Ex-racers transitioning to cycling just for fun

Hi all,

I'm new here to this forum. I am an ex-racer, competed for 8 years up to 2nd cat level. Won a few times, but mostly a top 10-20 type rider. Despite mediocre talent, I took it all very seriously.

I had to hang the bike up in 2016 due to chronic fatigue. Recently, I did a bike ride again, first one in a long while. I tell myself I'm gonna ride just for fun, the competition days are over. I've got a busy life schedule so I can't ride for longer than 4 hours a week. The thing is, I haven't got bike on the bike sooner because I try to tell myself I'm gonna do it just for fun, but even after that first ride back, I'm already setting goals for myself, etc.

Why can't I just enjoy riding my bike, instead of setting myself challenges?

Are there any ex-racers out there who have transitioned to just riding for the heck of it? How did you make that mental switch from being competitive to cycling just for fun?

Thanks!
Will

Comments

  • me-109
    me-109 Posts: 1,915
    Yep, sold the road bike and just kept mountain biking, where I only done the odd race and a Polaris event. No competitive drive for it other than against your mates. Returned to road biking at an age where mentally I just couldn't hurt myself enough to be competitive on the open scene, and am happy enough riding without any particular ambition.
  • ugo.santalucia
    ugo.santalucia Posts: 28,300
    Most people are competitive... sounds like you are pretty quick... have you considered joining a club that have a decent time trial series? With your speed, you can probably be competitive without the all TT aero shabang, can be quite fun. I find it a good way to keep focussed without having to invest too much time in training. Cycling for fun is a bit of a myth, not many actually do... tend to be older, stop at pubs along the way and travel in small but quite loud bunches... I often feel bad for their frames :D
    left the forum March 2023
  • whdeboer
    whdeboer Posts: 8
    me-109 said:

    Yep, sold the road bike and just kept mountain biking, where I only done the odd race and a Polaris event. No competitive drive for it other than against your mates. Returned to road biking at an age where mentally I just couldn't hurt myself enough to be competitive on the open scene, and am happy enough riding without any particular ambition.

    Sounds like you cracked it! Riding without any particular ambition is what I want to get to, too. So essentially, what you're saying is with time comes less of a drive to compete. I thought I was there, but I think I have a way to go still :)
  • whdeboer
    whdeboer Posts: 8

    Most people are competitive... sounds like you are pretty quick... have you considered joining a club that have a decent time trial series? With your speed, you can probably be competitive without the all TT aero shabang, can be quite fun. I find it a good way to keep focussed without having to invest too much time in training. Cycling for fun is a bit of a myth, not many actually do... tend to be older, stop at pubs along the way and travel in small but quite loud bunches... I often feel bad for their frames :D

    Thanks for the suggestion! Actually, that's how I started out, doing time trials. But after a year or so, I realised I was better at hills and sprints. Maybe it's time to have another go at it... :)
  • shirley_basso
    shirley_basso Posts: 6,195
    Can you change your goals? Silly stuff like HR not above a certain level, ave speed not above a certain level?

    Sounds stupid but it changes things when you wind it right back.

    On the flipside, 4h of absolutely balls out riding per week shouldn't destroy you - but it may frustrate you that you won't get back to your former self.
  • whdeboer
    whdeboer Posts: 8

    Can you change your goals? Silly stuff like HR not above a certain level, ave speed not above a certain level?

    That sounds like torture :)

    On the flipside, 4h of absolutely balls out riding per week shouldn't destroy you - but it may frustrate you that you won't get back to your former self.

    Yeah that's the nail on the head, coming to terms with not getting back to my former self. That's hard, but inevitable, I guess.

    Thanks for the responses so far, it's really helping!

  • super_davo
    super_davo Posts: 1,183
    Cycling can be whatever you want it to be. Time out clearing your head, chance to meet people, chance to see places, improve or keep your fitness, or even just get from a to b.

    I think the issue here is you focussed on the competitive side to the detriment of everything else. But you'll be getting something out of it even without that.

    n.b. you do want to do something competitive, do something different to what you did before. There are plenty of other racing options that won't have you comparing yourself Vs a younger fitter you e.g. cyclo-cross, XC, time trials etc.
  • imposter2.0
    imposter2.0 Posts: 12,028
    whdeboer said:



    Are there any ex-racers out there who have transitioned to just riding for the heck of it? How did you make that mental switch from being competitive to cycling just for fun?

    It probably took 2-3 years for me to properly adjust to the fact that I was no longer racing, so didn't need to ride as hard or as regularly. I don' think it's something you can simply switch off.
  • MattFalle
    MattFalle Posts: 11,644
    i'm going to go aginst thd general trend - Ugo excepted - and just say why stop?

    4 hrs a week on the road, some specific turbo training time, do hills, sprints snd couple of crits. Throw in z drcrnt sportive away somewhere nice once a year

    if you want to do it and have time-ish to go it and it won't kill you then why stop,?
    .
    The camera down the willy isn't anything like as bad as it sounds.
  • whdeboer
    whdeboer Posts: 8

    Cycling can be whatever you want it to be. Time out clearing your head, chance to meet people, chance to see places, improve or keep your fitness, or even just get from a to b.

    I think the issue here is you focussed on the competitive side to the detriment of everything else. But you'll be getting something out of it even without that.

    n.b. you do want to do something competitive, do something different to what you did before. There are plenty of other racing options that won't have you comparing yourself Vs a younger fitter you e.g. cyclo-cross, XC, time trials etc.

    I love this response. You're so right, this has brought a lot of clarity, so thank you!!
  • whdeboer
    whdeboer Posts: 8
    MattFalle said:

    i'm going to go aginst thd general trend - Ugo excepted - and just say why stop?

    4 hrs a week on the road, some specific turbo training time, do hills, sprints snd couple of crits. Throw in z drcrnt sportive away somewhere nice once a year

    if you want to do it and have time-ish to go it and it won't kill you then why stop,?

    That's a good question, and the simple answer is I'm an all or nothing kind of guy. I either commit to being a serious athlete again, or not at all. Recently, I've been trying to break this way of thinking, and it means coming to terms with the fact that I won't get back to my former self, plus figuring out what makes me want to ride my bike if it's not for competition.
  • whdeboer
    whdeboer Posts: 8

    whdeboer said:



    Are there any ex-racers out there who have transitioned to just riding for the heck of it? How did you make that mental switch from being competitive to cycling just for fun?

    It probably took 2-3 years for me to properly adjust to the fact that I was no longer racing, so didn't need to ride as hard or as regularly. I don' think it's something you can simply switch off.
    It's comforting to hear I'm not the only one who struggles with this! I watched a YT vid of a retired Cancellara and a retired Phil Gaimon "racing" against each other up a mountain. In a chat between the two of them afterwards it became clear that Cancellara has come to terms with the fact that he's not racing anymore, and he's happy just riding the bike. Phil Gaimon, who is meant to be retired, not so much :) The goal is to be like a retired Cancellara :)
  • It also depends on your definition of 'fun'. You can still ride competitively and set yourself goals and targets whilst still being fun and enjoyable.

    I don't race anymore but do lots of structured training, and focus on training metrics with the odd lab test here and there. I do occasional sportives and multi day events as well. I would say this is fun to me as it is purely for enjoyment, I have no interest in competing against anyone, I just enjoying the riding I do.
  • MattFalle
    MattFalle Posts: 11,644
    whdeboer said:

    MattFalle said:

    i'm going to go aginst thd general trend - Ugo excepted - and just say why stop?

    4 hrs a week on the road, some specific turbo training time, do hills, sprints snd couple of crits. Throw in z drcrnt sportive away somewhere nice once a year

    if you want to do it and have time-ish to go it and it won't kill you then why stop,?

    That's a good question, and the simple answer is I'm an all or nothing kind of guy. I either commit to being a serious athlete again, or not at all. Recently, I've been trying to break this way of thinking, and it means coming to terms with the fact that I won't get back to my former self, plus figuring out what makes me want to ride my bike if it's not for competition.
    tbh i stopped racing and arduos courses at work because I lost my mojo/thought i was too old and overall, got v bored and felt depressed all the time. For both sport and work it was a very much "been there, done that so why bother" kinda affair.

    now getting back into it, looking at some tasty stuff again. Feeling a billion times better, fitter, happier. Smiling more.

    You only live once - just do it.
    .
    The camera down the willy isn't anything like as bad as it sounds.
  • DeVlaeminck
    DeVlaeminck Posts: 8,789
    I think have others have alluded to it's not all or nothing - full on competitive racing or ride for fun and tootle round with the CTC.

    Plenty of riders never pin a number on but still get their competitive fix - we can laugh at winter warriors or chain gang champions (I wouldn't but some look down on it) but if they are having fun racing their mates what's the harm.

    You can also do structured training if that's your bag - if you need a purpose to motivate you stuff like the Marmotte is good. Then as others have said there are other disciplines which are competitive but would be new , cross, time trial or just racing on zwift.


    [Castle Donington Ladies FC - going up in '22]
  • pblakeney
    pblakeney Posts: 26,203
    Here's an odd suggestion, but it will definitely slow you down if it appeals.
    Pick a scenic route and throw a camera in a backpack. Stop when you see something picturesque. If you can focus on the photography you will find that you enjoy the cycling. Definitely an anti-racing strategy. 😉
    The above may be fact, or fiction, I may be serious, I may be jesting.
    I am not sure. You have no chance.
    Veronese68 wrote:
    PB is the most sensible person on here.
  • MattFalle
    MattFalle Posts: 11,644
    How about transferring your experience into another sphere and start coaching - either adults or kiddies at local club?

    get a vicarious racing kick through the people you coach, get satisfaction, still get to ride and you may get a pint out of it at the end of the year knees' up.
    .
    The camera down the willy isn't anything like as bad as it sounds.
  • First.Aspect
    First.Aspect Posts: 15,215
    This all comes down to whether you enjoy setting targets and/or racing, doesn't it? It's hard to tell where you do enjoy it, or dont really enjoy it, but get sucked in to it depite yourself.
  • ugo.santalucia
    ugo.santalucia Posts: 28,300
    The thing is, you sound more like an athlete than a cyclist... you like the competitive side of riding a bicycle, if you take that away, you will get bored and do something else, running, or god forbids, triathlon!
    If you like hills, there are plenty of mountain time trials in the CTT calendar and obviously a lively scene of Hill Climb TTs, the best sport in the world, or at least in the UK... :)


    left the forum March 2023
  • shirley_basso
    shirley_basso Posts: 6,195
    The support for that is crazy. Must have been a fantastic atmosphere.
  • The thing is, you sound more like an athlete than a cyclist


    Interesting point. With the cycling boom over the last decade, I've come across a fair few people that got to a good level quickly but then hit a plateau and gave up when they knew they wouldn't go further.

    I know a couple of guys that went from 1st/2nd cat, riding 20,000km+ a year to literally not riding a bike again. It was certainly a case that they were a competitive athlete, rather than a cyclist per se.
  • ugo.santalucia
    ugo.santalucia Posts: 28,300

    The support for that is crazy. Must have been a fantastic atmosphere.

    It was... a once in a lifetime experience... still have to decide whether the torrential rain made it better or worse... LOL
    left the forum March 2023
  • ugo.santalucia
    ugo.santalucia Posts: 28,300

    The thing is, you sound more like an athlete than a cyclist


    Interesting point. With the cycling boom over the last decade, I've come across a fair few people that got to a good level quickly but then hit a plateau and gave up when they knew they wouldn't go further.

    I know a couple of guys that went from 1st/2nd cat, riding 20,000km+ a year to literally not riding a bike again. It was certainly a case that they were a competitive athlete, rather than a cyclist per se.
    Yes... I find myself somewhere in between... even when I was doing Audax, which are not competitive by nature, I always wanted to be first one back. That said, I would love to do a nice week long tour, possibly supported, as I don't like logging around 30kg of equipment. Not too keen on the pointless 50 miles ride along known roads, there needs to be some extra incentive, being that a hill to climb full on, a segment to chase, or a group of friends I haven't seen in a while... something other than just pedalling around
    left the forum March 2023