Something you are

The bicycle and I are old friends. After spending a decade of my life competing in 450+ bicycle races, maybe it’s more appropriate to describe this particular old friend as an abusive co-dependent sweat & endorphin-drinking buddy.

Here is me and my old friend in 1991, racing through the rainy streets of Boston right next to the Charles river. But I shouldn’t complain too much about this old friend, or the crazy things we used to do, I still have both collarbones intact, and more fond memories than crash stories.

I ride my Powercranks indoors during wintertime, but owing to how brutally cold this winter has been and my focusing on the ice speedskating season, it’s been months since I rode outdoors.

However, today, 55 degrees!! Omigosh!!!

I could almost hear my single speed road bike howling with uncaged titanium joy as I wheeled it from the garage.

Within a few minutes I was bopping through the hills of the Avenues District of Salt Lake. However I was surprised to feel the bike was an imposter between me and speed; the handlebars were rudely intruding into my field of vision, and I felt like a dumb motor turning the gear(s) on a machine.

I never feel that when skating. When skating I am flying, free, willing myself into velocity and skimming across the land like a cruise missile (well, a slow missile, Mr stopwatch tells me I am still skating like crap).

A wonderfully written and fascinating blog, Fat Cyclist, had this quote about riding recently.

I love the climb because the descent payoff is incredible. The curves come at you nonstop as you’re descending as fast as you dare to go, making bets with yourself as to what your tires’ limits of adhesion are.

If you get into a descending groove, you stop feeling like your bike is something you’re riding.

Instead, it’s something you are.

It’s been so long that I’ve been away from bike racing, that this feeling is a hazy memory. Or maybe there is only enough room in a soul to feel that about one thing at a time, as I have heard similar ecstatic descriptions of driving a sports car, horse jumping, etc…

There will be time to find the bike again this summer. Since I don’t plan to be leaping about in the lactic acid blast furnace of dryland training, I am looking forward to knobbily skipping my way across the slickrock in Moab, or leaning through twisting canyons near my house, feeling those wild changes of air temperature as a climb-sweat soaked body plummets downward through the swirling mix of rising desert heat & sinking mountain air.

Sigh…. Like so many, I am an addict of that moment, that oneness with velocity. I am never sure if it’s the moment itself that is peaceful, or that one finds peace after feeling those moments.

Sometimes a man can be dated as surely by his athletic gear as he can by his favorite band during high school. Here is a photo of my single-speed’s drivetrain.

If there are any other old-school bike snobs like myself reading this, I give them one guess as to who was president when I was most active as a racer.

9 Responses to “Something you are”

  1. I would say the answer depends on what your definition of the word “was” was. And, I have to ask, when racing, did you ever inhale (or did you hold your breath the whole way)? You’re just a baby Andrew, just a few years older than Monica Lewinsky herself, so I would say, as if you couldn’t guess by now, the answer to your question is Bill Clinton.

    Now, I have a Raleigh Supercourse I still ride which I bought during the Carter years, probably when your main ride was a Schwinn Applecrate with a banana seat, a sissy bar, and streamers of vinyl flowing from the handlebar grips. Have any photos of yourself riding during that era?

  2. actually speedy…

    most of those parts, and when I was a crazy colligiate cyclist racing every weekend from late march through december, date firmly during Bush I

    that freaky mavic crankset & ancient time pedals were what Greg Lemond used to win the tour in 1989-1990…

    my first “real” bike was a motobecane made for kids, it was tiny & very cool… and yes, that was during the carter years!! although at the time I prefered hockey skates…

    my dad was a hardcore cylist, mostly long distance stuff, and he rode a Raleigh International, close brother to your Supercourse, so does that count???

  3. That bike isn’t as old as my skates - and I still use them (with one critical modification).

  4. The management flavor-of-the-month at my job is a book called “Now Discover Your Strengths”. It’s better than most of these things, in that I’ve picked a few bits of actual useful information from it. The theory is that trying to improve weaknesses is just damage control; developing your talents into strengths is the only path to excellence. They also say that your core, deep talents can be recognized as the things you yearn to do, the things you learn rapidly, and the things that give you deep satisfaction. I agree.

    Obviously, in sport you HAVE to work on your weaknesses; you can’t even step around them as you can in management. In an individual sport, you can’t delegate what you’re not good at to someone who is. Still, i think there’s a big grain of truth here, about what you are in another sense.

    If the bike, the horse, the keyboard, the drum becomes part of what you are more than once or twice, that tells you something important about what - who - you are.

  5. Ok, Don’t mind me bike Nerding, but in ‘89 LeMond used Mavic, but in ‘90 the Z team was all Campy.

    Jeeze Bro, how about some attention to detail!

    Need proof?

  6. I am soo jealous of your ability to ride outside right now. It’s 1 degree where I am. And snowy crusty ice and salt don’t help conditions, either.

  7. ok Bro, you have proved it once and for all…

    you are a bigger bike nerd that I am…

    ; )

  8. Time pedals… Mavic cranks… titanium!!

    Gee, that’s so retro!!

  9. Seeing your bicycle reminds me of HC mods full of climbing ropes and random paddles and boats, bike frames and chains lying gooey all over important stuff… or you and Evan’s Ft Collins front room full of gear. It was supposed to be the living room, I think, but sometimes we couldn’t sit for all the crud-covered bike parts. Those were good days, A. I miss our buddies. I heard John S. got his Ph.D. and a good job. Wonder what Abel’s doing. I am so proud of you that you have never given up on finding your passion and speed…
    Much love,

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