The bike was always freedom and adventure for me. As a kid I would ride miles to a hobby shop to buy items I was interested in, from models, to army figurines. It allowed me to visit "far" places without relying on someone else to get me there.
Later, it allowed me to get in an extra conditions tool. Riding it to football weight lifting practice in the summer. I would eventually get an old map and try to make a loop in the back roads of Jackson. I think I even got in a "long" ride of 20ish miles! An old ROSS steel ten speed, was my partner. On those rides, I eventually got a bike computer and had a lot of hubris in knowing I was going 16-17 miles an hour. My first time time I payed attention to Bike Magazine and saw the Tour De France riders averaged in the upper 20mph and low 30 mph, my ego was blown away. What! How is this possible!
I learned about bigger rings and drafting in the peloton. But still, man that was fast. I was not.
I did my first bike race around 30 miles in Fenton, Michigan. Tour de Lacs. I thought I would do OK, because you know I rode my bike a bit and I was in football shape. I sucked. I remember watching a slightly over weight lady ride away from me up a hill. My ego took another hit. There was a lot of fast people out there, I was not one of them.
My friend took me mountain biking for the first time at 18. I was blown away by the ability to ride your bike in the woods. I spent most of my childhood running around the woods, exploring, building forts, climbing trees. Combining two of my favorite things was magical.
I rode on and off through various sports but never serious, just for fun. A lap here, a lap there. Weekend rider with an hour of trail when I had the time.
When I moved to Grand Rapids, I started riding a bit more. I'd try to rip a lap and see how fast I could get. One of my first friends was a National Champion Mountain biker. I'd ask her what a fast lap at the course I had thought I had just dominated. After realizing I was like 15 min slower then her best time, my ego took a hit. Even though she was "Endurance" she was fast. I was not.
Over the years, I'd ride more and more. Still not fast, but it confronted several ego driven beliefs. I was to big to be fast. I would then be passed by much larger individuals. Ah, my bike is no where as good as theirs. Then I would be passed by a guy on a 3 speed beach cruiser. I'm a lot older, as I get passed by clearly a man in his 60's. I have kids and then finding someone that can only ride from 9-11pm at night because he puts his kids to bed and he competes against pro's. My tires are wider, and then get passed by a fat bike.
Biking has obliterated all excuses. It points back to simply one thing. Did you put in the time and effort. The more you commit and ride, the faster you get. You can't buy speed. You can be fast at any age. You can be fast at any gender. You can be fast on any bike. It's all on you. The more you train the faster you get.
Biking has always been adventure and freedom. It has always been a great way to improve fitness. It's always been able to show me magical places. It now has been a way to show me my excuses aren't valid.
....I still am not fast.
...but I am faster then last year.
...and maybe I'll be faster the coming year.
But, if I'm not, it's not because of any of the excuses that have been demolished, it simply will be because I didn't do the one simple thing, ride my bike more.