I’m sitting here in my basement, IPA bottle in one hand, wrench in another, staring at the bike, wondering, trying to make sense of things. Some folks have the man cave, a dudes’ corner, or the bar down the street. I have the basement and my minimalistic assortment of bikes (three of them), and not so minimalistic amount of wheels, tools, and myriad outdated parts, evidence of my large footprint in the sport. The musings are long, intricate, tentacles gripping every neck of my existence, not necessarily choking, but just there, suction cups staining a slight hickey as a reminder of the duties at hand. How am I going to keep fit these days? I install a pair of Mavic calipers that I had forgotten I owned, discarded a few years ago when I dismantled the A-bike to make room for another gruppo. How will I be able to make time to ride, let alone staying fit? These thoughts are as indignant as they are offending. From the moment I started riding till now, I have always taken pride in partaking on a huge procession, a veritable critical mass where all sorts of people are invited, for good and bad (except for triathletes). I always felt that no matter how poor my bank statements proved me to be, how dull the drudgery of the every day rat race gets, or how miserable the beer selection at that very bar down the street is, I always took immense solace to be part of something huge, evolving and beautiful. And now I’m troubled; for at least the foreseeable future, it’ll have to go without me. Or, in better words, I’ll have to powerlessly watch as it slowly pulls away, dropping me with nary a hint of ceremony. Poor Elétrico, that’s how I feel.
The fight for the wheel in front of me has been displaced by a different struggle. In the vein of welcoming most challenges with open arms and a “bring it” attitude, I finish the beer and proceeded to conclude the mostly done work. High average speeds have momentarily been replaced with 20-30mins of TT-style bike maintenance + therapeutic labor + time spent away from the wife’s perennial house chore dictum, or dicta, to be correct. It hasn’t been long since kid#2 was added to the mix, but I cannot purge the feeling of suddenly seeing things from the outside. Not exactly as an outsider, but superceding responsibilities are not only removing the “gus” from my riding gusto, but also, and most interestingly, adding sheen to my tired panorama. Or at least in my sleep deprived brains, self selecting the honorable moments, carefully trimming the snot bombs, flats, near misses, the many jours sans, and further perceptions and sensations of the mundane sort.
Tim Krabbe, in his novel The Rider, describes it best: “Tourists and locals are watching from sidewalk cafes. Non-racers. The emptiness of those lives shocks me.” Those lines, almost poetic, decidedly prophetic, a slap of pure truthfulness, elicited a physical reaction that poised me to appreciate my situation from a very peculiar angle. Most cyclists may agree that during the height of their efforts, in the absolute heat of the battle, all senses become highly receptive. We need it in order to act/react accordingly. Intensity applies here, and one cannot suddenly self impose the restriction of a non-roadie existence. It just doesn’t work like that. It may be a while till I can refill my cache of bullets (or matches), so I welcome the intensity and cannot carry on otherwise. Now, however, the drive is many-fold: the aim is not to execute a plan to perfection, resulting in victory. The aim is to convey a thoroughly interesting, full existence that will not only accommodate an extra mouth to feed, but also to include a lifetime of team captain leadership: Tutoring the skills to hold back when necessary, attack at the right moment, keep (very) fit, be well prepared, among many, are transferable assets that will bring us all to victory, but on a daily basis, in any environment.
My neurotic queries have subsided, or maybe it’s the IPA working. Finding time to ride, staying trim, fit, and beautiful, ironically, are not prerequisites in my category. They are, to me, a reflection, a result of a purposeful-lived life, whether as a family man or a roadie on a mission.
*image courtesy of Stougard