Yesterday I passed a jogger; A chubby guy dressed in sweats and laboring up a slight grade. New guy, I thought. I gave him a thumbs-up when I passed.

Adapting a sport like cycling or running is a lot like beginning a new relationship. Hey, wow, this is cool. I like her a lot. Does she like me? Will this work out? Maybe I should keep my options open for a while so I don’t make a fool of myself.

Like being in a relationship, being any sort of athlete is an identity. I didn’t call myself a cyclist until I’d been riding for 6 months or so. Saying, “I’m a cyclist,” is committing to the game. When you’re new and you’re laboring up that hill and you’re thinking about just how fat and slow you are and someone passes in a car, you feel like a poseur. It’s as if to even be out there you should have the BMI of an Olympian. 

Fuck that.

I think that keeps a lot of people from riding bikes. Or running. Or playing tennis. Because of course you suck when you’re new. It takes time to lose weight. It takes time to become reasonably competent. I’ve been riding bikes for nearly 20 years now and I will always suck compared to a lot of riders. But I’ve learned that that doesn’t matter.

I have fun.

I ride bikes.

I’m a cyclist. 

I might not say that if it weren’t for the people who encouraged me along the way.

And so I raise my thumb when passing struggling riders. Or runners. Because you never know how important a little encouragement from a stranger might be to that person.


About swampyankeecyclist

I'm Andy Engel, just a middle-aged, middle-class guy from Roxbury, Connecticut. I've been married to my best friend since 1988, and we have two grown sons. I like riding bikes, and my biggest accomplishment is the 180K D2R2. I own 5 bikes but my go-to rides are a 2016 GT Grade gravel and commuter bike and a 2016 Specialized 650b hardtail mountain bike. Additionally, I have a 2000-something carbon-fiber Orbea road bike, a 1990-something Specialized Sirrus that's my old dirt and commuter bike and which now serves as a spare and a trainer bike, and a 1985 Ross Mount Hood MTB. All but the 650b have Brooks saddles. I work from home now, but used to commute 32 miles round trip to work by bike year round. I was a carpenter and still love building things, but regular paychecks, insurance, and vacation time lured me into journalism. I've written a couple of books on carpentry, and I've been an editor at Fine Homebuilding, Fine Woodworking, and Professional Deck Builder magazines. Currently, I manage construction events at the JLC Live and Remodeling Show trade shows. Additionally, my wife and I run Transylvania Guest House, an Airbnb. Find us on Instagram. Come stay with us and I'll show you some great cycling.
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1 Response to Identity

  1. Leslie says:


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