I was at a Rapha Cycle Club a few months back listening to a question-and-answer session with a cycling photographer when somebody in the audience asked, “Why do all of the photos try to make cycling look so epic? That’s not realistic. A lot of rides are actually sort of boring and ordinary.”
Words: Lindsay Bayer/ Images: Jason Perry
Of course I laughed, because the guy put into words perfectly what we all already know: most of cycling isn’t epic or breathtaking. You don’t roll out every weekend to summit a peak in the Pyrenees or cross every finish line gutted, crusted in mud and ice. Cycling for 99% of us is fun and challenging, but looks nothing like what Rapha and the like are selling. Right now as I type this, I’m literally pedaling on a trainer in a freezing garage next to my mother’s car. This is neither sexy nor epic. This is the reality of cycling.
That is what I’m going to talk about in this column: unvarnished tales of being a professional cyclist and the owner of a pro women’s cycling team. Sometimes it will be exciting and possibly even epic, but more often it will be the truth about long hours in a team van that smells like aging fruit meets used socks, or the constant anxiety over eating a cookie, or the relentless work that goes into finishing 48th in an international race. So many people – pros, team marketing, cycling media – perpetuate an image of glamour and struggle and thrill in this sport, especially at the top levels of racing. I think it’s more interesting and important to be honest. Failure and fatigue and boredom are just as much a part of a cyclist’s journey at any level. We have all been to an office park crit.
As a bit of introduction, my name is Lindsay Bayer and I am a 32 year old American pro cyclist. Back in 2007, I started riding and racing as a very awkward mountain biker and then transitioned to the road in 2011. It took a few years of racing domestically to make the jump to professional cycling, but in 2013 I started my first contract and have been living the dream ever since. In fall of 2015, I started a women’s professional cycling team with Jono Coulter, my former director and now business partner. It happened somewhat by accident: I kept talking to Jono about team plans thinking he’d hire me to ride for him again and somehow that turned into planning our own team (well played, Jono, well played). When Steve Berman of the Hagens Berman law firm stepped in to make the team a reality, I began wildest ride of my life yet.
Now Hagens Berman | Supermint is starting our second season and, by the time you’re reading this column, we’ll have wrapped up the first UCI race of the year, the Tour Down Under. By we, I mean the team, because while they’re pinning numbers and basking in the Australian summer, I’m training in bitterly cold Northern Virginia thanks to some poor life choices. There is snow on the ground, so I spend most of my rides in a garage or at my coach’s computrainer studio trying to impress triathletes with my FTP while dialing into work teleconferences. It’s epic.
Although I love to complain about things like training indoors or the general hardship of being alive, the truth is I wouldn’t trade this life for anything. Cycling has changed who I am and how I live and introduced a world of some of the greatest people I’ve ever met. There is so much to love here. But with the good comes the bad, and there are some truly tough parts. I’ve struggled with an eating disorder for several years, dealt with crushing burnout that at one point led to a brief retirement, slammed my head into asphalt and lodged myself in a metal barrier and even become (in)famous for starring in a truly phenomenal crash photo. As a team manager, I’ve juggled the hundreds of tiny agonies that come from running a purposely unprofitable business based around passion and the traveling circus of bike racing. The struggle is real.
In the end, it all makes for great stories. That’s what I’m here to share: the highs, the lows, the reality of what it’s actually like to live the dream. I can laugh at myself even in the worst of times; now here’s hoping you can too.
We’re very excited to be working with Lindsay and hearing her unique and honest take on professional cycling in 2017. Look for Lindsay’s column, ‘Unvarnished Tales of a Professional’, every month at PELOTONMagazine.com.
To learn more about her team go to supermintusa.cc