Tuesday, January 8, 2013

It's not what I do. It's who I am.

I saw a photo on Facebook lately that made me smile and think.  It reminded me that riding a bicycle is a lifestyle for many of us.  It isn't just something we do, it is a part of who we are.  We are cyclists.  As we get older, our bodies change and how we approach cycling changes, but it doesn't change that we just want to go for a bike ride.  The photo above reminded me how wonderful cycling is as a sport that we can enjoy throughout life.  I'd like to share some more sources of inspiration.

Before Christmas I met a guy on my commute home and we rode shoulder to shoulder for almost an hour.... I'd ask leading questions and in every answer we found things and friends and experiences that we had in common.  He was probably 15-20 years my senior and still going strong.  He was riding a LOVELY lugged steel bike that he'd been riding for 30 years.  The bars got higher as his flexibility needs changed, but he was still out pedaling distance every day.  My wife loves it when I come home and the first words out of my mouth are, "I made a new friend today!"  It happens a lot.  That day it DEFINITELY happened.  

We travel to the south of France quite often.  That's the homeland for my wife's family.   The Côte d'Azur is one of the most amazing places in the world to ride a bicycle.  I always have 2 wheels on hand to ride along the coast or up into the Alps.  The club that I ride with there are an amazing bunch of cyclists that adopted me and made sure that I always had a great loop to ride and some fabulous company to ride with.  I'm in pretty decent shape, but these guys all bury me.  I'm getting to the point where I can keep up with them over the really long rides, but anything under 60 kilometers and I'm chasing to stay on their wheels the whole time.  

My friend Girard is kind of the leader of the bunch.  In his late 60s, he's also the youngest of the group.  Some of them are in their late 70s.  All are former pro riders who never stopped riding after retiring from the top of the sport.  They're definitely cyclists in the true sense of the word.  

Girard pacing me up the first 18% gradient pitch of the climb into Olivetta San Michel, Italy

Even though I'm the youngest in the group by almost 2 decades, they won't let me do much of the work in the peloton.   I've finally convinced them that it is okay to let the fat American kid take a turn on the front and punch holes in the wind for a little while.  They usually shuffle me off to the back of the group fairly quickly.  God help me if I ever try and take a turn setting pace on a climb.  Such an injustice is met with a lot of exclamations in French and/or Italian and at least 2 or three of the guys coming around me to take the lead. My insult is usually punished by them upping the pace to put me in my place.  If I don't have the good manners to resume my place at the back of the pack, Girard usually is sent to talk sense into me.  

On my last trip to Menton (the small town between Monaco and the Italian Border where we live when we're in France), I was finally allowed to drive the pack home along the shoreline from Sanremo to Menton when we'd gone out on a particularly long ride and there was a quite strong headwind.  Some words were muttered in Italian, which I don't speak, ("Where's that tall guy?" is probably a fair translation)and Girard signaled me to the front.  That was the one and only 30km pull that I was ever or ever will be allowed to take.  The next day it was back to normal.  I did get a sincere, gentleman's handshake from two of the group and appreciative nods as we all split up to head for our respective homes.  Girard gave me a good pat on the back too.  

There's definitely hope for us to be riding throughout our lives.  It makes me very happy to have such inspiration in my life.  

Rock on!



  1. So true. I have found that when on a bike you are quicker to find out about someone you meet and ride with. You ask questions that have meaning since you know it might be a once in an life ride together. Getting to the point strips away typical chit-chat and you remember conversations you had. I can still recall a 20 minute conversation I had a year ago with a one time ride companion. My guess is when you part you also actually think about what was said and shared. Riding is such a special gift.

  2. Ha! I can just picture them taking umbrage at your attempts to lead ... :)

  3. I'm looking forward to this summer. I love the club rides. :D