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Road Culture

A love letter to my bike

Alison Tetrick reflects on her past and present relationship with cycling, via a love letter.

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I was 22. You were timeless. Some find each other earlier in life. But we found each other at the perfect moment. Looking forward to something on the horizon, having no idea what it would
be. And here we are.

Also read: Does being a WorldTour pro make you better at gravel? Not necessarily, says Emily Newsom

Our relationship didn’t start fast and furious. I am not the type of person to just dive into an unknown relationship. I need to know the rules before playing a game of chance. I like to dip a toe in the water. Just one. Assess the temperature. Analyze the risk. Calculate the reward. And then plan accordingly. I am a scientist, after all. But there was something different about you.

Even if I was buying you off of eBay. It was like we had always known each other. Were we soulmates? Was it because my Grandpa approved of you already? Or was it because you reminded me of my most cherished memories, where I felt most free to be myself. Those days I would take my horse out onto the family ranch, feel the warm sun tingling on my skin, the wind blowing through my untamed hair, and my imagination soaring higher than cotton candy clouds in a liquid blue sky. In these moments, there were no boundaries, fences, stereotypes, or constructs. I was just a girl and her unabashed self that didn’t need to brush her hair or dress a certain way. You made me miss that girl, so I found her again. With you.

You talked me into it. It didn’t take long. Maybe I do dive into the fire more quickly than I thought. So much for being careful. I can’t deny the allure you shamelessly exuded. Those sexy aerodynamic lines and carbon aesthetics. That smell of new rubber and a freshly oiled and dialed drivetrain. Damn you and your innovative essence and spirit of efficient transportation! You promised the opportunity to express myself wholly, and completely.

All right, my dear bicycle, let’s do this. I am yours.

alison tetrick
Tetrick raced as a road pro for seven years before a win at the 2017 Dirty Kanza catapulted her into new fame. (Photo: @creedub)

Did you think Emily in Paris is romantic? Everyone saw our emerging affair. We traveled to so many places. We went around the world and represented the U.S.A. We learned new languages. We ate local cuisine perfectly paired with rosé and tried to conquer every mountain we encountered, together. We raced. We crashed. We lost. We won. It was a romance older than time. A person and a bike – a true love story.

And then it happened. You hurt me. We all knew it was inevitable. I almost died riding you. You nearly took my life, but instead, you changed it. I know I hurt you too, but I am more fragile than you. I hit the ground. You were safe. I was not. It was a long recovery from a traumatic brain injury, and mental health. Bones can fuse and carbon can be mended, but minds need nurturing every day. That healing process is long and arduous. It is an argument we still bring up when we are tired or stressed. We forgave each other, but we will never forget what happened. That’s all right, though. We are safer now. We understand the cost, the wounds we can inflict, and how low we can take each other. We are better because of it.

Up to this moment, we didn’t understand how we were so lost in each other and the places that we would go, that we were losing ourselves. You were my identity. You were my life. My everything. One did not exist without the other. Alison is a professional cyclist. The bike is lifeless without Alison. Codependent much? Yeah, I am glad we almost died to find each other again. And to know I was so much more than just you. Thank you to therapy for making us a much healthier pair.

Now. Here we are. I’m 36-years-old, but you’re still timeless. We have kept things exciting these last few years, by getting dirty and making our own rules. No, really. Gravel brought to us adventure and back to that original sense of freedom and inhibition that sparked our love in the first place. Gravel made us young lovers again. We have traveled longer, ridden harder, and still are right here with each other. We have aged well, you and me. We have adapted, grown, and yet we are still right where we are supposed to be. And now, it is less about racing and results. Yes, we have done that, but that isn’t our calling here. It is about whatever the hell we want. This is how we keep our fire alive. When we get tired, we add more adventure and positivity as kindling to our souls. We are honest with ourselves about what we want and what our goals are. We are confident to pass this torch on to more people like us.

Yes, we will still be lining up to gravel events around the world. We still feel that pure bliss of being out on the open range together. Yet, there is something more important to us these days beyond trophies and the fastest times. And that is right where we want to be. We are staying true to why we fell in love in the first place. To show what this union can mean and to bring
others along with us.

Where am I in the sport today? Wherever we want to be. We have had some great times, but our love isn’t about fitness peaks and wins. Successful results are about longevity, consistency, and at times, separation, which fans the flames of desire to be adventurous, to be free, to ride. I still feel the best is yet to come.

Yes, it might be weird to openly share my relationship with the bike through a love letter, but I have learned to not only love this romance out loud, but also to not turn down the volume of my vulnerability that operates on a high dose of fear and simultaneous gratitude. It is the only way I can saddle up each day, to keep passing this torch of freedom on two wheels and staying connected to that girl inside that no knows no limits. Yes, we are all right where we are supposed to be, every day stoking the passion that endures, in this romance of two-wheeled life. Timeless as ever. Be bold.

An American in France

What’s it like to be an American cyclist living in France? Watch to get professional road cyclist Joe Dombrowski’s view.