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Bill  On The Road

 by: Bill Oetinger  2/1/2018

The Fun-O-Meter

It’s the beginning of February. Would it be a stretch to say that Spring is just around the corner? Clearly, in some parts of this country, perhaps even most parts, that might be too much of a stretch. Turn on the evening news almost any day this time of year and the talking heads will be hyperventilating about the latest frigid front that’s paralyzing the midwest or northeast or even southeast. Videos of snow-bound, grid-locked freeways, of cars buried under six-foot drifts. Sub-freezing or even sub-zero temps. Off-the-chart windchills. It’s grim out there.

But in a few places, not least the coastal hills of California, where extreme weather is the exception and not the rule, we are still able to venture outside without bundling up like it’s Siberia. Yes, it does rain now and then and occasionally even surprises us with a dusting of snow (every few years). But in between those gully-washers and hard frosts, it can be nearly balmy. Yesterday, for example: I cruised through the wine country on a dry day that flirted with 70°. Now and then I was even accompanied by an old riding companion: my shadow.

We still have six weeks to go until Spring is declared the official season and perhaps twice that long until we can be confident of heading out for a ride with next to no risk of rain. But there will be plenty of days between now and that sunny forecast where we can get in our miles in relative comfort. And of course we are given a little more daylight each day as well. We’re headed in the right direction.

That being the case, most cyclists will be thinking about ramping up. For some, that simply means 35 miles instead of 25 for a pleasant coffee run. For others, the ambitions and agendas are larger. There are brevets and centuries and doubles and crits on the calendar, just ahead. Time to get with the program! Time to shed those extra ten pounds of blubber we larded on over the eat-too-much, ride-too-little holiday season.

Many cyclists chart the progress of that ramping up with some sort of cyclometer-driven numbers crunching, whether it’s a Strava data dump or just entries in an old-fashioned logbook. Anyone who has been in thrall to their numbers knows what it’s like and how far around the OCD bend that has taken them. 

I am reluctant to sit in judgment on that sort of behavior. All I can say is that I have done it, often to extremes, and that I don’t do it anymore. In a drawer in my desk, I have a fat stack of logbooks going back well over 30 years. But I stopped adding new entries to that mass of reckoning on my last birthday. I simply quit keeping track. I still have an old, primitive cyclometer on the bars that will tell me how many miles I’ve gone on today’s ride. But it no longer matters whether the ride in question was 45 miles or 75 miles. I no longer feel the need to take a circuitous detour near the end of a ride to pad the miles out to some round figure, like 60 or 80 or 100. Who cares? I certainly don’t. It has been wonderfully liberating.

Now, instead of allowing my odometer to call the tune, I am arranging my cycling priorities according to a different metric: the funometer. The FUN-o-meter. It has always been there, a part of almost every ride: that sense of playfulness and fun, as in, “Oh man, that descent just about red-lined my funometer!” But now it’s in the ascendant in my scheme of things, while the hard numbers are relegated to the back burner.

What is “fun”? Accoding to the little dictionary on my desktop, it’s this: enjoyment, amusement, or lighthearted pleasure; playful behavior or good humor. That pretty well sums up what I want to get out of my cycling these days. 

Okay…I know and admit that I have argued other points of view in the past. If you browse back through these accumulated columns, you can no doubt find at least a few extolling the virtues of long, hard, miserable rides; where pushing oneself to the limits of one’s abilities was considered a noble challenge. There was a time in my cycling life when the long, hard challenge was the prime mover, the impulse that got me on my bike and out there, hammering the hills flat.

But as we say, that was then; this is now. I was never the biggest, baddest alpha-dog on the road, but I was maybe a Jack Russell-sized junkyard dog for a few years, full of bark and bite and ambition. I did most of the things I set out to do and proved to myself whatever it was I thought needed proving. It was a good experience. Glad I did it. But after a while, I didn’t need to do that anymore. It stopped being FUN. 

Aging has a lot to do with it, no question. But that’s not the whole story. I have a friend in my club who is older than I am and still excited about doing those long, hard rides. But he only got serious about cycling maybe five years ago. It’s still new for him, still so much to discover and accomplish. He still has the zeal of a recent convert. I on the other hand started riding seriously over 50 years ago…been there; done that. 

FunNow it’s about the fun…the joy…the play. The sensory buffet around every corner.

I think about this perspective on cycling when I watch my home team Golden State Warriors playing ball. Of course they are engaged in competition and of course we want them to win, but a good part of what makes them such a treat to watch is embodied in the philosophy of their head coach Steve Kerr. What he preaches to his players—and has them practicing—are these four core values: Joy, Mindfulness, Compassion, Competition. In that order.

Does that need any explaining? I hope not because I don’t want to maunder on like one of those TV gurus. I hope you understand what he’s expressing. I’m pretty sure he and most of his players would immediately understand what a funometer is and what it measures. Put the joy and the mindfulness first and the rest follows, and most of the time it will be fun.

Bill can be reached at srccride@sonic.net

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