Should I ride, or should I watch others ride? A play in three acts (with a special guest appearance by Lennard Zinn's pants)


You know the professional season is over when all we have to look at are pictures of riders during training camps. Luckily, those pictures can be amusing. Take the one above, for example. You know the world is officially upside down when Heinrich Hausler is dressed pretty normally (instead of his usual Ed Hardy look, which is directly inspired by Jon Gosselin), while American Dave Zabriskie is the one wearing some kind of a plastic dashiki that would even make Stevie Wonder gasp in horror.




Act I: A question
It's that time of year. A once-steady flow of useless information about professional riders, upcoming races, and new overpriced wheelsets has become a mere trickle. Even the pictures of riders who are too cheap to pay for a vacation for their families, and instead to choose to pimp themselves out by racing at random islands throughout the Caribbean have already come and gone. So what are we left with? Merely pictures of training camps, since little else is going on in the sport right now. To many of you, this deficit in cycling activity matters little. To me, however, it means that the age-old question that I ask myself during warmer months is no longer valid. That question, by the way, is this:

Should I ride, or should I watch others ride?

More specifically, should I watch a race online or on television, or should I go out and actually ride myself. To many of you, this may seem like a stupid question. I suspect that many of you race, and thus train, so riding is always your priority. That, however, is not the case for me, since my long weekend rides are merely the preparation I need to show my fellow commuters who the boss is come Monday (pro tip: the boss during Monday commutes around here is not Tony Danza. It's me). So now that there's no real professional cycling going on (although I've heard that this cyclocross may finally catch on in places like Portland and New England pretty soon), I'm left with no excuse. I have to ride.



Act II: Cycling fans. There's different kinds.
This brings me to a substantial difference between people who ride bikes in places like the United States, and countries like my native Colombia. As always, I bring up these differences for the sake of conversation, and for the purpose of my reader's edification. I never point these things out to mock or antagonize Americans...unless I'm talking about how some Americans dip their pizza in ranch dressing. When I speak out about that horrendous habit, I do so because I believe it should be punishable by death (this is because I'm a graduate of the prestigious Steven Cozza School of Law). So ranch dressing aside, the difference I'm referring to in cycling fans is the fact that pretty much all the people who ride road bikes semi-seriously here in the United States are fans of the sport. Yes, many of these individuals may think that Armstrong is the only person to ever ride a bike, and will probably never watch another race other than the Tour...but they're at least aware of the fact that professional cycling exists. Few people outside those who ride bikes in the U.S. would ever sit and watch a stage race...since doing so when you are not interested in the sport is akin to watching paint dry. Asbestos-filled, toxic paint that dries very, very slowly while two British guys talk about local castles, and wines from France.






Compare that to other places in the world. In Colombia, and in most of Europe, fans of the sport would never even consider riding a bike. Standing at the Forest of Arenberg earlier this year watching Paris-Roubaix, I was amazed by how many large, chain-smoking fans were around me. These were die-hard enthusiasts, the ones who had arrived very early to grab a good spot, or even camped out over night. They knew the names of every rider, and they argued about race tactics in an animated fashion while listening to the race on the radio. They did this as they smoked packs of cigarettes and dipped fries into thick mayonnaise (which looked a bit like ranch dressing from afar). The sport is woven into their culture's fabric. It's not something they were interested in because of a single individual or a certain race. This is just the way things are, and doesn't make the way some Americans enjoy the sport wrong. Colombian fans are a bit like European fans too. Earlier this year in Bogota, I struck up a conversation with a young man while riding the bus. He saw that I had a copy of a cycling magazine, so he asked my thoughts about this year's spring classics. The guy was as knowledgeable about the sport, as the pleats Lennard Zinn's green curdoroy pants are sizable. By this I mean that he was very, very knowledgeable, and the the pleats in Zinn's pants are very, very sizable.

After speaking in great detail about races, history of cycling, bikes, and different team transfers, I asked this young man if perhaps he'd like to go for a ride that weekend. Once I asked, he looked at me like I was crazy. It was as though I'd asked him something insane...like if he wanted to borrow and then put on a pair of Leonard Zinn's pleated pants, or something equally as crazy. "Ride a bike?" He replied, "I don't ride a bike, why would I?" I nodded, and remembered how differently fans of the sport are around the world. Much in the same way that you would never ask a fan of American football how often he puts on pads and a helmet in order to play the sport he enjoys watching, asking some cycling fans around the world if they ride a bike is a preposterous thing to do. Not so in the United States. Here, if I meet a person who wants to talk about a certain team's selection of tires for Roubaix, and he then goes on to weigh in on the pluses and minuses of using carbon wheels for the cobbled classics, I think I can safely assume that the person may at least own a road bike, and probably also a pair of tight cycling pantaloons. Not so in Colombia. Not so in many places around the world. As such, I fully understand that not everyone may be as torn between riding and watching people ride as I have been in the past. But then again, I've been known to take naps mid-ride...so what do I know. Which makes me wonder, what about the readers of this fine blog? Are you ever torn? Do you always choose one over the other? Is it even an issue for you? Is it only an issue for certain races, or certain key stages? I even watch races like the Tour of Qatar, so I'm not a good person to ask.


Act III: Ch-ch-ch-ch-changes
Had you asked me if I preferred to ride, or watch others ride a year ago, I would have told you that watching a race was far more pleasurable, and more important. Today, that may still be the case for a few select races...but something has changed in me during the last year. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, I have been reborn. Oddly enough, I've been reborn as a guy that looks just like I did before...but has adult braces, and likes to ride more than he likes to watch a races. Well, maybe not. Maybe it's just the fact that I've figured out how to use my DVR, and how to download races after I get back from my rides, so I can still do both. So never mind what I just wrote. I haven't changed at all, I just learned how to use technology to my advantage. So I didn't rise from the ashes, and I'm not like a phoenix at all. Come to think of it, this whole post is a sham.

But at least the pleats in Lennard Zinn's pants are still huge. And they are still awesome.