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Bike five-oh: Resolving to stay on the righteous path

On ageing and gaining insight to drive a comeback

by James “Cranky” Ramsay

Illustration: Russ Tudor

I’ve turned 50. This is remarkable to me. When I was in my 20s, living in a boxcar and travelling the Prairies as an itinerant harmonica player and street magician, I never imagined I’d see 50. But here I am – a respectable, married homeowner with two kids, a full-time job and a column in a national magazine.

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If my parents were still alive, they’d be very proud. They would have thrown me an amazing party. My mom would have invited all my friends, even the ones I don’t really like (so as not to hurt anyone’s feelings), and there would have been cake and ice cream and three-legged races. Eventually I would have gotten tired and cried, and then everyone would have had to go home.

But my parents, bless their hearts, are dead. So how did I decide to celebrate this milestone birthday? Did I buy myself a 50-tooth chainring? Or perhaps a case of Labatt 50 beer? On the first option, I’m still entirely capable of pushing a 53-tooth ring, so that would have been a waste of money. And since I quit drinking entirely a while back, the case of beer would have ended up being consumed by our lodger, Derek. He’s a bit belligerent as it is, and I don’t want to make the situation worse.

So where does that leave me? Given my long-term plan, which is to live to 100, I’m now exactly at the halfway point of my life. (Yes, math is a strength of mine.) And being at this midpoint, I stand on the fulcrum. I can choose to embrace the next 50 years with vigour, or I can accede to the inevitable march of time and raise my hands in defeat. I must choose wisely, since my binary nature makes it very hard to change course once I’m locked in.

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To help me decide, I looked up my old ride data from when I was racing, which of course was not that long ago. I say “of course” because when I think back, it doesn’t feel as though a lot of time has passed since I was crushing half the field as a mid-pack masters competitor. Imagine my shock when I dusted off my spreadsheet and realized that the last time I rolled up to a start line was in 2011. My math skills tell me that was nearly seven years ago. That’s a long time, especially for an old man like me.

Once I got over the alarming realization that it would take a serious, long-term commitment for me to undo the last seven years of bread and jam and reclaim the fitness that I imagine is my due, I decided to get to work. I upgraded to the latest version of the training management software I used to use. Then, I started logging my rides again. Through my fallow period, I never actually stopped capturing data – I simply stopped using it. But that’s all changed. I’m now running deep analysis on my power curve. In consultation with my personal actuary and my past-life regression therapist, I’m gaining powerful insights that will drive my comeback.

That’s right – I’m making a comeback. You read it here first, and unless something untoward forces a change in the plan, you’ll see me on the start line of at least a few local races in 2018.


Of course, it’s always good to have a Plan B, so just in case, I’ve found my suitcase of harmonicas and my magic set. They’re in the front hall closet, ready to go.