Racing Bicycles for 40 Years

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I hadn’t really thought about it until last weekend, but when I did I was shocked. I’ve had a bicycle racing license for 40 years. And I’ve had a Professional designation on that license for 29 of those 40 years. As of last weekend’s racing, it was the start of my 40th year of racing. Wow. It is sort of depressing thinking about it. Well, not really, because I wouldn’t take much back. Actually, I wouldn’t take anything back. For sure I have regrets, disappointments and want a few do-overs, but I accept that isn’t part of the deal with the sport, or life in general, so I’m just sticking with where I’m at.

When I started out, I had no preconceived ideas about how long I was going to race. I just knew it was what I wanted to do and I wanted to get good at it. I still feel that way. I don’t race bikes for any one reason. There are thousands. Many I probably haven’t even personally identified yet.

I rode a pretty big week for me last week. Nearly 500 miles. I had 90 miles on Saturday, with a criterium, then 60 miles of racing on Sunday. Yesterday I thought I’d go out for an easier ride on my 29’r MTB bike. I’m kicking around going down to Austin and doing the US Cup there this Saturday and though maybe I should ride my MTB bike a couple times before I take the plunge. Anyway, I started out down by the river and the next thing I know I’m in Lawrence drinking a cup of coffee. I had no intention of riding the 30 + miles to Lawrence when I started out. I don’t think that riding a MTB bike 60 miles on gravel, into a brisk wind, with the temperatures in the lower 30’s, is very good recovery from the first weekend of year racing. I didn’t really care.

I got caught up in the ride and didn’t even think about turning around, even though the temperature was supposed to be dropping into the 20’s and it was going to be dark at least an hour before I got home. I just did it and didn’t really worry about the rest.

That is kind of an analogy of my whole cycling career. I got caught up in it and didn’t ever think over deviating the course.

A lot of people ask me how I can still be doing this after all these years. I don’t have a definitive answer. Like I said above it is a ton of things. I love being outdoors. I love seeing the world from a bicycle. It is just the correct speed for me to be able to view, then process what I’ve viewed. I like competition. I like the athletic and technical aspects of the sport equally. I like the mechanical aspects of the bicycle. I am naturally inquisitive.

Then there is the travel. I’ve been to every state in the country, minus Alaska. I’ve raced in dozens of foreign countries. I’ve seen things that I’m 100% positive I wouldn’t have seen unless I was a bike racer. It has molded how I view the world and many of my morals.

Next are the people I meet. Most/many of my close friends are those who I’ve been fortunate enough to ride a bike with. Many for long periods, all over the world. These are people that were drawn to the same sport as me, for whatever reason, then we bonded for life. It is a very important part of the attraction and duration.

When I look at the whole package, it has just about everything that I need to be happy and content.

I recognize that I am one of the lucky few that gets to do exactly what I love to do. I try to, and hope I do, show gratitude and honor, to the sport I love.

My first racing license for the ABLA.  My license number was 05035.  I wonder if I can get that back from the USAC?

My first racing license for the ABLA. My license number was 05035. I wonder if I can get that back from the USAC?

Riding into the sunset yesterday evening.  I never get tired of this view.

Riding into the sunset yesterday evening. I never get tired of this view.

15 thoughts on “Racing Bicycles for 40 Years

  1. SalRuibal

    Congratulations, Steve. You were at Cactus Cup in 1996 when I first “learned” to ride an MTB at Specialized Super Camp. I’m still learning. You and Ned showed me the ropes. Changed my life. MTB HOF. I’ve been a paid professional journalist since 1971, minus two years as an Army grunt. I love it like you love to race. Kudos to Trudi for her support. There’s always someone behind successful people who you never hear about. I’m sure she could write a great book about her ongoing adventures. Thanks for everything.

     
  2. Bob

    I love that photo of that quiet desolate rural road out there in Kansas. Where I ride, outside of Boston, it never seems to look like that.

     
  3. Dan

    Good article Steve , I feel the same way about cycling and Racing . I wish I had enough money to not have to work so much and ride more I think I will by a lottery ticket this week. Its none of my business but I admit I wonder how you afford the time and travel and lifestyle . Whatever or how it couldn’t happen to a better guy.

     
  4. The Cyclist

    I feel you are one the few and far between who really understand the essence of cycling. As a sport and as a life style. Big big difference compared to some other “cyclists” who rather play golf or run hotels than ride their bikes into the sunset.

     
  5. Jim

    I haven’t had the success you have enjoyed nor have I been as many places BUT I have you beat on the length of time with a license. I got my first one in ’73. Easy to remember because it was when my son was born. Now he is middle aged. WTH did the years go??

     
  6. Paul Gissing

    “I love seeing the world from a bicycle. ” My sentiments exactly… Another great article; keep ’em coming…

     
  7. Don Snoop

    Steve–congratulations!! I started racing almost 20 years ago for totally different reasons–I wanted to spend more time with my 2 oldest sons who were both racing M. bikes at the time–now I’m delaying the aging process by continuing to race Cyclocross and MT. Bikes as much as I can. At his point, I don’t think I’ll ever stop racing and riding my bikes.

     
  8. Denny Thiel

    “When I started out, I had no preconceived ideas about how long I was going to race. I just knew it was what I wanted to do and I wanted to get good at it. I still feel that way. I don’t race bikes for any one reason. There are thousands. Many I probably haven’t even personally identified yet”. Steve Tilford

    Thanks

     
  9. Walter Houle

    I too recently realized I have been cycling for 40 years. I had license number 05800. Still have it in a drawer. Thanks for all of the
    memories. Keep them comng.

     

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