Comment: How has being a parent allowed you to flourish as a human being?
Brian Janaszek: Parenting is very clearly a process of sanctification. It requires a great deal of sacrifice, but also brings with it a great deal of joy. Working through the difficulties and reveling in the joy is all about flourishing as a human being.
Comment: What has been most difficult about adjusting to the responsibilities of parenthood, and what has helped you work through those difficulties?
BJ: (Re-)Learning love and sacrifice. It’s very difficult to give yourself completely to your children, especially when you are tired, stressed, busy, or distracted—but you must. And you must do it graciously.
There is also the realization that every moment does count. Parents don’t have the luxury of flashing signs indicating that a situation is a critical moment in their child’s life. And, truth be told, it’s often the moments that seem the least important that are truly important to a child.
Comment: How has being a reflective practitioner of the art of cycling allowed you to flourish as a human being?
BJ: Good health is the obvious answer. I can manage to merge my commute and exercise. Perhaps my commute takes a bit longer (but not much, given traffic), but once I’m home, I don’t need to squeeze in some sort of exercise.
It’s also taught me patience and determination. Patience is borne out of regular commuting. Riding a bike forces you to approach life at a particular speed, which isn’t very fast, and accept that. Determination is borne out of racing. When I started, I was slow—really slow. So slow, in fact, that I can’t recall how many times I was lapped in my first criterium.
Comment: What are the difficulties of the life of a cyclist, and what helps you work with those difficulties?
BJ: Riding to work everyday presents a varied set of challenges: weather (be it hot, cold, rainy, snowy), traffic, and mechanical issues with the bike itself.
Not having other transportation options helps when dealing with the weather, though I can work at home if necessary. At one time, riding in horrible conditions was a badge of honor, but now it’s just a chore—but a set of studded tires makes the snow and ice a bit less daunting.
Racing presents its own set of challenges. 2008 was my first year of racing on the road, and I struggled with motivation, especially in the spring. It’s difficult to be slow and still attempt to race. Meeting mentors who genuinely wanted to help me and see me improve was critical—without them, I likely would have given up before I had a good result.
Comment: Do parenting and cycling intersect in your life, or are they mutually exclusive compartments?
BJ: There are moments of intersection, but not as many as rock climbing (during which our entire family can be together). Certainly, I try to involve the kids as much as possible, and they love riding their bikes. I try to use my bike and the trailer as much as possible to run errands and cart them around, so hopefully I’m teaching them my habits (which I consider important) at a very young age. The rest of the family also enjoys coming to the races when it’s convenient, and there’s really nothing like hearing your kids cheer you on.
Comment: Parenting and cycling are mostly not learned from books. But other than your own direct experiences, have there been any helpful learning resources for you as a parent and cyclist that you could recommend to the parents and cyclists (or would-be parents and cyclists) reading this interview?
BJ: Watching other parents, and sharing stories, is immensely helpful. It’s very reassuring to hear someone say “really, we don’t know what we’re doing,” because I entered parenthood thinking that I needed to have the answers for everything. It is equally important to always reflect on what you do as a parent—you will absolutely handle a situation the wrong way, but you need to learn from that.
For the cyclist, I’m not sure the answer is very different—find community, whether physical or virtual. Pittsburgh has a wonderful cycling scene, even among the racing set—who are often rightly labeled as snobbish. Advice is easy to come by.