My buddy Mike is well into his recovery from his open heart, triple bypass. He’s been riding, on the road, for almost two weeks.
Yesterday was to be a new milestone for him and while my wife has had time to ride with him throughout the week, I finally got to tag along yesterday… Nine weeks after getting sewn up and he was jumping it up to 30 miles.
My wife took the first mile up front while I became acquainted with their normal pace. Just a mile and a quarter from our driveway is our first Township Limits sign so I took that. My wife has been paying attention though… I soft pedaled waiting for them to catch up, but when they did, my wife got right on my wheel and said something to the affect of, “You want up there so bad, you can pull”.
So I did. I got in the perfect gear to spin between 18 and 18-1/2 mph and kept it there. Five miles went by. Ten… 18 to 18-1/2 mph, the whole way. 17 uphill, 20-24 downhill. Coming into Byron, the halfway point, my wife launched a sprint for the sign and I let her go… Too early I figured – but she didn’t quit, she just kept after it and absolutely smoked Mike and I. It was rather impressive.
We stopped at the gas station for a pit stop, then headed out on our way again. I took the front and quickly realized it was going to be a bit of a long ride home. The wind was starting to pick up and was right in our face. Same story though, I kept it around 18-ish. We rolled over 24 miles before my wife came up and took a mile. Mike took a mile a little bit later then I took the rest. I pulled for 28 of the 31 miles.
Mike would comment on the fact that I’d been up there so long but with all of the riding I’ve done this year, holding a steady 18 mph pace for my friend was easy. There was something else to it. I said, “Mike, you’ve pulled for me over more miles than I care to count. I’ll return the favor any time.”
This is how we roll.
The one thing that really makes me pause to think is that this can’t last forever and that reality really bums me out. I try not to think about what it’ll look like when we can no longer ride together, but I’ve gotta tell you, it’s just too damned depressing to think about. So I don’t. I simply can’t imagine it getting any better than this, so I push pondering about what I can’t possibly see aside and focus on enjoying every mile I get with my wife friends.
One time, long ago, my sponsor’s sponsor gave me my six month coin and said, “I promise you, if you keep coming back [read that “stay sober and work the steps”], your life will become so good you’ll think it can’t possibly get better. Six months later you’ll realize it has.”
I love it when this happens… and that it still does.
34,000 miles, I’ve only found the end of the road once. So I turned around and started looking for another with the hope that last one was an anomaly. After all, have you ever tried riding a road bike with 24 mm wide tires through sand?!
Before I sobered up and started living right, it would have been a different story. I’d have kept going till I drowned in the lake under the delusion that my eyes were surely deceiving me.
And for that, I am grateful.
The sun was hitting my office funny late Monday morning. I made it to the office early so I could take some time to clean my bike after the weekend before work and thought it would make a neat picture as I was plunking away on my keyboard.
One might think I would grow tired with snapping photos of my bike. Not so! I liked that one enough to make it my new lock screen photo. Something intelligent about shadows, blah, blah, blah:
Thou Shalt Learn to Draft: How NOT to be seen as a Twatwaffle During an Advanced Club Ride. A Guide for Noobs.
When I ride with noobs to our group, I go out of my way to make sure they feel welcome and comfortable… Until they show me who they are. I know of only one person I will consciously run into the ground to drop. I will put myself so far into the red to drop this guy, my little brother, sitting at home 1,800 miles away in Florida, will feel the ache. He is known on this page as Time Trial Bike Guy. He is the very definition of a twatwaffle. I would have written a hole of the butt, but twatwaffle sounds a lot funnier. And TTBG deserves that.
The following is a list of things that, should you do them in an advanced club setting, will guarantee you’re riding alone after the weekend invites go out.
- Launch a snot rocket when you’re at the front of the group. Duh.
- Constantly leave gaps in the pace line because you don’t know when to shift or can’t shift because you’re riding a freaking time trial bike (electronic rigs have shifters on both the aerobars and next to the brake levers btw). If you can’t hold the wheel in front of you, you belong at the back. Getting others dropped because you can’t keep the draft is not a good way to win friends and influence people.
- You don’t pull all the way through when you get to the front of the group. What this means is, as soon as the person in front of you taps out, you (being next in line to pull) tap out and drop to the back with the person in front. What this shows everyone around you is that you expect to be pulled around by the group but not only are you not willing to do your part, you don’t care if you screw everyone else behind you. You shouldn’t be surprised if nobody wants you to ride with them… who would want to ride with a person when there is literally no benefit to having them there?
- Don’t hold a decent line. If you can’t hold a decent line the people behind you can’t get a good draft because they’re too busy trying to keep you from crashing them. If they can’t get a good draft you make yourself useless. Literally. Useless.
- Disrupt the general awesomeness of a ten-person-deep double pace line with your lousy riding. One poor rider making mistake after mistake can make a group of twenty people who ride three times a week together look like a bunch of noobs.
- Pull back on your bike when you stand on your pedals to adjust your ass whilst, and at the same time, going uphill… in the middle of the pace line. You don’t know it, because you’re dim, but your bike drifts back about eight inches when you pull back on the bike to stand. Stand and adjust when you get to the back or, if you absolutely can’t wait, accelerate just a bit before you stand… Otherwise, everyone behind you has a heart attack because their 20 cm buffer just became 3 mm. As a reaction, everyone has to grab a handful of brakes and you’ve unwittingly put everyone at risk of an accident.
- Stop pedaling to take your water bottle out of its cage. Dude, you can only get away with that at the back. Do everyone you’ll ever ride with a favor, learn to remove the bidon (H2O bottle) whilst, and at the same time, pedaling. It is not impossible.
- Stop pedaling at the front of the group (I did this once, just once, and almost wiped out six of my best friends). Don’t. FREAKING. Do. It. Put your hand out to signal you’re slowing.
- Speaking of hand signals, know yours. They vary by location, so to detail them here would be futile. For instance, a left arm flick can mean “I’m out, come up on the left of me, or “I’m out, and exiting on the left”, all depending on the Town/City/State/Province you ride.
- UPDATE: From The Tempo Cyclist: Don’t pull too long at the front. It’s a club ride, dude. You’re not the lead out for Mark Cavendish… Know when you’re done and get your butt to the back to recover.
- The main theme of ALL of these bulletpoints is simple: Think of the others you’re riding with. If you don’t, or worse, won’t, you’re not worth having around. Or worse, you’re dangerous to have around.
Consider this: At just 25 mph, you will travel almost 40 feet in one second. In a tight group, there will be less than a foot between your rear wheel and their front wheel. You travel that gap in one fortieth of one second. There is no room, literally, for a member of the group to disregard safe riding practices.
Every cyclist has experienced the perfect ride. They are few and far between.
I was ready to roll at five minutes past five. Five minutes early. The parking lot only held two cars, other than mine. No worries, the weather was absolutely perfect. Upper 70’s (that’s 25 for you folks across the pond), not a cloud in the sky and a breeze that was struggling to make it to 4 mph if you could feel it at all.
McMike pulled into the lot and readied himself, then Phill. And we rolled.
Rather than blow words on a warm-up, I’ll simply say that it was stupid fast. Fastest of the season. Eight miles and I just ticked past 25 minutes. Oddly, I was up front the whole way…. I never pull that long at that speed for a warm-up.
The parking lot started to fill up with fifteen minutes to go. As has been the case for a month, we had more B guys than A guys. They rolled as we sat on our top tubes talking about the last weekend’s rides. After a couple of minutes we rolled. My new friend Doug and I up front with the group forming up behind us. We took the first two miles and worked up to 22 mph before heading back for a rest. That first quarter mile was the last time we saw a speed under 20 mph till we hit the hills.
We had two new guys with us and they worked into the group seamlessly – at least from what I saw but I spent most of the ride up front.
See, with no wind, riding even four bikes back, if you tuck into the draft just right, it feels like it pulls you down the road. Recovery from a decent turn up front is easy and quick. Eight miles in, Phill and I took a monster three-mile pull north of 22-23 mph and I was recovered within a mile.
So it went for the entire rest of the ride. I was feeling like it was the beginning of the season. My legs felt vibrant and strong – in fact, everything was working right last night. Lungs, heart, even my melon committee decided I felt good and just sat in the background chanting, “Go. Go. Go. Go.” I took the first sprint point at 22 miles without a challenge at 32 mph and I had plenty left in the tank. I stayed up front and pulled the group for another mile and a half.
I spent way too much time up front over the next eight miles but didn’t care, I was on. Approaching the finish line I found myself up front again, at 24 mph and decided rather than push it too hard, I’d keep it there and see if I couldn’t sprint off the front for the City Limits sign. I launched at exactly the right time and left everyone flat-footed. I only needed 28 mph to create an insurmountable gap and I coasted across the line.
We managed our best time of the season last evening and we were all smiles as we pulled into the parking lot. The two new guys worked out great and even took a few turns at the front – and were both stoked to come back.
I would say, without a doubt, that was the best weather we’ve had all year long on Tuesday night. Add to that the two new guys who rode quite well and the fact that I felt so good… Well, let’s just say it’s even better than noodle salad.
That is, of course, a gender-neutral “b!tch” because the title is roughly the argument I present to that @$$hole in my melon committee who is incessantly nagging for a day off.
This is what I thought on the way up “The Wall “, long about the time I wanted to walk it up the last half: “F@ck you, motherf@cker! You will push those motherf@ckin’ pedals around till you’re on top of that f@ckin’ hill. Now MOVE!”
That is not a happy-go-lucky smile on my face. Happy showed up at the top of the hill.
I know most people want pretty happy talk nowadays. Nice, little motivational quotes like… cripes I can’t even think of any right now. The Web oozes with that bullshit. Oh, here’s a good one I read the other day:
Our Existence is our presence that the world can see, feel and experience through our work, our impact, our presence.
What a crock of $#!+. If one were to speak to oneself like that, well, just plan on riding with the D group I guess.
Dude, I truly believe that had I thought that gobbledygook, I wouldn’t have walked my bike up that hill. I’d have taken the old-timer’s route around it.
I’ll never understand all of that silly happy talk, and for that I am grateful.
Ride hard my friends.
With my job I’m on call, all day, every day. Even on vacation. I have a couple of guys who cover the smaller stuff while I’m on vacation but I still end up fielding a few calls and working on a couple of quotes. I do love what I do though, even if it is very stressful. Think of it as playing Monopoly with real money that you don’t have and can’t afford to lose.
I sobered up in 1992. I was still just a kid and I was thrust into a world of older folk who were sobering up and had been sober, but there weren’t many my age I could relate to. By ’93 I was rollerblading two evenings a week and both weekend days, between eight and 32 miles a day, at a local County Park. They’ve got an eight mile loop and at my best I could complete a lap in less than 25 minutes. I learned that rollerblading, getting and staying fit, helped my recovery from alcoholism.
When I gave up drinking I quit my main escape from reality. I ceased caring, when I was lit, about all of the problems I created. It didn’t matter that the problems got worse… Add to that, I felt as good as anyone else after a six-pack. Overnight, that was gone and I had to learn how to replace what alcohol was good at by fixing me. My hour or two of fitness, three or four days a week, allowed me to simply shut everything down. No problems, no character defects to fix, no worrying about how to work the next step, just me, a pair of shorts, a pair of rollerblades and three minute miles (I was young and stupid, no brakes and no safety equipment).
There was a problem though. All of that stuff about shutting things down? Yeah, I didn’t figure all of that out till just a decade ago. Thirteen years later.
Next came a period of lethargy and steady weight gain, stagnation in my sobriety but a lot of good things in terms of employment. I went from physical labor work to a desk job (it was no surprise I gained weight). I was married now and my wife and I maintained a slightly active life, skiing and traveling. I still dragged out the rollerblades from time to time and took advantage of a roller hockey rink in our neighborhood park and I got a spot on a corporate softball team.
The stagnant sobriety was a problem though.
I got a new sponsor and started running in 2002 (I think). My wife had been running for about a year with a couple of guys from the program so, chubby and out of options, I joined them and it turned out I was a fair runner.
It was running with those friends in the program and talking with them that I finally started to grasp the importance of fitness to a sober life. My grip was naive though, incomplete. We ran together three times a week. I joined a sober running club and with a gaggle of friends, got fit and re-engaged with a decent program again.
Then, in 2011 I grew bored with running and bought a bike. A $20 Huffy mountain bike at a garage sale. I was going to train for a triathlon to shake things up a bit. The biggest problem was I knew nothing about bikes. I mean nothing. I ended up buying three more bikes over the next couple of years. I did two Olympic distance triathlons with folks from the running club. To train I’d ride down to the club, run, go for a swim in the lake then ride home. Seven mile run, thirty mile ride and whatever I felt like in the lake.
I started writing this blog in 2011, after the season, in December. My understanding of fitness and it’s importance to recovery had matured to a point I actually had something to share (not say, share, because that’s how we do). My total mileage for the year, between running, riding and swimming was a little over 1,800 miles. I bought another bike a month later, my Trek 5200.
That bike changed everything, though it looked a lot less sexy when I bought it. I could ride every day and not be too sore the next day. I still ran in 2012 but I fell in love with cycling. I ran only 241 miles in all of 2012 but rode 5,123 miles. In ’13 I ran only 71 miles but rode 5,560. Up until this point I was mainly a solo cyclist. My sobriety was going well and my wife and I had just decided that we would work out our differences and remain committed to our marriage. We had been struggling mightily over the last several years but we had made a breakthrough.
Another breakthrough came in cycling. I became a member of the local cycling club (for which I’m now president). I’d been riding with them on Tuesday’s but I only clicked with one guy. In 2013 I went all-in and actually befriended several of the other guys. I was still concerned with the technical aspects of the sport: Fueling, Fitness, Average and Stars. Cycling was doing something for me that running only touched on: Cycling, at 43 years-old, made me feel like a kid again. It was high-end toys mixed with speed, and it was good.
Then in 2014 I put the stats away. Completely. No high-tech computer, no tracking, no apps, no average speed. Just current speed on a simple cycling computer so I could maintain the speed my friends were riding at. I’d made several friends on Tuesday night and we rode together a lot. I’d also paid cash for my Venge at the end of ’13 and that made cycling all the more fun:
My wife and I were in the middle of a winning streak that still continues today. Sobriety was awesome and my cycling was the perfect escape from day to day life. It added to my life balance, rather than detracted from it. Cycling was something that I could do for an hour or so during the weekdays then put some serious hours in on the weekend. 6,000 miles for the year (though this is a guesstimate – I didn’t keep track).
2015 was another breakout season. My wife started riding with us regularly and became a part of the group and my friends and I did some serious traveling together. We were all over the state of Michigan and did a two-day ride in Kentucky. I also participated in my first DALMAC, four days, 380 miles. The sheer volume of miles for the year was awesome: 7,600 and some change.
I loved cycling from ’11 to ’14 but ’15 was a surprise I wasn’t prepped for. None of the guys I ride with regularly consume alcohol. Either they had their fun when they were kids or they’re like me. Either way, I feel safe with them like I do my program friends and there are no drunken spats to get in the way of friendships. When we rode, each of us relied on the other go get through the ride as fast as possible but we looked out for each other at the same time. Gone were being worried about weight and watching what I ate. At 7,600 miles, food almost didn’t matter, as long as I ate enough to fuel the next ride, it was all good (this is within reason folks… I was never a big eater. You cannot out ride a bad diet).
Then came this season. Better still. My wife turned out to be fast. Real fast. I can still smoke her but she’s taken me to the edge more times than I care to share. Riding with my friends was even better this year with several showing up to do the Dawn Farm ride for Recovery with my wife and me (3 hours for a 100k ride). As a group, we had our stories from the previous two years and added to them through the summer… Then my best cycling bud had triple bypass surgery and I was worried. Once I knew he’d be okay, I worried about how the year would shake up without him. He is the glue that kept us together. It turned out better than I could have hoped for and my friend is now back on his bike, getting back to form.
Cycling is more than just a way to burn some calories and build a couple of spectacular legs. Cycling is what I do for a good time. I pass time with friends on two wheels, exploring country roads, visiting places I’ve never been before. Cycling is my escape, just for an hour or two, from an otherwise hectic life. I buy bikes because they’re my midlife crisis toy, kinda like sports cars only bikes run on fat, not my wallet…
I ride bikes because they’re my happy time. Bikes make everything else I do in life more enjoyable. Considering I was just looking for a way to keep from getting fat, I feel like I won the lotto every time I roll out with my wife and friends.
I ride my bikes because they’re good times and noodle salad in carbon fiber and aluminum.
A special thanks to Gail, who was the inspiration for this post.