“Because It’s There” Is a Stupid Answer

03.8.2009 | 4:00 am

In 1924, a New York Times reporter asked George Mallory why he wanted to climb Mt. Everest. Mal (his friends call him “Mal”) replied, “Because it’s there.”

It’s a witty, quotable line, as evidenced by the fact that a krazillion people have since tried to sound witty while quoting it.

Unfortunately, unless you’re George Mallory and it’s 1924, giving “because it’s there” as your reason for doing something is not witty. It’s stupid, and it’s a lie. Please do me a favor and never say it again, especially if someone asks you why you bike.

Think for a moment. There are a near-infinite number of things that are “there.” If your reason for doing something–endurance mountain biking, for example–is because it’s there, you must also eat every single Big Mac on inventory at the local McDonalds, because they are there, too. And you’re going to need to learn to riverdance, because that’s there too. And look, just over that hill: there are some yaks that need shearing. And if I remember correctly, nobody’s manned a mission to Mars.

In short, you’ve got a lot of stuff to do if you’re going to use “because it’s there” as your primary criterion for doing something.You’d better get hustling.

My Reasons
Since I’m going to be all snippy about giving bogus cliches as my motivation for biking, I suppose I’d better have some actual, real reasons for why I do endurance rides and races.

  • Because I can. I made it to my 30th birthday with the firm belief that I have no athletic ability at anything at all. Then I discovered that while I am not necessarily fast or technically capable, I can turn the cranks over nearly indefinitely. It’s my gift.
  • Because I like it. Endurance rides make me happy. I like planning them. I like starting them. I like being with friends when I’m riding them. I like finishing them. Now, there are big chunks of time during any given endurance ride when I’m completely miserable, but the fact that I’m miserable but am not giving up makes me happy. This is probably perverse, but there it is.
  • Because I like to tell stories. Long before I started this blog, I wrote stories about my long rides and sent them to friends or posted them on a web site I created because I like having people read my stories.

Your Reasons
So, why do you ride the way you ride? If you’re a downhiller, why do you downhill? If you’re a roadie, why? If you’re a trackie, why do you like to go around in circles?

I want to know. Really, I do.

PS: This post rescued from my Spaces archive. Originaly posted 18 August 2009 2006.


  1. Comment by Marla | 03.8.2009 | 5:29 am

    As another biker with absolutely no athletic ability, I loved this post! Thanks!

  2. Comment by jon | 03.8.2009 | 6:32 am

    Also because I can — just like you, I found it’s one thing that I’m good at. Secondly, I love to by part of my local geography… see the lay of the land, traverse the hills and valleys, all under my own power. Third, the simplicity and yet intricacy of the machine itself gives me a charge. I like to think about how it works and how I make it work. Finally, I like the alone time. I get a lot of thinking done.

  3. Comment by Big Boned | 03.8.2009 | 6:36 am

    Today, I’m riding because I’m trying to ride fast enough to be able to repost something tomorrow from 19 August, 2009. I have a need to see the future and am going to need a long, straight, steep descent…

  4. Comment by Fuzzy | 03.8.2009 | 7:13 am

    I ride because of the following-

    a) I enjoy it.
    b) It keeps me healthy (when I stay upright and don’t develop scabs)
    c) My Children, both young men, are an expensive hobby and cycling saves me a whole wad of cash.
    d) One of the most important reasons- the look on non cyclists face when they see me either stopped at traffic signals, or walking into the Police Station, or arriving at any other destination, in absolutely atrocious weather conditions, with the big ‘I am/ have been riding my bike’ grin on my face. The question is then asked- “Fuzzy, are you completely mad?” to which I just have to reply “Probably.”
    e) The other important reason- It is the best way to develop the goofy tan lines associated with our sport.

    Luv n’ Stuff
    Fuzzy from the UK

    WIN Susan!

  5. Comment by Di | 03.8.2009 | 7:30 am

    Originally posted 18 August 2009? Wow. You’re good. ;-)

    “Because I can” is my reason. Really, why else would you do something? I am thankful for having a healthy, mobile body, so I appreciate just being able to mountain bike.

    It’s better than Prozac. Riding keeps me sane and happy. Sure, I have to do large amounts of it, and it may even be a little on the unhealthy side given my obsession with it, but it gets me through the day.

    It makes me feel good about myself.

  6. Comment by Mikeonhisbike | 03.8.2009 | 7:30 am

    t’s because of what you can see. At the speed of a bike you see amazing things that you would never see in a car.


  7. Comment by Anonymous | 03.8.2009 | 8:26 am

    “PS: This post rescued from my Spaces archive. Originaly posted 18 August 2009.”

    Noticed the time? Is it back to the past?

  8. Comment by Jenni Laurita | 03.8.2009 | 8:38 am

    It’s the sense of freedom. It’s the sense of accomplishment. It’s the time to think or not think, it’s the emotional release.

  9. Comment by jwm | 03.8.2009 | 9:00 am

    Perhaps a better replacement for “because it’s there” is “if you have to ask, you’ll never know”. Though that doesn’t sound quite as polite.

    my reasons:

    - it’s “fun”
    - fitness
    - training is a stress reliever
    - bikes are fun to tinker with
    - while one might argue it can be pricey, try owning the same car the winner of the Indy 500 drives for 5-10 grand. ( ok this is not specifically my reason, but I like the idea )
    - meet good people.
    - while I may not tell a good story, “for the memories” is a great reason.

  10. Comment by jeff | 03.8.2009 | 9:05 am

    all of the above, plus, the road’s there, I’m there, my bike’s there – let’s ride! I’ve recently discovered touring Colorado and can’t think of a better way to see the scenery.

  11. Comment by WheelDancer | 03.8.2009 | 11:40 am

    I ride because it’s the most fun I know how to have with my clothes on. I commute, mountain bike and road ride as much as I can to make up for lost time when I had left cycling to maintain a bad marriage. I escaped the marriage, trued up the wheels and haven’t looked back. To me riding is life.

  12. Comment by Dee | 03.8.2009 | 11:48 am

    I ride for
    * the scenery
    * the fitness
    * the feel of the wind in my face
    * cross-training
    * the exhilaration & freedom of barreling downhill
    * the camaraderie of sharing a sport with those I love

  13. Comment by Lucky Cyclist | 03.8.2009 | 11:58 am

    It keeps me off the meth.

  14. Comment by uncadan8 | 03.8.2009 | 12:40 pm

    Add another superpower to Fatty’s list of abilities! Apparently, he can now time travel! I bet that comes in handy when trying to make time to ride.

  15. Comment by eric | 03.8.2009 | 1:32 pm

    Because it keeps me young and I really, really, really don’t want to get old!

  16. Comment by ik | 03.8.2009 | 1:51 pm

    I’m happy only on my bike. No matter how much life stinks, it all disappears when riding.

    Its also fun to see peoples faces when they realize how much i, truly a fat cyclist, actually ride every single day.

  17. Comment by Jarocco | 03.8.2009 | 2:41 pm

    At 59 years old, its mainly “Because I can”. As an ex-smoker and, at one time, big drinker/druggie, I find two hours on a road bike, whether tethered to a trainer (its Wisconsin) or out on the road, the endorphin release during and post-ride is often exhilirating and as good as any drug. Not the same but as good as. There is no better way to feel the presence of the now then when I’m turning the cranks up some god awful hill or descending an equally long downhill. And like Fatty I had marginal athletic ability growing up and one thing I could always do well was turn the cranks over and over.

  18. Comment by aussie kev | 03.8.2009 | 3:53 pm

    as a fat trackie (209 pounds in your money!!), going round in circles is awesome as when you get spat out the back of the pack and can’t get back on, you only have about 300 metres to go until you are back at your chair !!!!


  19. Comment by Eugie | 03.8.2009 | 4:00 pm

    6 years ago I would have told you I ride to spend time with my husband…but now that would be a lie. It may have started that way, but I continue to ride so that one day I can put him in the hurt box and look good doing it.

  20. Comment by Doozyanner | 03.8.2009 | 4:04 pm

    Simple. I feel at “home” on my bike. It’s where I most feel like “me.”

  21. Comment by annette | 03.8.2009 | 4:37 pm

    to be alone…to feel the air and the quick changes of temperature on my face…exhilaration of exertion and speed.

  22. Comment by Debamundo | 03.8.2009 | 4:56 pm

    Some days I think it’s the only thing that keeps me from climbing the clock tower with a high powered rifle. I love it. It brings me back to center when I get to close to the edge. Today I struggled into a 20mph headwind for nearly two hours, then had the unmatched glory of a fast tailwind ride home. I heard the first spring peepers, (Frogs. You probably don’t have them in Utah.) smelled fresh turned fields and flew over the rollers with a gigantic blue sky above me. This is why I live. Also, most of my closest dearest friends are my cycling buddies. You just meet good people doing this.

  23. Comment by Aaron | 03.8.2009 | 5:40 pm

    I like all kinds of mountain biking. From endurance riding, to technical trails. Why? Because:
    * I still can.
    * I’m good at it.
    * It’s a mood changer.
    * The friends I have met because of mountain biking.
    * Mountain bikers are the best people.
    * The places I have seen on my bike, that the majority of the world will never see.
    * The challenge of improvement.
    * The speed.
    * I could go on…..

  24. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.8.2009 | 5:42 pm

    i think you set your clock too far forward this morning.

  25. Comment by Tom | 03.8.2009 | 6:44 pm

    I ride because it is the most fun I can have with my clothes on! And on nude bike days it still comes in second!

  26. Comment by Rox | 03.8.2009 | 7:46 pm

    I ride because no matter how much I have “settled” for in my life, i.e. stupid job, bad choices in college etc., I am in control when I’m on my bike. Riding keeps my busy brain from making me crazy. When I don’t ride everyday, I’m not myself. My bikes have changed my life for the better and I repay them by riding them as much as I can.
    Win Susan.
    Ride on.

  27. Comment by Don | 03.8.2009 | 9:12 pm

    Sorry, but I got distracted by the White Castle ads in your blog…
    mmmmm, belly bombs.

  28. Comment by Sara Cox Landolt | 03.8.2009 | 9:39 pm

    I love training because I’m a happier mom/wife/athlete/etc after I finish the workout. It changes everything.

  29. Comment by joliver3 | 03.8.2009 | 10:21 pm

    All of the above. But as far as I can tell, everyone – especially FC – missed one of the biggest reasons of all — to enable massive amounts of eating!!!!!

    WIN Susan!

  30. Comment by wintercommuter | 03.9.2009 | 8:13 am

    - because it’s the best way I know to move really really fast without killing myself, and feel like a superhero without killing anyone else

    - because running to work takes too long, riding the metro to work is too boring, and driving a car to work gives me a nervous breakdown

    - because the look on people’s faces when I come in on a cold snowy day, bouncing off the walls with an endorphin high is priceless |-D

  31. Comment by Dan O | 03.9.2009 | 9:11 am

    I ride for the simplest reason of all.

    I ride, simply to ride my bike.

    No other reason, I just do.

    life is good

  32. Comment by AngryPirate | 03.9.2009 | 11:17 am

    I ride for a few reasons; here they are:

    1. Long rides make me feel less guilty about that Chinese Buffet I ‘made pay’ the night before or the night before of binge drinking.
    2. It’s my way to experience nature and be outside that doesn’t put me to sleep.
    3. You can make your rides as intense or as calm as you want them to be. I find it a good way to add some excitement by going faster or doing something just a hair above my current technical abilities on the trail.
    4. Great stress reliever from work or just life in general.

    A good friend of mine once said to me when I was a little down, “Get your a$$ out and do some . When has anyone ever felt worse after doing ?”. That activity for me is hitting the trails on my bike and it’s such a true statement.

  33. Comment by Newt | 03.9.2009 | 11:28 am


    Way too long to post here…

  34. Comment by rexinsea | 03.9.2009 | 11:44 am

    1) I commute by bike because it is the best way to get to/from work AND relieve stress while squeezing in a work out and stun co-workers with my cycling duds.
    2) I road bike because turning the cranks over and over and over for a long time just feels good.
    3) Mountain biking is my first cycling passion and one of the sports that keeps me motivated to stay fit. (you know, drag my sorry rear end into the gym, go for runs when that’s all the time I have, eat reasonably well.) As I get older, I realize I need to stay fit to do my “A” sports. Mountain biking is one of my “A” sports. It’s just plain fun to head out with friends, enjoy nature and have a few thrills. And it’s good to have a sport to motivate me to stay fit.

  35. Comment by Hamish A | 03.9.2009 | 11:58 am

    I got into Cycling by accident and stayed because I enjoyed it so much. Now I’ve been doing it so long it’s very much who I am. All my Friends describe me as a Cyclist (even when talking to non-cyclists), most of my wardrobe is bike related, most of my Friends ride and when I go on vacation it’s to ride somewhere new.

    Ummm, I guess I ride because I’m addicted.

  36. Comment by bikemike | 03.9.2009 | 1:19 pm

    what? i need an explanation for my insanity now?

  37. Comment by The D | 03.9.2009 | 1:27 pm

    I, good sir, will not apologize for my need to ride my bike better tomorrow than I did today.

  38. Comment by juan | 03.9.2009 | 1:36 pm

    because i love the beutiful suffering.

  39. Comment by Dan O | 03.9.2009 | 1:58 pm

    Bicycles are the perfect mix of gear, physical activity, being outside, speed and serenity.

    The cycling social aspect and being a member of this wacky little subculture is also a gas.

    That’s why I ride.

  40. Comment by Clydesteve | 03.9.2009 | 2:00 pm

    Rachel Ray is on a banner ad as a fatty – but she really does not look like she rides.

  41. Comment by Mark | 03.9.2009 | 2:11 pm

    For those zen moments.

    I love realizing that I’ve rode my fourteen miles to work without even thinking about it.

    And to get home at the end of the day and realize I’ve left all the stress of work along those same fourteen miles, it makes me a much better husband and father.

  42. Comment by ken | 03.9.2009 | 3:08 pm

    I ride because I enjoy the satisfaction of it. A job, maybe not well done, but done. Also I know that some people would love to ride but can’t and never will is probably my main reason. I ride for them. Besides it puts me in a good mood and my wife enjoys that trust me.

  43. Comment by KatieA978 | 03.9.2009 | 3:44 pm

    I have a more inane reason that “Because it’s there.”

    Because I can.


  44. Comment by sk8ermom3 | 03.9.2009 | 6:49 pm

    I got into distance riding/camping as a teenager. My bike ( same one ) was my main form of transportation in college. The only time I’ve been without a bike was when it was stolen during college. I bought another one as soon as I could afford it. I raced a bit, but actually just enjoy riding, being outdoors, the feeling of the spin, riding in a pack. I admit, I only ride in decent weather, I’m not a fanatic. I ride a sub 1K road bike that’s light and quick, but no great work of art. I live for the downhills, and die on the climbs. I am feeling guilty reading this that I haven’t been on my trainer all winter….. I need to go for a ride….

  45. Comment by DallasBikr | 03.10.2009 | 7:04 am

    I do endurance rides (12/24 hr road tts), criteriums, road races, and I ride track. I rally sometimes.

    I lead a team (ChristianCycling.com) in North Texas, I officiate when needed, I coach juniors and I promote races.


    I love bikes. Always have. It kills me that I am not better than I am, but so be it.

    I ride track because it is more wickedly fun than anything else I’ve done on a bike, and I live 30 minutes from the Superdrome in Frisco, TX. It would be a wrong against those that are not near one for me not to take advantage….

    And I may be just a little OCD ;)

    And most importantly, cycling is the ministry I was placed in by God, to serve the cycling community…

    Take care,


  46. Comment by Asthmagirl | 03.10.2009 | 10:05 am

    I started riding because it’s good for my lungs. As my asthma worsens I ride because I like the wind in my face and it makes me feel like I’ve accomplished something.
    While 50 miles is probably my longest ride and I’ll never go fast enough to win anything, I’ve decided I like the view from my bike.

  47. Comment by lphagler | 03.10.2009 | 10:27 am

    I, too, ride because I can and because I would like that state of things to continue. I have relapsing remitting Multiple Sclerosis, currently in remission for the last few years. I truly believe that one of the reasons for my lengthy remissions is regular exercise. And if you’re gonna exercise, you might as well do something you love!

    Now, why do I love cycling? I am not very athletic, and the “Fat Cyclist” is a pretty good description of me. I die going up hills and find cause for celebration if I break 13 mph average for a 20 mile ride. And yet I love it. I love being outdoors, enjoying nature. I love exploring places that I have only rushed past in the car. I love the challenge of defeating that next hill, of riding farther and faster than I ever have before.

    I ride because I can and because I love it!

  48. Comment by B.cerues | 03.10.2009 | 1:09 pm

    Why do I ride?

    When I was a kid I rode around my neighbrohood and the bike trails in the subdivision next door, all day, like packed a lunch in my backpack all day. Now I mountain bike because;
    -it reminds me of trail riding on horseback as a teenager in which I did all sorts of silly things that I can’t believed I lived through
    -Adrenaline rush of going downhill
    -Scenic views and critters
    -Telling stories about bruises, scratches, etc

    I road bike because;
    -it’s easier to ride in a group and find other cycling buddies
    -build up more leg for mtn biking
    -adrenaline rush of downhill (the faster the better)
    -stories of getting lost, seeing weird things, etc

  49. Comment by Pinkbike | 03.11.2009 | 6:35 pm

    I ride because it’s just so much fun. Especially hurtling downhill (which I’m pretty good at) after a good slog uphill (which I’m terrible at).


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