own fault than subject myself to the roads these days.

    • h2ofeo2 said:

      P.S. 50 is not old…I’ve got 12 years on you.

  2. Michael Miller said:

    If you Ride like you Write, I look forward to watching you next month in the Tour De France. Very Powerful!!

  3. Bob said:

    We should keep in mind that what happened in Michigan this week was actually a rarity compared to the thousands upon thousands of car-on-car collision fatalities that happen every year. A few years ago, much like in Michigan, authorities were out searching for a stoned and intoxicated driver in New York who got on the Taconic State Parkway going the wrong way. She ended up hitting a vehicle head on and causing fatalities, including her own. Let’s remember that most of the time, even with all the crappy drivers out there, cycling is relatively safe. Driving in a car is much less so.

  4. Joseph Cline said:

    Right there with ya on all points. Plus, I ride to defy, to show I’m still here & you goofballs who think you’re having a little fun are playing with our lives. And to the ones who are trying to intimidate us, to stand up and show you that you’re not going to win.

    But those are only a few moments that quickly pass. I ride because I love it. Always have & always will. From little boy to old man!

  5. Chrysta said:

    Thank you – very well written capturing the sentiments I strive to help my family understand about my passion for cycling and feeling alive.

  6. jeudyx said:

    Number 1 and 6 made me cry. Describe exactly how I felt about riding. Unfortunately, almost 2 years ago, a truck ran over my head (my helmet saved my life) and I decided to quit. I may do it again in the future.

    • I’m so glad you are OK! What a dreadful accident. Thank you so much for reading and for your kind words.

  7. Andy said:

    Tom – few people can hold a pen the way you do. I just had my Ridley stolen 2 days ago. Your 6 Reasons post has just generated a 7th – to cast aside strong emotions of loss, anger, and thoughts of retaliation and replace them with the endorphin-charged experience I get when riding across the United States with my buddies coast-to-coast, descending single track with Spanish Broom buds whipping me in the face, or just looking forward to this Sunday’s River Ride Century. I was hit by a truck 3 years ago which resulted in many painful rehab sessions after a concussion, fractured spine, broken elbow and collarbone. The secret: get back on the saddle and start smiling again.

    • Andy, I’m so sorry you lost your bike. Thank you for your kind words and for reading.

  8. I’ll keep riding too. For all the reasons you’ve eloquently listed. But I’ll always worry about getting run down from behind. Not constantly. But the thought is always there.

  9. Moji said:

    Very very beautiful writing. My condolences to all family and friends. I feel some of your pain.

    keep riding and stay safe

  10. Ken said:

    My first instinct upon hearing of this terrible tragedy was to hop on my bike, clear my mind, and send thoughts and prayers for those lost and their families. Loved your post! Ride On!

  11. john said:

    I salute all of you that keep riding. All six reasons ring true with me, but I went down last fall and broke my hip and while everything healed up well, I’m taking it as a warning shot. I might be back, but right now, I’ll be the slow 52 year old marathoner again

    • I hope the hip stays strong John. Thank you for reading and for your comments Sir.

  12. Wendy G said:

    Love it!!!!! Thanks for taking time to write and share

  13. Michael J said:

    Tom, thanks for taking the time to write this. Point number 6: Check. I am an introvert with a rather stressful job, and one good ride will dissolve many days of stress, allowing me to come home a ‘better me.’ The stillness of the world at 06:15 on a Saturday, when the only sound filling the fresh air is the chirping of birds, does as much for my head as it does for my body. Mens sana in corpore sano: For me, cycling covers both bases.

  14. Amen brother! This is very well said . . from another 50 year old marathoner.

  15. Chris said:

    This is a very eloquent summation of the attraction road cycling, and really hits home for me. I am a 51 year old who went from enjoying road cycling to having it become an extremely important, integral part of who I am. I truly feel better, mentally, emotionally and physically, on days I ride. Which is why I now average 6 days a week in the saddle. I credit cycling with getting me in the best shape of my life at 50 years old, and that is priceless. I am also an introverted person, so a couple of points sound like they came from inside my own head:
    …the wind that blows over my skin is the wind of a younger man’s life.
    My only masters are fitness and fatigue, gravity and inertia. They are fair but ruthless arbiters.
    Awesome writing!

  16. Amazing article. Thanks for putting into words what I haven’t been able to.

    • Thank you for reading Alex. See you on the road Sir. -Tom D.

  17. I enjoyed reading this article & have many feelings for cycling,started at 46 years old,1st bicycle,.I’m going on 81 in Sept. & still enjoy riding.Have done 30+ week rides in MIchigan,9 In Tennessee & 2 in North Carolina.I have a beautiful trail near where I live so I only ride on it now.Do miss beautiful country roads where I use to ride.I’m in very good health & have no problem sleeping at night .!!

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