We made fun of Dennis when he rode his bike to work. The helmet. The gloves. The shoes. The tight spandex.
Especially the tight spandex.
After all, we lifted. We played basketball. We played football. We were "macho." (We -- and by "we," at the very least I mean "I" -- were also immature and stupid.) In the mid-'90s, cycling wasn't cool. And it definitely wasn't a sport.
At least not to us.
Then, in 1999, Lance Armstrong and the Postal/Discovery team began to dominate the sport in a way the less evolved among us could relate to. They bullied. They barged. They trash-talked. They kicked ass and took names.
Although it says more about me than I prefer, Lance in effect gave me "permission" to start riding a bike. The Lance Effect made cycling seem kind of cool.
And not just to me.
Over the last two decades road bike sales in the U.S. have soared. Especially the sales of high-tech, high-end bikes. In the mid-'90s, few people were willing to pay $2,000 for a bike. Today, a brief walk around the start area of just about any Gran Fondo, triathlon, or charity ride reveals scads of $6k, $8k, and $10k bikes. Even casual enthusiasts spend thousands of dollars in the pursuit of incremental performance gains.
Over the same period cycling has also become the "new boardroom," both a networking tool and a way to connect with clients.
And it's grown increasingly popular among entrepreneurs since the parallels are obvious. Most successful entrepreneurs are the product of bootstrapping, sacrificing, scraping and clawing and fighting... and never, ever giving up in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds.
That's why so many continue to seek challenges that require effort and perseverance, to fight through all the obstacles and challenges, to find inside themselves the will to stay the course... even though everything inside themselves wants to give up.
All of which were apparent in how Lance rode and won. And which many people realized they could find, inside themselves, through cycling.
Yet all of that seems largely forgotten -- or if not forgotten, something people choose not to admit.
After all: Lance lied. He used performance enhancing drugs. He bullied and trashed the reputations of people who turned out to be telling the truth.
None of which, however strongly you might feel about those actions, diminishes his impact on the business and sport of cycling.
After all: Bike shops flourished. High-end brands like Trek, Specialized, Cannondale, BMC, etc. benefited hugely from cycling's emergence into mainstream fitness. That widespread adoption led naturally to exercise bikes, streaming classes, brands like Peloton and SoulCycle... for many, indoor cycling is simply a practical and more convenient way to enjoy the physical and mental benefits of cycling.
No major shift can ever be traced to one person. No movement ever travels a straight line to the mainstream.
But when you connect the dots in the rise of the cycling industry, and the widespread adoption of cycling as a tool to improve health and fitness, you'll find Lance at a number of those points.
So the next time you hop on your bike, pause and tip your helmet to Lance. He meant as much to cycling's rise in popularity as Tiger Woods did to golf.
Another fact that seems to be forgotten -- or, if not forgotten, something people choose not to admit.