Imaginary Lines

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Molly O. has a track on her new album called Imaginary Lines and while I’ve been skiing I’ve had plenty of time to think about how we all restrict our potentials by making arbitrary decisions or restrictions on what we think we can, and thus, will do.

What initially got me thinking about this was while I was skiing I ran into a friend who said he pretty much quit riding, and for sure, racing because he crashed hard over the summer.  He was knocked out for around 5 minutes and had a neck injury that kept him out of work for 5 weeks.  Fortunately, he is fine now.

He was saying he was envious about how resilient I seemed to be and was very complimentary on that subject.  Anyway, I told him that I didn’t really feel that resilient nowadays, but I’ve experienced enough to understand that that being hurt is part of sports.  And especially cycling.

I do understand his decision, but thought about it for a day or two now and have to disagree with it.  I’ve been hurt a bunch, obviously, though out the years.  I definitely don’t heal as quickly as I used to, but I can’t let that stop me from doing the things in life that I feel are important and rewarding.

I got to thinking back through my life and thought that I’ve been hurt pretty substantially multiple times.  I broke my collarbone the first time I left the state and went up to Superweek to race, when I was 14.  I was so green that I drove back to Kansas, saw an orthopedic surgeon and then drove straight back up and raced Nationals the next week.

When I was 25, I collided into a car at 100km/hr and broke just about everything, plus was knocked out for a couple hours.  All I could think about was if I could recover in 10 weeks, in time to race the Coor’s Classic in August.

And it just kept going every few years.  If I would have let the initial big crash/concussion draw that imaginary line, then I would have missed hundred of thousands of experiences.  Many that there would be no way I could have experienced through any other avenue.

And these lines we draw or restrict ourselves by, doesn’t always only occur in sports.  We do it in all aspects of our lives.  I run into people all them time that have hardly ever travelled 100 miles from where they live.  I ask them about if they’ve ever been to California, or Europe and they say, “Oh, no. I can’t imagine doing that.”

It doesn’t even cross their minds the options they have just there, right in front of them, waiting to be experienced.  And we all do it.  We limit our options and experiences by these imaginary, completely made up pre-concieved notions, that don’t have any base of accuracy, because we have no experience, so essentially we are ignorant.

When great things happen, either personally, or on a bigger society basis, it is usually done when we’ve stepped over our hypothetical, imaginary lines and allowed these things to happen.  So next time you’re uncertain, maybe just take the plunge, and see where it takes you.


Track 8 is Imaginary Lines, but the whole album is great.






27 thoughts on “Imaginary Lines

  1. channel_zero

    If I would have let the initial big crash/concussion draw that imaginary line, then I would have missed hundred of thousands of experiences.

    Would you cease to exist? No. You would have had other experiences just as meaningful. Judging by the words used, you probably feel you would cease to exist. Which would be a crisis for you.

    As you age, you could take your last injury as some kind of clue that you need a persona outside of some duder that goes really fast on a bike, or not. Get back to the ditch you’ve been digging since you were a teenager, quick! It’s not going to dig itself. Don’t look around. Keep digging that ditch.

  2. channel_zero

    Stated a less negative way: what about those imaginary lines that keep you slaving away on a bike as the single source of your identity?

  3. Touriste-Routier

    While we all face limitations, but these lines are not always imaginary. We all make decisions and set priorities in our own way. In any given scenario, the correct action for you might not be the same for anyone else. They typically come down to your desires, priorities, and means. Any “line drawn” might be carefully considered, could be completely impulsive, or any where in between.

  4. Steve Tilford Post author

    channel_zero – I don’t consider the bike culture , and what I do related, anyway associated with “slaving away”. And it is not even close to my single source of identity. Bike racing and its realted benefits, open doors that would never be apparent to me any other way. It always a lifestyle that fits me and my personality very well.

  5. JB

    “I definitely don’t heal as quickly as I used to, but I can’t let that stop me from doing the things in life that I feel are important and rewarding.”

    You’re not wrong, and neither is your friend who stopped riding. Your friend just doesn’t feel that riding is [as] important and/or rewarding anymore.

  6. Bill K

    Only quitters quit.
    Ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

    It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

  7. channel_zero

    First, I apologize for such a negative response the first time. My second post is hopefully nicer, but still sort of a challenge to your world view.

    Second, For me, the topic of personal potential and the psychology behind always comes with interesting observations.

    I am aware there’s three more fingers pointing back at me when I’m pointing something out about someone else. I know I’ve got plenty to do regarding my own potential.

    I’m pointing out it’s obvious there’s some very powerful personal stuff for you going way beyond a lifestyle choice with cycling. It might be a nice opportunity to understand yourself a little more, with an upside of generating more blog content!

    Best wishes to all in the Tilford household for 2015.

  8. Greg

    This is why I come here every day. Excellent. Different strokes for different folks.
    Unfortunately I’ve never met Steve, I suspect that their is more to the man than
    racing bikes. Happy Healthy New Year.

  9. euro

    Steve-you don’t have a wife or kids to think about. Just yourself. Life is VERY different when you have no one to worry about but yourself. I quit riding earlier this year after 30 years because the risks (and too many close calls with texting drivers and the loss of 3 good cycling buddies due to hit and run accidents) simply outweighed the benefits for me. If I was a single guy with no one except myself to think about like you are I would still be riding. But I can’t risk ending up in a wheelchair, drooling and pissing all over myself, or worse, just to indulge my selfish desires. My wife and kids are too important to me.

  10. devin

    I was blown up on the roll out of the Fat Forty,,, I was sitting on you wheel right before the turn to 77 told you something like have fun?? then a mile or so down 77 that was it.. Crushed I was ..destroyed..ended up with my first ever helicopter ride. Missed two weeks of work missed a whole fall of riding… Now all I can think about is getting back to my old form and riding and smiling.. I don’t want to stop just redirect,, cycling is and has been such a huge part of my life… My wreck freaked me out and rattled my family.. but I can’t give up.. just need to shake the cobwebs out and give it. As you have i have seen a lot of people get wrecked and come back and other walk away,, it all about perspective.. Skiing,, Bike Riding/Racing Skateboarding etc,, eventual gravity will come calling. Now just need to get fully healed and back at it..

  11. Jim

    Wow! Really? Euro, you make some VERY big ASSumptions in your remarks. Equating having a passion and desire to live a GOOD life to having “selfish desires” and “no one to worry about but yourself” is way over the line.

  12. Jason


    I believe that your opinions on this subject stem from never having to live you life for anyone other than yourself. I was once the same. I had kids. The risks I take now are balanced with the life I want for my children. That is all.


  13. Russell Dent

    Jason and Euro, How selfish of you to think that the world wants another you. My guess is a balanced life for you means balancing your selfish activities with making sure your child has the all the opportunities to succeed over less enlightened or entitled kids. Success is actually is easy and rarely accomplished by parents intervening, rather achieved by hard work and humility. Don’t flatter yourself
    If you weren’t so threatened another person’s joy, you had a great chance to learn something from Steve and the talented woman that wrote this song.

  14. reality

    Bike heads are generally pretty selfish and don’t appreciate getting called out and this just proves it. All of you are sentenced to 2 hours of service at your local food bank and one hour of reading real literature.

  15. Rich

    I find your tenacity and focus admirable. While I don’t know your friend, there is nothing wrong with shifting a passion from cycling to another sport e.g., XC skiing, running. Probably inaccurate to equate leaving a sport with giving up on new experiences. There are a lot of things which cycling requires that may give one some pause: time, money, risk. We all balance those things with what we get in return. The proportionality of these things changes over a life. Can one get their fix through another mode that takes less time, has less risk, costs less? Seems so. Argument could be made that your friend can now experience things that you’ve never been able to experience because of your focus. Maybe for your friend, leaving cycling behind was his imaginary line.

  16. euro

    Russell-I don’t have a clue what you’re talking about, but you totally missed my point. I simply was trying to say that I want to BE ALIVE so I can be at my son’s wedding, or to see him score his first goal in soccer. I’m not threatened by Steve’s joy. If he likes floating through life alone then good for him. I take more joy from watching my kids grow up and sharing life with my wife.

  17. Jason

    Whrere did I say the world needs another me? Balanced life for me means keeping all aspects of what I do in some sort of order to accomplish some sort of peace of mind at the end of the day. Seems you are trolling for a negative response here. Hard work and humilty are part of the balance of a fruitful life, especially when you are not living it only for yourself. I am happy to see someone else have the joy and free spirit that comes for only living for one’s self. For me, the risks of things like paddling a creek at flood stage to have a good run at some white caps are less important. I don’t need them to feel special or unique anymore. My kids would survive without me, but I don’t want to miss a day of their lives because I chose to do something reckless. I read Steve’s blog because I like the things he does. But to say I am flattering myself for wanting to be around for my kids and vice versa is just wrong. You sound like a Dick.

  18. Jack

    Since when did riding a bicycle become reckless? Am I missing something here? People take risks everyday (including those with families and others that they support) for example, those in law enforcement. Such careers can be both “important and rewarding” and it doesn’t mean these people are living their lives only for themselves.

    I agree with Russell regarding both euro and Jason.

    By the way, Jason, you sound like a dick.

  19. Gordo

    Steve’s post did what it was supposed to do, make us all think a bit about things that hold us back or redirect us or challenge us. Even with a wife and kids, I know what I love to do and that is riding bikes. I may not be able to be gone as long or push the envelope as much as before but I still ride and love to do it. Keep the wheels rolling and the rubber side down. Happy New Year, Gordo

  20. David

    Same reasons after 30+ years of riding/racing too. Two very close calls this summer did it. Have our 5 month old on my knee as I tap this out, the 4 year old running around like nuts and the 18 year old heading to college in the fall. Not that selfish. Keep at it Steve.


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