It’s rare enough to find one person who is crazy enough to put up with you…
Late spring of 2011, May, was a boring one for me. Fresh out of winter and early spring, running season was in full swing. I was running three days a week, usually a 5k, a 5-miler and a long run of 7 to 13 miles on the weekend. The weekend run, at a friend’s house on a lake, with a decent group of friends was fun enough, and often followed by a swim. I was bored with running.
Out on a half-marathon loop, I saw my salvation sitting in a yard as a part of a garage sale. I asked the owner to hold onto it for a few hours until I could get back with some cash… I bought a POS Huffy mountain bike at a garage sale for $20. I had the notion I’d start doing triathlons to liven things up a little bit. On a Huffy. Mountain bike. Ah, ignorance is bliss.
The following Saturday (two weeks removed from my purchase of the mountain bike), I’d worked up to a point I wanted to ride over to the running club, run, then ride home. 10-1/2 miles, 49 minutes going out, 48 coming back. Whilst at the running club, a friend looked at that Huffy and then at me. He said, “You rode that over here?!” I nodded. He let me know the bike was roughly two sizes too small and offered to sell me his back up to his back up mountain bike, a Trek 3700 for just $125.
Once I threw my leg over that top tube, my life changed forever. What a feeling! I went from bored to outrageously happy in a matter of weeks. I felt like a kid again, every time I went out for a ride. It’s been famously said that we spend the first nine months of life trying to get out of the womb, then the rest of adulthood trying to get back in there… Well, not unlike that saying, I spent the first 18 years of my life trying to be an adult, then the next 22 trying to figure out how to feel like a kid again. Cycling was my fountain of youth.
By the time July rolled around I was riding four or five days a week. I did two Olympic length tri’s that month. My average mileage per ride also increased steadily. I went from four miles a ride in May, to 12-16 miles in July (with a couple of 26-milers).
I only ran five times the whole month of August. On August 30th I took my first road bike out for a spin and it was on. That January I purchased my Trek 5200 after the owner of the local bike shop had a chuckle because the Cannondale I’d bought was two sizes too small… With that carbon fiber delight under me, running went from the back seat to hanging out in the trailer. I ran just 214 miles in all of 2012. I dropped that to 70 in ’13.
April 3, 2012 was a day that changed my whole life. Till that day, I was riding solo, almost exclusively. April 3rd was my first club ride. I was dropped before we hit mile 8, when the group surged to 28-mph. I just couldn’t hold on to the wheel in front of me. Fortunately, there were a few others who couldn’t… Matt, the owner of the local bike shop, and Phill. Matt had dropped first and Phill shortly after I did. I caught Phill rather than wait for Matt. He guided me around the route – I’d have been hopelessly lost without help. That leads me to my most important rule about riding with a club: Don’t be the first cyclist to drop if you don’t know where you’re at. Phill became one of my best cycling buds over the years. We’ve been riding together ever since.
I picked up my Venge at the end of 2013. My toys were getting more expensive… and vastly more fun.
Over the course of the next few years I flipped, from riding 98% of my rides solo to 90% of my rides with a friend or more. My wife got involved in cycling and puts in more miles than I do, now. My friends and I go on road trips together, at least three or four every year.
As I close in on 60,000 miles on two wheels since I first bought that old Huffy at a garage sale, I know happiness because I know what it’s like to truly feel like a kid, but with all of the advantages and responsibilities of being an adult.
I get the best of both worlds, and it is good. I’ll pass 60,000 miles some time next month, maybe even on DALMAC, which would be fitting indeed. Cycling, for those just looking to lose some weight, is a great hobby to get into. For those looking to turn back the hands of time a little, it’s even better.
For those few of us blessed enough to find immense joy and friendship in making cycling a part of our lives, well, life doesn’t get any better.