What the Bike Gives Me

03.21.2016 | 9:47 am

I’ve started work on writing Fight Like Susan, and have been making a lot of decisions: what will go in the book, and what won’t. How far back in time will I reach, and where is its finish line. 

I’m happy to say that so far, the answers to these questions have been pretty clear to me. My vision for this book is very clear, maybe because I have been thinking about it for close to a decade. 

It will be Susan’s and my story, and it will incorporate much of my best writing from this blog during her fight. This means that about half of the writing exists, and I’ll be writing the other half. 

A story, interspersed with essays.

An Outlet

As I go back and read what I wrote during Susan’s fight, I’m struck by how my time for riding was so clearly a pressure release valve. I remember how my friends noted that when I rode with them, I would attack. Riding angry.

When I rode alone,  I’d attack anyway. Or sometimes break down

Then I’d come home and could be the stable presence again. For my kids. For my wife.

This time was the defining test of my life. I know, that sounds hyperbolic, but I think it’s true: it fixed the “me at my best” in my mind, and it is who I continue to try to be.

But without the balance the bike provided me — a time and a way to empty out all the frustration and rage and sense of unfairness I felt — I don’t know if I could have been the person I’m so glad I managed to be.

A Respite

Now I’m dealing with some new stuff. This stuff is maybe more ordinary, less life-and-death; it’s just looking for work. But as I’m pouring myself into this task and into the work of writing a very emotional book, I find myself…mentally and emotionally cooked. Exhausted. 

And once again, the bike is there to give me balance. But this time in a different way. I find that I look forward to my time on the bike not as an outlet for excess energy and emotion, but as a time to recharge, to relax.

I’m not riding with the intensity I’ve felt in recent years, not even when I race. After I finished the True Grit Epic a couple weekends ago, I was incredibly happy for how fast The Hammer and Swimmer had gone…and felt like I had raced a good race too, in spite of the fact that I had gone slower than the previous year.

Why? Because I had enjoyed myself, and had ridden and talked with other guys who were also enjoying themselves. I had gotten a much-needed break from the things that were weighing me down. 

I’ve been riding, as often as I can, for at least twenty years now. And once in a while, this simple act can still surprise me with how much it affects me and means to me.

Somehow, no matter what I’m going through, the bike gives me balance.


  1. Comment by Scot Marana | 03.21.2016 | 10:00 am


  2. Comment by bikemike | 03.21.2016 | 10:53 am

    It’s all about what the bike can help you do.

  3. Comment by Mateo | 03.21.2016 | 11:34 am

    With you on this Fatty…the bike makes me focus on my breathing, and sometimes we all just need the space to breathe.

  4. Comment by Augustus | 03.21.2016 | 11:34 am

    Have decided how to do the prepay issue?

    Yes, working on that right now, will be revealing it soon. Thank you for asking! – FC

  5. Comment by Heidi | 03.21.2016 | 12:20 pm

    After pushing, pushing so hard for so long in competitions, enjoying yourself sounds healthy to me. Your bike therapy has done you well! The weather has shifted here and I’m back to my outlet, hiking, and I spotted the first bluebirds of the season a few days ago. Gotta love spring and new beginnings.

  6. Comment by Tom in Albany | 03.21.2016 | 12:35 pm

    Your ‘break down’ link brought me back to the time before I read this Blog. Man. I cannot imagine.

    I’m excited to help support you in this endeavor!!

  7. Comment by ScottM | 03.21.2016 | 12:38 pm

    Thanks for the insight. That escape it an important thing – and you found a healthy, good one. Don’t underestimate the impact of being unemployeed. I look at two events in my life as being huge hurdles – my divorce and my unemployment after dot.com. I still struggle with the impacts of both of them – both good and bad. Those trials are what make us who we are, for better or worse. Be aware, stay busy and get on the bike without excuses.

    Good luck.

  8. Comment by New Zealand Ev | 03.21.2016 | 12:49 pm

    Getting on the bike is the best stress relief ever. I am currently off the bike for the past 10 days now as I got a really bad infection on my leg. I am so looking forward to riding again finger crossed this weekend. Of course our weather is slowly turning colder and losing daylight hours but still just want to ride.

  9. Comment by rich | 03.21.2016 | 2:15 pm

    I agree and understand completely!
    In June of 2014 my life was suddenly and unexpectedly turned upside down. The bike became my therapist, punching bag and companion as I worked through it.
    Now though, with a couple of years distance from my wife’s passing, my rides are still therapy, but the intensity or the desperate need to get out has mellowed and my rides are more about enjoying the time out and about….it definitely helps with keeping things in perspective.

  10. Comment by miles archer | 03.21.2016 | 3:26 pm

    It’s good to have balance on a bike.

    I’m glad you’ve worked out how you’d end the book. That’s the part that’s been puzzling me.

    I am likewise unemployed for the first time in my life, so I have particular sympathy for the uncertainty of where things are going. Exercise is certainly a huge help in staying sane.

  11. Comment by Laura | 03.21.2016 | 3:46 pm

    I loved this post. Keep writing Fatty!!

  12. Comment by Frank | 03.21.2016 | 4:46 pm

    Seems like we are in the same boat at roughly the same age – looking for work IS a full-time job! Good luck!!!

  13. Comment by JIm | 03.21.2016 | 8:17 pm

    endorphins=magic. Humans evolved to need them.

  14. Comment by Jim Tolar | 03.21.2016 | 9:57 pm

    Nice one, Elden. I went back and re-read the “break down” post. It was those posts that made me feel like I actually know you. This one, too, because I can imagine how you’re feeling. It’s a testament to your writing, is what I’m trying to say.


  15. Comment by Betsy T | 03.22.2016 | 10:52 am

    A www. Crying is for Climbing, and Like Dandelion Seeds. Two incredibly powerful pieces you wrote, and ones I send my people to all the time. (Still make me cry.) What you wrote then is more valuable than all the gold this world can offer. People read that, when they are in their own hell, and they say “oh god, this guy GETS IT.”

    I can’t wait for Fight Like Susan to come out.

  16. Comment by AKChick | 03.22.2016 | 11:20 am

    Yay! Can’t wait for the book! Fingers and toes crossed that you find the right position soon so you don’t have to worry about that.

    My bikes have saved my sanity countless times over the past 3.5 years. My mom started having health issues after the 2011 LIVESTRONG ride in Austin. Those issues and trying to find a decent assisted living home for her continued up until she passed away last August due to lung cancer that metastasized to her brain. In between, I lost my dad (pancreatic cancer) and my brother-in-law (32 years old/colon cancer). Add to that a high pressure, high stress job and the only thing that saved me was my bike and my super sweet husband. There is nothing as peaceful as riding 100 miles and just being able to let your mind wander.

    Even the worst day on a bike is better than not being on a bike. It is my salvation and my joy in addition to having the best husband a wife could ever ask for. I’m truly blessed in spite of my losses.

  17. Comment by leroy | 03.22.2016 | 2:54 pm

    Exactly right. Exactly.

  18. Comment by rb | 03.22.2016 | 11:38 pm

    Posts like this are why fatcyclist.com keeps showing up in my “most visited” folder

  19. Comment by Griffen | 04.3.2016 | 8:45 am

    Few people know the true value of a bike. It’s not just the cost to manufacture and ship it. Believe me Fatty, cycling melts away stress like a hot knife on butter. Keep cycling, it inspires us to do the same.


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