As this road season comes to a close for me, I’ve had some time to reflect on everything I’ve learned. And for my first real go at a full racing season, it’s been quite the ride! So many highs and lows, but nothing I would change. I can honestly say that for all the illness, injury, crashes, pain, loneliness, fear, depression, and pure exhaustion, none of it outweighs how much I love racing my bike. Period. So to show my great love for the sport, and cap off a pretty eventful season, I compiled a list of the top 100 things I learned… can you believe it’s condensed too?!
1. Only bike racers really understand bike racers.
2. Good bike handling skills earn respect, so brush up!
3. Your car will become your home.
4. You would much rather die than DNF.
5. Tan lines are inevitable.
6. You’ll start driving like you’re in a criterium.
7. You can’t be a bike racer and not drink espresso.
8. Everyone drinks beet juice, it’s no secret!
9. You’re not a real bike racer until you’re willing to travel to a bike race alone.
10. If you don’t wash your water bottles soon after use, they will get mouldy.
11. There are dues to be paid, and you don’t get to decide whether you’ve paid them or not.
12. Spandex becomes your second skin.
13. If you’re scared of crashing, you should probably change sports.
14. Suffering will become your middle name.
15. Resourcefulness takes you a long way, but being cheap isn’t necessarily best.
16. All of your money will go to food and race entry fees.
17. You’ll stay in dozens of people’s homes you don’t know.
18. You’ll realize there are many other athletes just as determined as you.
19. You’ll go through hundreds, if not thousands of dollars in bike parts.
20. You’ll be called “junior” hundreds of times until you learn how to handle your chain without being covered in grease.
21. You’re likely to feel the urge to throw up when you line up with pros for the first time.
22. Your Garmin is a great training tool, but isn’t what you should be staring at during a race!
23. You’ll develop an innate need for speed – especially bombing down mountain passages.
24. The cycling community is small, so be nice!
25. Male cyclists know a surprising amount about hair removal.
26. Coffee in a styrofoam cup from a race venue will never replace espresso.
27. Gluten is the devil!
28. Shammy time is not training time, it’s rash time.
29. Racing pros doesn’t mean you’re pro.
30. Never show up to Tour of the Gila feeling less than 100%
31. If you don’t have the luxury of a bus or van, changing and applying shammy butter in the middle of a parking lot is what you’re left with.
32. Believe in yourself.
33. Nail art, earrings and hairstyles become the way women express their femininity on the bike.
34. Male cyclists talk more about their weight than female cyclists.
35. Cycling isn’t just a sport, it’s a lifestyle.
36. You’ll make some amazing friends.
37. Compression wear is a great recovery tool, just don’t be caught racing or training in it, you’ll be subject to much mockery.
38. Almost all road cyclists are slightly OCD.
39. Quality over quantity.
40. Road racing is like chess. Final smart move wins.
41. Winning a race can feel like an elusive feat.
42. You’ll push your body past what you thought was your maximum.
43. Every race is a learning experience regardless of outcome.
44. You’ll never stop learning.
45. Everyone’s journey is different, so don’t compare!
46. Racing without a team is like racing with your brakes rubbing – always at a slight disadvantage.
47. You’ll meet some of the coolest like minded people.
48. You’ll live with dozens of new people, and quickly learn how to work around their ritualistic behaviour.
49. You’ll end up watching a lot of crap TV, not necessarily by choice.
51. It never gets easier, you just get faster.
52. Good host families are like gold, so treat them as such!
53. Always show respect.
54. Downhillers party the hardest, and will hit on you the hardest.
55. Getting sucked into the race bubble is akin to a black hole.
56. Listen to the veterans. There’s a reason they’re fast.
57. At the end of the day, results do matter.
58. Don’t size up your competition at the start line – appearances can be deceiving!
59. The love of bike racing has to out weigh the sacrifices.
60. Race brain results in many “shit where are my keys!” moments.
61. You’ve got to be able to adapt and go with the flow.
62. You’ll plan, and plan, and plan, with maybe a fraction of your plan going accordingly. But at least you planned!
63. You’ll hear “if only I was a kg or two lighter…” uttered from every cyclist’s mouth, everyday.
64. Never comment on the muscularity of a cyclist’s upper body.
65. Check your fear at the door.
66. Equipment matters.
67. Loneliness is inevitable.
68. Ice in a sports bra is a genius idea.
69. You’ll need someone other than yourself to believe in you for those days you want to crawl into a hole.
70. Always congratulate. Jealousy gets you nowhere.
71. Boulder, Colorado is a cyclist’s heaven.
72. There are no free rides in cycling, all hard work.
73. Strength training doesn’t mean body building.
74. Recovery is your best friend.
75. Inequality between genders in cycling is very real.
76. You have to accept your vulnerability.
77. You’ll hear the phrase “Well, that’s bike racing!” Thousands of times.
78. Only get someone you know and trust to glue your tubulars.
79. Long hair stuffed into the back of your skin suit is more aero, but short hair is lighter and easier.
80. You’ll start to view all of your non-bike related things as potential income to purchase more bike related things.
81. You’ll become a master packer.
82. Yelling is a tactic, don’t be fooled.
83. Always take care of your shit.
84. Not all cyclists are alike, we come in different breeds.
85. Tucson Bicycle Classic has the most ungodly start times.
86. Always close safety pins!
87. Progress takes longer than you want. There are no shortcuts in cycling!
88. You can’t be a rock star at everything.
89. Always remember the bigger picture.
90. Eat and drink! The worst time to realize you didn’t fuel is 3hrs into a race with a massive climb left to tackle before the finish.
91. Ultimately, you’re responsible for your own results. It’s a waste of energy playing the blame game.
92. Don’t forget to have fun!
93. Good training partners are hard to come by.
94. Don’t let anyone deter you from tossing all your eggs in the cycling basket. You never know until you give it a serious try.
95. You can’t stay in top form year round.
96. Train with people who are faster than you.
97. Know when to be serious, and when to have a laugh.
98. Patience, young Jedi.
99. Beer is the way to any mechanic’s heart
100. You might feel like by the time you’ve learned how to do everything right, you’ll be too old to be fast anymore!