Shred More : Race Less

I recently read a short statement via John Watson’s Instagram account for The Radavist regarding racing and riding and I whole-heartedly agree with the sentiment. Not to mention, it’s a notion I’ve held for a long, long time. The notion of riding more and racing less or maybe it’s more about riding and less about racing. How I say it is like this: Shred More. Race Less. Now that’s no dig on racing and competition. I think that’s a really healthy thing to do and for anyone looking to get in to cycling it’s a really great entry point. So I really want to say first that my opinion is not one against racing but rather one that advocates riding. And there’s a difference I think.

To further the discussion, here’s my vantage point and I’ve competed in a handful of sports throughout my 40 revolutions around our Sun. Racing and competition are about one thing and one thing only: Winning. You’re sole purpose when you line up is to win. That’s what you are there to do. That’s what you train to do. That’s what you spend your off-season preparing for. That’s what you put the time in the gym for. That’s why you hone your skills and drill till the sun goes down. That’s why you head out come rain or shine. That takes dedication. That takes discipline. That takes singular focus. Whether you are in a team or racing for yourself, you’re there to win. Some of these races in the endurance categories it’s just about finishing the event too is a win but I’m talking about more of the traditional race format. This notion of everyone gets a t-shirt for participation is not a race. That’s not racing. That’s something entirely different and it’s a gathering to celebrate something else that starts to get close to riding with your bud’s on Saturday afternoon. Bragging rights, fist on chest sort of stuff. That’s healthy too to a degree before it becomes unhealthy.

To help illustrate my overall point, according to the National Bicycle Dealers Association, 73% of all cyclists bicycle for recreation, 53% are fitness focused, 10% are commuter focused, 8% are racing focused, and 6% are sport. The numbers add up to more than 100% because according to the poll conducted by The Bicycle Market Research Institute in 2006, cyclists ride in multiple ways and identify themselves in a variety of fashions. What stands out to me is that 8% number. That’s not a majority by a long stretch. And what is even more peculiar is when you walk in to a bike shop, the vast majority of road bikes are race oriented if you then compare that to the actual cyclist who is riding for recreation which composes 73% (I’m sure those numbers have changed a bit since 2006 as the number of cyclists total in the U.S. has changed). My biggest point is that the industry basically makes bikes that are race ready for a community that does not race. With the newer “gravel” segments and the component packages you’re seeing like Sram’s 1x setups and larger cassette cog options in 11 speed, I think this is starting to show signs of a shift occurring in the industry. I know from my own experience every “road” bike I’ve built to date for clients has had a requirement to have room for at least 32-40mm tires. None of these bikes are raced on a regular basis, if at all. Most have admitted they “used” to race but just want a good all around road bike built to handle it all and then some. Apparently, I am more in tune and market my custom bicycles to cyclists who ride their bicycles, not cyclists who race their bicycles. Those clients who do race on my client list are indeed in the minority. Most if not all of them I know for a fact Shred.

So, what is Shredding? Well..

Shredding is throwing your leg over your bike and heading out for a ride. You are focused on the line ahead of you. We’re not counting miles. We’re not counting calories burned or power output. You don’t care what place you’re in or who you’re chasing down in front of you or who you’re fighting off that wants to pass you. What we’re counting on is our friends joining in for the ride or just heading out by yourself and the weather happens to be cooperating with you at that moment in time. What you pay attention to is the line in front of you. You get in the zone and you’re focused on leaning just a bit more through this turn, or pedaling a little bit harder up that next hill. You take the time to stop, take in the scenery and reflect on where you have been, where you are and where you’re headed. You’re not taking your pulse. You’re not looking at your watch. Hopefully you’ve left your phone or device at home. You’ve “disconnected” from everything that rules your life and you’re abiding by one rule and one rule only: No Rules. The challenge is how high you can bunny hop. The challenge is just how hard you can push through that turn. The challenge is if you can make it through that rock garden ahead WITHOUT dabbing. Your goals are to overcome what you feared last ride. Riding that line you thought was impossible and cheering on your buddy who is riding something for the very first time and not dabbing!

You are focused on “the Ride” and not the finish line. That’s Shredding. You can’t do that when you’re racing. It’s that simple.

Editor’s Note: I am a product of the 90’s BMX movement. To understand my take on this is to understand the shift away from racing & competition for what defined a “Pro” during that time period. There’s a subtle nuance of definitions I’m speaking about here.