Fundamentals, not Virtuosity

We were closing up the shop by sitting at sitting at the small table and finishing our beers before taking out the trash when a family rode up to the door. The Mom and Dad were on sensible hybrids, in their summer clothes. Their Son, who I pegged at about fourteen was in the kit of one of the larger local clubs, was riding a 700 dollar road bike sporting Shimano 2300 hundred. Probably a sensible bike for a fourteen year old, but not one I would ever want to send someone out to race on, but that is beside my point.

The Boss and I exchanged a “are they really coming in look?” and looked out the window again. There was a detail I had missed. Hanging off the junior’s handlebars was Garmin 810. A gadget that cost roughly half of what they’d spent on the bike itself.

At first my mind sprung to all kinds of “get off my lawn” style protests. Mostly about how kids these days were too wrapped up in the numbers. I continued to stew on it as they looked around the shop and the kid cradled the shiny toy, playing with the start/stop button, each press accompanied by the chirp I know too well.

Then I realized I see the same obsession played out over a hundred times a day as dudes ride down Lakeside with their eyes glued, not to the road ahead of them, but at the real estate directly in front of their stem. But that wasn’t the shakabuku moment.

It wasn’t until they left that I accepted the fact that all this focus on watts and heart rate, the easily quantifiable things, are the same damn things that I focused on too much; instead of focusing on being able to corner at an acceptable speed and descend like a normal rider, and I’m only slightly better at not obsessing over those things now (side note I actually don’t even own a Garmin now, putting an end to all angst I had about the damn thing.).

Like I said above, the watts are the quantifiable things. Much easier to measure than rather you took that corner not only faster, but with more control, style and grace than last time, qualities that are harder to develop than strength and time at threshold. I do this same misdirection in other aspects of my life, writing being the primary one.

The desire to run before one walks is strong. We want to parrot the elements of riding that are held up as “cool”, watts, intervals and suffering are the qualities held up in the riding media. Skills aren’t on that list. But I’m tired of getting dropped on technical climbs and opening gaps in the pace line through corners. Consider this a call to return to the fundamentals and not the virtuosic


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