To the wives of mountain bikers; from the delusional, dirty, oft-distracted men you married.
First thing first. Thanks. We ask a lot from you. You have been our crew at races, our nutritional experts, our sponsors, and our sounding boards. We know that such things were not always high on your list of Things-I-Want-To-Do-When-I-Get-Married, but nevertheless, here you are. Your understanding and support means the world to us. The only thing better than crossing the finish-line of a long-anticipated race is seeing you (and the kids!) at that finish-line. Thank you.
We men are strange creatures. Our intuitive instincts demand that we conquer the world around us. For thousands of years men have engaged in dominant behavior; we farm, hunt, build, and when that isn’t adequate, we make war. War is in our very nature. Our paradigm of the world is clouded with the fog of war.
Part of that warrior mentality is an innate desire to provide for ourselves, and our families. Until about 70 years ago doing so was fairly straightforward. If we needed food, we killed an animal or worked a farm. If we needed a house, we built one. Luxury and comfort were far subordinate to survival. Life was difficult, but fulfilling.
Modernity changed everything.
Today we are trapped behind desks. Food comes from well-lit grocery stores, heat comes from a thermostat, and our homes are more advanced and comfortable than any human dwelling in history. That need to conquer and provide has been replaced, warped. Instead of providing the essentials of survival with our hands, we perform menial tasks in an office, and are given a paycheck that simply buys needed supplies. This is hardly a bad thing, but it is a remarkably different (and new) method of earning a living. Life is soft, and not always fulfilling.
Our culture has changed. But our warrior gene has not.
And that is why we race our bikes.
We need something to conquer. We need adrenaline and uncertainty and risk. We need rivalry. We need to know that if we had to, we could physically conquer the world; that we could be the alpha male. And so we race our bikes. And in doing so, ward off enemies, and the effects of age, disease, and mid-life crisis. We are more emotionally stable, physically healthy, and culturally engaged because we race our bikes. Our introverted nature is reversed, forcing us to socialize amicably (once the race is over) rather than constantly spar with one another in the perpetual and destructive rut that has defined manhood since the very beginning. Despite its primal foundations, bike racing has turned men into sophisticates, capable of respectable, normal lives. We have beat our swords into wheelsets.
You know this is true. You know that we are better men because of the bicycle. We are distracted by carbon-fiber instead of secretaries. Our “poker-nights” are spent in yurts or on singletrack. Our mid-life crisis is an expensive bike, rather than a sports car, hair plugs, and a DUI. Our legs are the envy of women everywhere.
We know that sometimes we become overly focused on our fitness, our bikes, and our races. We know that you know that we’d much rather be training than be at your second-cousins’ dress rehearsal of Death of a Salesman. And we know that bikes and races and carbon soled shoes add up. Maybe you are right that that money would be better spent on new carpet, a car repair, or food for the kids.
But consider the alternative.
If we didn’t race, we’d be overweight and diabetic. We’d be ornery. We’d complain about our station in life more than we already do. Our legs would be hairy, pasty, and ambiguously defined. Instead of a $5,000 bike in the garage, there’d be a $450,000 Mercedes SLR McClaren.
If we didn’t race our bikes, we’d be forced to repress our warrior ancestry. An explosion would be imminent. One day you’d wake up wondering how your husband, pudgy and pasty, turned up in a high-roller casino suite in Las Vegas with 3 call-girls and a kilo of cocaine; the FBI, DEA, ATF, and mafia shilos chasing him.
Indeed, when you consider the alternatives, it is you who owes us your gratitude.
Bike racing has kept us out of jail.