Everybody has their way of dealing with challenges or difficulties. However, the two general solutions are to face our issues head on or to seek an alternate route. There is no incorrect way. What it comes down to is what makes you happy. I realize that many people face greater difficulties than a bad day on the bike or poor race results or lack of training time. For me, time on a bike and how it relates to the rest of my life is of great importance. Cycling has provided a balance that I truly could not imagine living without. Yet, recently I found myself worrying and thinking constantly about how I am not “properly maintaining” that balance. My race schedule this season has pretty much imploded within the vacuum of life. What used to be regular 50-60 mile training rides riddled with hill repeats and sprint intervals has diminished to 10-15 miles simply to get somewhere without having to drive my car. A recent move, career and photography commitments have meant very little time on two wheels. Now, I could very well get up at 5 am and ride the trainer or take my bike to the office and do intervals during my lunch. Believe me, I wish I could just Mike Bernhard the shit out this “slump” and go crush 80 miles of gravel “on my way home”. That would be facing the issue head on. I also wish I had a full head of gorgeous flowing hair but some things are just not meant to be. Instead, I took a moment to think about what was of real importance to me, at this time and guess what…cycling is still up there but may be changing its role in my life for a wee bit. Am I giving up racing? HELL NO! Instead, I am seeking an alternate route, a fresh approach which better fits my life right now. More importantly, I am riding my bike purely for enjoyment and quickly finding that when I am not struggling to reach a goal or improve my time or prepare for a race, I am rediscovering the childlike exuberance which can be found while simply going for a ride.
Rather than a tool strictly for fitness or competition a bicycle is equally important for exploration and escape. Often I find that my saddle is as effective as any therapist’s couch. A friend of mine recently experienced a tremendous loss in her life and immediately she went out and purchased a new bike. I wrote to her how perfect I found this to be and told her that I personally have found that one of the greatest and often overlooked benefits of a bike is the ease at which one can pedal out both tears and hangovers. Try it! Strap a tent, sleeping bag and a bottle of whiskey to your bike, ignore your phone and go get lost for a few days.
Its a freedom unlike anything else. You can not possibly imagine the things you miss in life at 70 mph from within a metal box. Every summer I make it a point to do this. Slowly, summer by summer, 5 days at a time, I have explored just about every mile of shoreline and brewery from Sawyer to Charlevoix or more precisely, Green Bush Brewing Company to Charlevoix Brewing Company. This glorious state of ours has so much to offer not only your eyes with its scenery but combined with its people, towns, trails, and mostly beautiful weather it is sure to feed your wander lust and rejuvenate a soul’s longing for something more than work, eat, shit, sleep, repeat.
Anybody who believes that Michigan is not one of the greatest states in the country has simply not truly tried to explore it. Trust me, I used to be one of the biggest midwest nay sayers. There was a somewhat foggy period of my life where I tried desperately to escape the boring old Mitten and, I’ll admit, I found myself in some pretty amazing locations throughout the United States and experienced things which I will never regret nor forget. However, I came back and much to my surprise, discovered a passion for cycling and my home which has all but paralleled that of my prior endless meandering. Quickly I found that in one day you can easily pedal from the city skyline to farmland to shoreline and back again. More importantly, I realized how quickly I could make new discoveries not just of my surroundings but of myself.
So I may not find myself on a podium anytime soon. So I can’t hang with the “A” ride anymore. So my spandex fits a bit more snug as of late. You know what? I really don’t give a damn. I will still do a race here and there and definitely join my friends and teammates for group rides as often as possible. I still have obligations to my team and my sponsors. Lets just say that, for now, I am approaching cycling as Elbert Hubbard approached life when he said “Do not take life too seriously. You will never get out alive.”. Throw some platform pedals on your cruiser and work on your smile instead of your pedal stroke. Listen to how happy your heart sounds when its not redlining. Please, do not ever take your time on a bicycle too seriously or you will fail to realize why you are riding in the first place….even if you are last.