I was rereading Amy Charity’s book, “The Wrong Side of Uncomfortable,” and it dawned on me that maybe I don’t want to become a professional cyclist. Maybe that truly isn’t my dream. Paired with Adam, a friend who offered to review my training plan and offer me critiques, when he asked me, “But is it your dream? What you truly want?”
It stopped me. I paused. Was becoming a pro cyclist something I truly wanted? What the fuck did I honestly want for myself?
I didn’t know the answer. I blabbered a little, afraid to show any vulnerability:
Ugh. I’ve been doing (or at least trying) a lot of soul-searching to determine what I truly want and I honestly don’t know anymore. I’ve been struggling this year especially with turning 30 and feeling like I haven’t accomplished much.
I think most of us fall in love with the idea. At least that’s what I did.
The fantasy of getting a new bike every year with a designated mechanic, masseuse, nutritionist, coach, cycling kits, gear, and the ability to travel the world and race my bike.
It sounds glorious.
I’m still riding the Liv Advanced Pro I bought four years ago and I’ve been taking it to pedal of Littleton for the past couple of years for upkeep where it disappears into the back for someone to cross off their to-do list. I typically pay full price. I don’t have a mechanic with me when I go to races. If I’m lucky, I don’t have any mechanicals. If I’m unlucky but sort of lucky at the same time, there’s a mechanic at the race. Other than the Twilight Criterium, I don’t remember seeing a mechanic at a race though. Hopefully, that just means I’ve never had to use one.
I don’t have a masseuse who follows me to my races, although, that’d be amazing. Instead, I signed up for a 6-month contract with Massage Envy, paying $55 per month for a monthly massage. I try to relax as much as I can during the massage. I try to focus on how my muscles feel when Amber digs her knuckles into my shoulders or glides her forearm against my quad. With my head facing toward the ground for so long, eventually, my nose becomes so stuffy I have to start mouth-breathing. Other times I’ll have to pee really bad or I’ll have an itch on my nose I can’t quite reach so I fixate on it until she tells me to turn over on to my back.
I usually feel weird having my eyes closed, facing upward. I get irrationally anxious thinking about someone watching me sleep. It was probably too many movies like, When a Stranger Calls when I was younger. I try to continue to focus on the sensations and the smells.
Then I leave for another month with the same spots I want her to focus on: legs (front and back), glutes, and shoulders. Sometimes my back.
I could only afford a nutritionist for 4 weeks. I had a ton of goals, namely eating to perform well and eating to lose fat. Or, I guess, lack of eating to lose fat. When I hired Heidi, it was the middle of the race season. She asked which would I rather focus on: performance or fat loss. I was sick of losing races, so I picked Performance. She instructed me to eat with a 1:1 carb:protein ratio. Any time I wanted a snack, there had to be a 1:1 ratio of carb:protein. It was more challenging than I thought. I started eating molasses for its iron content. I skipped my morning snack before the trainer to help reduce calories.
The closest thing I have to a coach is paying Adam once every three months to tell me what I’m doing wrong and how to fix it in the upcoming months. He doesn’t build workouts for me or track anything I do or don’t do. The rest is on me. I have to stay accountable to myself. So often I think to myself, “It’d be nice to pay someone to do this for me,” but when coaches cost $200 per month, I remember that Nice is just a city in France.
I’ve been paying for my own cycling kits since I started buying them. I’ve spent hundreds of dollars on jerseys, bibs, thermals, jackets, arm warmers, leg warmers, and replacing them time and time again. That is until I started at Strava. They offer a gear stipend, so my most recent order was reimbursed. Thankfully. I’m lucky to be on a team who values their members. As a Cat 3, I got new shoes and a helmet this coming season. It comes with a bigger responsibility, but if I paid for them myself, it’d be around $400.
I only race locally. I can’t afford to travel to far-away places to race my bike. Even going to Utah or Oklahoma would set me back a few hundred dollars and I just don’t have the financial means to make that happen at this time in my life. So, instead, I focus on trying new races in Colorado to change things up and to continue to challenge myself.
When I think of the expense of being an amateur bike racer – getting paid to race my bike, all expenses paid, and nothing coming out of my pocket – I think about all the money I’d save if I was a professional. Saving my money for other stuff. Outside of training, having free time to do whatever I wanted. I wouldn’t have to go to a desk job from 9 – 5. I could wake up whenever I wanted. Pop off to some foreign country to ride my bike. You know, what you see on the Instagram of professional cyclists.
But just like my 9-5 job, professional cyclists are expected to perform. They’re expected to race and to race well. To show up when they’re told and be prepared. Results from a race will either make or break them. If they have a shitty season, they could be dropped from team. Hell, even if they had an amazing season, the team may no longer have a sponsor. Without a title sponsor, there is little to no pay, and then they’re looking for a full-time job because they couldn’t join a team’s roster.
After speaking with Meredith Miller on my podcast a month ago, I realized I didn’t want that kind of life. That there would be so much pressure to perform and constantly having to find a way to make money doing the thing I loved. That my finances depended on my ability to perform on a bike and even if I was the best cyclist, the team could still fold and I’d be without an income. I told Meredith I didn’t think I’d be able to focus on a race knowing that the next season wasn’t guaranteed. Meredith told me that most of the women on her team relied on their husbands or partners or had part-time jobs to help supplement their income. Women don’t make shit in the professional peloton.
So, I’d still have to work part-time in order to afford my lifestyle, while racing my bike with the pressure of performing the best, otherwise, I could be cut from the team. At the same time, no one is sure the title sponsor (or any of the sponsors) will return the following year?
I like having bike racing separate from my income. Sure, it uses a lot of my income, but how I make money and what I do for fun needs to be independent of each other. For me. If that’s the case and I’m no longer interested in becoming a professional, what then?
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