When I got into cycling I thought it was going to be like bike riding when I was a kid, only with the purpose of staying in shape rather than getting from point A to point B and back again. I rode alone on my Trek 3700 mountain bike, always. Four, then five and six days a week. Starting out at 15 minutes and working up to an hour. I’d seen the Tour de France at least once or twice and I didn’t want anything to do with what I thought was the arrogant sport of road cycling. Sure I liked to go fast but I liked the quiet of the dirt roads… Then August 20th, 2011 came around.
Just shy of three months into my mountain biking/cycling experience, I’d ridden down to the running club, run my 7 miles and was just about to ride the ten miles back. We were celebrating my youngest daughter’s birthday and I had to get home in a hurry so I decided to see just how fast I could ride that paved/dirt road ten miles back to the house. I rode just shy of 11 miles, on an entry-level mountain bike, in 37 minutes and I ran out of high gears, twice. For the number crunchers, that’s just over a 17.5 mph, on knobby tires. That’s the day I found out mountain bikes just weren’t going to be enough. I wanted to go faster. Within two weeks I’d purchased my first used road bike from a private seller who’d listed a Cannondale race bike on Craigslist. Five months later I bought another… I had my first legitimate race bike, and I did become fast.
I’d spoken several times with the owner of our local bike shop about riding, in fact I bought that race bike from him – one of his loaners, and he asked if I’d ever ridden with anybody else. I explained that I was a wee bit apprehensive, for a number of reasons. Eventually I relented and my view of cycling, real cycling, not just “riding a bike”, took a turn for the better. Since those days I’ve been on more than a thousand bike rides, ridden more than 22,000 miles and had more fun than I thought possible. The most enjoyable of those rides have been with friends I met at that club ride, and now with my wife too.
I had assumed that all road cycling was “attacks off the front”, “hurting” those you ride with, and “making them suffer”, like I saw on TV. I thought it was all about the rules I read on the internet and high-priced bikes, and a never-ending trap of trying to afford crap that I shouldn’t want to afford or couldn’t. I thought it would be forever trying to keep up with the Lances or LeMonds… Everything I thought riding with friends was, was wrong.
Cycling with friends is about being a part of something bigger than the one man train I once was. It’s about fitness and accountability, it’s about helping those friends out and accepting their help all in the same ride. It’s about laughing, riding and enjoying the scenery together… And it is about attacking off the front and hurting them too – but that’s a good thing. Cycling with friends is everything that I thought diet and exercise shouldn’t be. It’s about exploring new places, sometimes at a pace that allows me to take in the sights, on two wheels with nothing but my body as the engine. Cycling with friends is good times and noodle salad. Cycling with my best friend, my wife, is about spending time together away from the cell phones, computers and bustle of business life. Cycling with friends is a journey back to the days when I was a kid, playing with my friends in the neighborhood, not a care in the world except what we were in the middle of right at that moment.
Cycling with friends is freedom from the bondage of everything that sucks in the world, if just for a short time, and it is good.
So, if you’ve been on the fence about whether or not to try riding with a club, visit your local bike shop and get a feel for the group that’s right for you and give it a try. If you like friendship, laughter and feeling good about life, chances are you’ll fit right in.
Life is short, bikes are cool.