Cycling | 2 comments
By: Zdenko Kahlina
Why am I still riding my bike today? Because life is a road… and road is my life!
I recently had a close friend who was never involved in any sport pose a very simple but inherently deep question to me: “Zdenko, you still ride your bike a lot… why do you ride?”
On that beautiful Edmonton spring evening, as we enjoyed the beer in his backyard, while the smoke from BBQ was raising in the air around us I began to collect my thoughts to answer this simple question. Wow, so many reasons, where do I begin…?
First and most important reason is: I love it!
All of my childhood memories, or at least most of them, are grounded in some sort of sport activity. Growing up in a family where my father and my brother were cyclists I remember how much of an impact cycling had on my physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual development. I never smoked cigarettes, abused alcohol or drugs! I can honestly say that I would not be who I am today if it weren’t for sport and especially sport of cycling.
I started cycling very early
I was born in Zagreb, more than six decades ago, and I lived there until 1989 when I moved to Canada with my family. I was a cyclist racing all over the Europe from 1965 until the end of 1978. These were very different times than today. My idol Eddy Merckx was at his best and the Russians were dominating in the amateur cycling. The rest of the world was just able to take peace’s left from the Russians. I raced for 14 years and had five big and long seasons. During that period I started in more than 100 races each year. Some of the bigger races I rode at the time were Tour of Algeria, Tour of Austria, Tour of Yugoslavia, Tour of Slovenia (Alpe – Adria) and many others. For three seasons I was a member of the Yugoslavian national team. My victories include eight national titles, including hill climb, cyclo-cross (my specialty), track titles, stages at the Tour of Yugoslavia and Tour of Algeria… victories in some smaller international and many domestic races.
After my career as a racer, I continued to be active in cycling. At first as a club secretary and later I took some courses to become a cycling commissar. I even got my international license in 1985. I also took some coaching courses in 1985 and 1986, and started to work with cadets and juniors in my hometown Zagreb. Soon afterwards, I decided to move with my family from Zagreb to Edmonton, where we still reside up to this day.
All those years, I was always in one way or the other somehow involved in the sport of cycling. Since my first participation in a bike race was back in 1965, it’s been almost 50 years that I’ve been involved in this sport.
Now in my sixties I still ride my bike regularly, about three to four times a week. But now this is only for my pleasure. I am married to the most beautiful person in the world (we just celebrated our 39th anniversary!) who supports me and my bike riding throughout all these years.
Impossible to choose one best aspect
Why do I still ride and enjoy bike riding? I love the pursuit of fitness. I love the freedom when I am on an empty road in the backcountry. When I’m cycling I’m free – free from bad things that happen around me; stress from work, problems at home. When I am on the road, it’s only me and the bike. It’s a feeling you don’t get anywhere else.
I love climbing high mountains and just being in the nature. I love to see how I can push my body to new heights. I love how I can continually grow with the sport of cycling and how my passion does not fade. I love the feeling my body provides when I’ve pushed it to a new level in training and it’s now going through the remarkable process of adaptation. The ability of the human body to adapt and change truly amazes me. I always jokingly say to my friends, that the beer has a much better taste after one long bike ride!
It is… hard to explain
My bike is a huge part of my life. It helps my health and when I come home after the bike ride I know I have accomplished something. It also clears my head, makes me focused and it makes me happy! On the bike I can go where I want, explore nature and breathe in the world. I love to travel and I am still curious to find out what lays ahead of me, behind next curve or next hill.
It makes me look younger. By regularly riding my bike I can eat normally and still maintain healthy body weight. I feel pleasure when I reveal my age to non-cycling related friends, colleagues and new acquaintances. More often than not, people are genuinely surprised to hear that I am already in my sixties!!
It helps me think creatively and gives me the opportunity to create clarity in my thoughts. I have my best ideas while out on the bike. Some runners I know like running because it is a form of meditation – their brain closes down and don’t really think anything. For me, it’s the opposite. Churning away a constant cadence seems to stimulate my creativity, so much so that sometimes I have to stop and write stuff down. By the end of my ride, most of the frustrations from work (or life) are gone and I feel cleansed and relaxed!
Traveling with the bike
When I travel, I always take my bike with me. People call me crazy, but seeing other towns from the bike is totally different experience than simply staying in a hotel resort drinking tasty margaritas. I like to see how local people live. What the back roads look like. I like to ride through small villages and experience the back country. That’s something I take home with me as unique experience that other regular tourists don’t! For example I just returned from Las Vegas, where I rode my bike every day and explored city outside of the famous Strip (you can read about my experience here). Many tourists never see the real Vegas like I did!
Crushes are also part of cycling
During my cycling life I have fallen numerous times. I have broken shoulder (clavicle), my front teeth and my knees and elbows still have visible road rash marks from numerous crushes, but a bike riding still makes me feel normal – not like a 60 year old man. It is only when I stop riding for several weeks that I feel like an old man. That’s why I don’t like long Canadian winters because I can’t ride my bike outside!
I get really cranky if I don’t ride for a while and I become a grumpy moody bugger (just ask my wife!). This one is pretty straight forward. I admit it. I’m a cranky bugger, but riding buffers all of that crankiness.
Love the sound of free wheel
I love the sound of a free wheel buzzing in the silence of a calm morning. I like the sound of my tires going over the pavement. It’s like music to my ears. Like the gentle whizzing of a fishing rod, or the soothing sounds of crickets chirping on a warm summer’s eve, the sound instantly puts me in my happy place. The best feeling on the bike is when I am riding with the group and can easily drop my colleagues and new acquaintances… or just the feeling of the speed alone. I still love it!
If you take nothing else away from my musings, it is that riding a bike is incredible fun and great exercise for the body and mind. The best cyclists I know, whether they are competitive, commuters, young, or seasoned, have that commonality: they ride their bikes, as much as they can, and enjoy as many revolutions of the pedals as possible.
It is a reminder of how great life really can be. I mean, riding a bicycle is one of the best things life has to offer in my opinion.
At the end of the day, why do I still ride? It’s just part of who I am.
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