This morning I rode my bike for the first time this spring. My friend John rides about 25 miles on mornings when the pavement is dry and the temperatures are above 50 F. While I have had an active winter, I’ve only been on my bike a couple times in the past five months. I am in sad cycling shape and fought leg cramps the entire second half of the ride.
Nonetheless, it was great to get back on the bike. It’s invigorating to hear the birds and to see the signs of nature waking from the winter drear . The pre-dawn start allowed me to watch the sky gradually change from a star-speckled black to an indigo gradient and into a pastel sunrise. Awesome.
As I rode, I remembered anticipating the start of cycling season a couple years back. I wasn’t publishing at the time, so what follows are my thoughts from two years ago.
A Dose of Fearless
I am looking forward to spring. Not necessarily March 20, but that time when the mornings are at least 50 degrees. I really need to get back to cycling with my buddy John. John is consistent, strong and fearless. And I need that more this year than ever before.
I started cycling late in life and have only been active for three seasons. Most weeks John will ride the same 25 mile loop five days and maybe mix it up on the weekend. Within that 25 mile loop is a 16 mile course where he tracks his time and hammers when he can. He leaves about the same time each morning. That is the consistent, predictable part that makes it easy for me to ride with him a couple days a week.
John is a strong guy, and it shows when he rides. It also shows on the basketball court where I have had the pleasure of trying to guard him countless times. Fortunately for me, the course we ride is really flat with just a few rollers. An overpass is the steepest incline and he regularly drops me on it. We normally take turns pulling and drafting and try to make sure nobody gets all the headwind. Riding with John has improved my cycling speed and stamina considerably over the past couple summers.
But what I need most right now is a dose of fearless. When I say John is a fearless rider, I don’t mean reckless. In fact I feel really safe riding with him. His experience serves him well on when to turn in front of approaching cars and when to draft off passing vehicles. I started out as a much more reserved rider and had to catch up with him several times after slowing or stopping to wait my turn.
Last year, I was getting a better feel for calculating speeds and distances. I tried to read John so I would know when to get on his back tire and when to let off. We don’t say much during the 16 mile course, but we are constantly communicating. A couple words are used to warn of traffic, but everything else from pacing to road hazards is non-verbal.
But back to the fearless part. Last year my cycling season ended abruptly with an accident in early August. A dog ran in front my bike as I was riding about 20 mph. I separated my AC joint and spent the next six weeks with my left arm immobilized. Then it took weeks of physical therapy before Dr. Rudy released me to activity. He still advised against cycling for a while.
I did finally get back on my bike for a couple short spins around the neighborhood late in the fall. I was surprised at how tentative I was on a very familiar, smooth surface with no traffic. I remember seeing a small cluster of pine needles and thinking, ‘Oh no, what do I do? I gotta steer clear of that.’ It was pine needles. Not loose gravel, a hole in the road or an oil slick.
So, this winter I’ve been spinning and riding on a trainer in the basement. That, along with running and swimming, have my cardio machine in decent shape. But I really need to get back on the road and regain some of the confidence I left on the asphalt last fall. So, to my buddy John I say, ‘Hurry spring, I really need a dose of fearless.’