Feb 13, 2009

Vans, Bike Racing & Punk Rock. Oi!

The last page of the March VeloNews is a piece written by road racer Adam Myerson titled “Get in the Van.” After only reading the title, I’m already intrigued because, A; I love vans, and B; the illustration that accompanies the editorial is of a van with a Black Flag sticker on the rear window, and by now you know that I’m fascinated with the history of punk rock. In fact, I consider myself the Shelby Foote of punk rock, and when I say punk rock, I mean as in a lifestyle, not as in a form of music. Most music that gets that label, especially in the last 20 years is garbage. And let’s face it, most of the original stuff was trash too, but the way in which it was produced is significant.

In "Get in the Van", Myerson draws a parallel between the early do-it-yourself days of punk rock and the shoe-string-budget lifestyle of a bike racer. Both of these labors of love lifestyles are spent living day to day and enjoying every miserable minute of it. There are no team buses, no airplanes, and no big-money rider contracts. Just a van, a hotel room floor to sleep on, and a community pool of prize (or gig) money. It’s all about sacrifice, racing, and doing what it takes to get from one race to the next and with good enough form to make an impact. As a motivation message to his Mountain Khakis pro team teammates, veteran racer Myerson, pledges to rekindle the bike racing fire that originally started for him in 1987, and he asks them to do the same.

I am Adam Myerson. In fact, when Denise read his open letter to his teammates, she said it was if I wrote it myself. Starting first with motorcycle racing and now with bike racing, I have spent a good part of my life making the same sacrifices: sleeping in the back of trucks or on hotel floors; spending countless hours training or working on machinery instead of doing all the leisurely things that most people do; pining over parts, pieces, and components; fretting over food; living paycheck to paycheck so I could make it to one race after the next; sacrificing. Sure, there have been times when things have come easy, but those times are the result of all the sacrifice.

The old saying, "Misery loves company" applies well to this scenario. All of this suffering is much easier to cope with and more enjoyable if you have someone or a group of someones who can appreciate the lifestyle or lives it themselves. In this case, opposites don't attract. My best friends have been people just like me. These people aren’t always easy to come by and many aren’t always willing to stick around once they’ve gotten a real taste. They have to want to drink from the same bottle, and so does your family if they are going to support you. The reality of it is, if I’m sacrificing so much, then so are Denise and Ryder. You know what they say; addiction affects family and friends, which is why I don’t plan on doing this to them for too much longer.

A lot of times when I’m sitting around thinking, I think about how nice it will be to someday feel like I can actually sit around. Instead of it being bikes and racing, it will be rocking chairs, porches, patios, and beaches. It’s warm out, it’s clear, and The Clash’s "Straight to Hell" is playing in the background at a conversational volume. Unless of course, any of this rubs off on Ryder and then it will be bikes and racing and Richard Hell’s "Blank Generation" cranked up to 10 all over again.

I believe there are two kinds of people: Those who have great ambition, take chances, suffer a little bit, and experience youthful angst that soothes as they age; or those who experience great bitterness when they’re old because they sat around, developed a dormant existence, never got in the van, and let life pass them by. The latter is no way to live.

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