To put it simply, I ride to stay alive. I started riding a bicycle a little over three years ago. I had just separated from a 15 year marriage and was going through a very rough period of my life. A friend suggested that I get a hobby that involved regular exercise. I went to the local REI shop for inspiration and saw a flyer for the MS 150 bicycle tour (a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society). On impulse, I bought my touring REI Randonee that I have been riding ever since. Riding gave me a goal at a time when I desperately needed some focus in my life. Riding let me meet new friends. Riding taught me that I had more determination and inner strength than I was aware of. Riding also allowed me to spend memorable times with my children during long rides on the Silver Comet Trail, or crossing the state with my daughter in the 2003 Bicycle Ride Across Georgia (BRAG).
Not only did riding a bicycle help me keep my sanity, but it also helped me gain a level of health and fitness that I never had before. During my mid-thirties, I got to nearly 240 lbs due to poor eating habits, excessive stress and lack of exercise. My size 38 pants barely fit. I had high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and my knees hurt all the time. I am now at a normal 198 lbs for my 6'2" frame, my blood pressure and cholesterol are normal. My resting heart rate is 55 (and I now know what that means, too!). I just started wearing size 34 pants, something that had not happened since my college days (I am 40).
I am hooked on cycling. It's the only exercise that I can easily get motivated to do on a regular basis. The home gym machine in my office is gathering dust. I have started to do brevets now, looking for a greater challenge. Two weeks ago I finished a 200k. In early February I will attempt my first 300k. My final objective is to complete the Boston-Montreal-Boston in August, then attempt the Paris-Brest-Paris in 2007. When I started cycling, I could not have even remotely imagined that some day I would be capable of even attempting such things.
There are those who claim that cycling is a dangerous sport. I'll counter that NOT riding, at least in my case, would have been far more dangerous.