R.A. Dickey

Play­ing out in­nings while ped­alling up­hill

Canadian Cycling Magazine - - BAMBOO BIKES OF P.E.I - By David Mcpher­son

As a ma­jor-league base­ball player, to choose to throw a pitch that is un­ortho­dox, me­thod­i­cal and un­pre­dictable, is to be un­ortho­dox your­self. It’s no sur­prise then that R.A. Dickey – the Toronto Blue Jays’ knuck­le­baller and avid cy­clist – is the type of rider who loves to me­an­der off the beaten path. Dickey ar­rived in Toronto in a 2012 off-sea­son in a trade with the New York Mets. In Septem­ber, a day af­ter the for­mer Cy Young Award win­ner pitched six and two-thirds in­nings to se­cure a vic­tory against the Los An­ge­les An­gels – keep­ing the Blue Jays in the play­off hunt – the 42 year old took my call from the dugout. He chat­ted about his pas­sion for ped­alling. When I asked him to com­pare the knuck­le­ball and cy­cling, Dickey laughed. “Life is about metaphors isn’t it?” he said. “Let me try to fig­ure this one out.” Af­ter a pause, the pitcher replied, “There is a real free­dom in both. Jump­ing on a bike and tak­ing off for 20 mi. and not be­ing held down, you are out in the open. As a knuck­le­baller, there is also a lot of free­dom in just try­ing to pro­duce a good knuck­le­ball and the result will take care of it­self.” “That’s an­other sim­i­lar­ity,” Dickey con­tin­ued. “It’s all about the process. Throw­ing my pitch and be­ing a base­ball player – so much of it is about a ded­i­ca­tion to the process and not wor­ry­ing about the result whereas cy­cling, for me, is all about process: what is my ca­dence and how am I ex­e­cut­ing my pedal stroke.”

Cy­cling, Dickey said, gives him an edge, both phys­i­cally and men­tally. An edge, which other play­ers who aren’t up early pound­ing the ped­als in the off-sea­son, don’t al­ways have. It is also one of the rea­sons Dickey has had such a long ca­reer.

“Early in my ca­reer, I ran a lot – 25 to 30 mi. a week in the off-sea­son,” he said. “With cy­cling, you don’t put as much strain on your joints and that is huge for me. You use your legs so much when you pitch to con­trol your me­chan­ics. Cy­cling was a real sport-spe­cific work­out for me. I found the more I did and the harder I pushed my­self on the bike, the bet­ter I felt go­ing into spring train­ing.”

“I re­mem­ber my early years with the Mets. I would bike from the house I rented to the park and home again fre­quently,” Dickey added. “Even this past spring train­ing, I biked with team­mate Brad Penny from the condo to the park nu­mer­ous times. It’s some­thing I’ve al­ways en­joyed do­ing.”

Cy­cling, for the knuck­le­baller, is also ther­a­peu­tic and cathar­tic. “I love be­ing out­side,” he said. “I love push­ing my­self. I can think of noth­ing bet­ter than be­ing on a nice bike, on a long ride. It’s some­thing I re­ally rel­ish.”

Grow­ing up in Ten­nessee, Dickey tooled around on bikes, but his real love for the sport and hobby didn’t blos­som un­til his teenage years. “I went on a trip one time when I was around 13 years old,” Dickey re­called. “We started in Nashville and rode to Bowl­ing Green, Ky. I rode the whole way on an old 10-speed bike. It was re­ally cheap and about three-quar­ters of the way there, my gears locked, so I only had my two hard­est gears left. I had to fin­ish the rest of the ride us­ing only these gears. I re­mem­ber how chal­leng­ing it was, but also when I fin­ished how re­ward­ing it was. I was hooked.”

At home dur­ing the off-sea­son, Dickey rides about 190 km a week. He is still as hooked on the sport as he was back when he was a teen. His favourite ride is one that takes him on a loop through the heart of Mu­sic City. “There is a real old part of town in Nashville that has about an 8-mi. stretch that goes through Belle Meade,” he said. “That is one of my favourite rides of all time. I of­ten do a loop. If I do it a cou­ple of times, it’s close to 20 mi; it’s a nice ride that takes the right amount of time. It’s pretty with a lot of hills. It’s also chal­leng­ing and cool be­cause the park is in the shade, plus there is a long straight away, so I can go fast.”

Does Dickey dis­con­nect from the world of base­ball when he is on the bike or does he use this time alone on an open road to vi­su­al­ize the per­fect pitch or strik­ing out the tough­est bat­ter in a play­off game? “At least half the time I’m on a bike, I’m think­ing about fac­ing a cer­tain team or a cer­tain bat­ter, pro­duc­ing a cer­tain result that is favourable for our team and for my­self,” he ex­plained. “I try to in­grain that into my sub­con­scious so when I’m com­pet­ing, it’s some­thing I vi­su­al­ize, see and ex­pe­ri­ence. I will cre­ate these sce­nar­ios when I’m rid­ing – espe­cially when it’s harder like when I’m push­ing up a good in­cline

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