It’s a simple word, really. Sadly, many aren’t lucky enough to have a ready group (or sometimes even one friend) to ride with who can ride when their schedule allows, often at the drop of a hat. My friend Chucker and I are two peas in a pod this way. He and I get out of work at almost the same time, work 20 minutes from each other, and we live two mile apart. I can make it over to his house in six to eight minutes depending on how hard I want to push it to get there. If he’s had to work late, I’ll cruise by his neighborhood and get a few extra miles in till he’s had time to get ready. We ride most days of the week together.
Then there are days like yesterday. It was a special one for me. Phill showed up for the morning ride and the two of us rolled out to pick up Mike on the dirt road a half-mile down the road. The three of us picked up Chuck (not to be confused with Chucker) a mile or so later, and the four of us headed off down the road on our gravel bikes. This was a special group for me because Phill was the first guy I rode with who showed me the ropes on Tuesday night ten years (technically, nine years and one… two… three… five months) ago. Chuck helped us get unlost on my second Assenmacher 100 when we got dropped and took a wrong turn. Then there’s Mike. He and I have been thick as thieves on bicycles (without the crime) since I fell in with the group. We’ve put in a lot of miles together, the four of us.
Mike is incredibly slow on dirt roads because he hates his gravel bike and has no love for dirt. This meant a very slow roll, but time to talk like we normally wouldn’t on the asphalt. We took full advantage of it, recounting rides past and revisiting old stories that made us laugh and tales of woe that we were thankful to push through. The time passed like it didn’t matter. I don’t think we were passed by one car, either, in 24 miles. Maybe one.
We wandered around, following our noses and even talked Mike into deviating from our planned route home to check out a subdivision. Once Mike is ready to go home, he can rarely be persuaded to change course. He’s like an old hound dog who’s been out in the field too long when he’s ready to go home.
After checking out what turned out to be a senior living mobile home park, I brought up something Chucker and I had been talking about several days earlier when we saw a pace-line of Canada geese that stretched for miles. There had to be hundreds of them, and Chucker wondered aloud how fast they fly, guessing around 25 to 30-mph. I Googled it the next day; 40 to 50-mph with a top speed above 60 (!). Chuck responded as I did when I first read the 40-50-mph cruising speed. Then he mentioned that the two at the back of the pace-line are likely named for a couple of guys in our group who are famous for sucking wheel (and have earned the right to do so – not a one of us is anything but cool with this as we prefer them riding with us however they can). I picked that up the hand off and ran with it and we were laughing our asses off for the next couple of miles as we figured out who went where as it pertained to a pace-line of geese.
By the time Phill and I got to my house, Chuck and Mike having split off for home, I stopped my Garmin on the slowest ride of the year for me – I could have comfortably ridden that on my mountain bike – and I’ve never been so thankful for a slow ride since I first turned a crank as a kid. It was one of the best rides of the year; one I’ll do my best never to forget. I hope we have many more like it.
That’s one of the best cogs in cycling. It’s the 53/11 of cycling. Hotdogs, tailwind, and friends. And that’s as good as it gets.