By Mark Morris, cyclist, teacher and MSU alumnus
It’s 5° outside my home in SW Ohio. So I trudge to the basement, fire up my favorite Peleton instructor on my iPad, jump on the spinning bike, and begin a 45-minute workout. While I don’t like indoor cycling, these winter workouts have become an essential part of my love of cycling. The workouts also provide me with the gift of uninterrupted time when I can think. This morning I had time to think about why I ride in the MSU Gran Fondo every June (three of the first five so far and registered for Fondo 6). I think there are three basic, but not necessarily simple, reasons.
First, cycling is a form of psychotherapy for me. Despite my fondness for expensive carbon bikes and all the fun accoutrements that go with cycling (like my closet full of cycling jerseys), I tell my wife that I am saving us money that otherwise would have to go to a therapist. Cycling provides me with the time and space needed to unwind, decompress, and clear my mind as I roll mile after mile. As an introvert who stands before a classroom of college students every day, I really need this time away from the crowds. I have found this to be a shared commonality with other cyclists as well. As a rider in the Gran Fondo, I am as comfortable chatting with riders around me as I am simply turning my pedals in silence. That means you are welcome to ride with one of the many teams or as a solo rider as I do.
Second, I enjoy challenges. Sixteen years ago I signed up for a 525-mile bike ride across the state of Montana and didn’t even own a bike. All these years and two bikes later, I have now ridden over 11,000 miles. Cycling has taken me to places like Montana (where we rode up and over the continental divide), to France (to watch the Tour de France and ride up Alpe d’Huez…twice), to Italy (to watch the Giro d’Italia), and of course Grand Rapids. As a rider who loves climbing, the only downside to Grand Rapids is there are no upsides. I like mountains and there are none of those on the Gran Fondo route. That makes it great for riders of all sizes, shapes, and ages. I choose the 80-mile route, but there are also 40- and 25- and 12-mile routes if you prefer a shorter distance. Select your personal challenge and go for it.
Lastly, I have a deep sense of indebtedness to and fondness for Michigan State University. As a 1983 graduate, I owe much to my 4+ years at MSU. I entered MSU as an insecure, under-motivated, and very uncertain young man. I left with a great education, a slew of great memories, and my wife-to-be. Since graduating, I have had two careers and now hold two advanced degrees. It all started for me at MSU. So I ride to say thanks to my alma mater. Riding in the Gran Fondo is also about raising funds to support the College of Human Medicine and skin cancer research. Please do what you can to raise these vitally important funds.
Riding a bike, wearing green and white, and supporting an important cause…that’s a pretty good day in my book. No matter why you ride, I encourage you to join us on June 23 and go Green!