I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle—Zen proverb
The discipline of cycling is a learned apprentice in all aspects of the sport. Part of our discipline, is that of “the routine.” The routine for the novice is not the same as the routine of the veteran. For the freshman of the group, it may be a routine that begins at the gathering of the ride. One may make observations of tinkering, the spin of a wheel, and the hissing of floor pumps busily at work. Notable too is the hurriedness of this given routine, hurriedly trying to make the deadline. It may be the characteristic rush to the beginning, or the catch up after a slow lead out, whatever it may be, it becomes the routine. For some, it functions adequately, and after the ride they requite their bikes to the garage or back porch until the next gathering.
I admit my sophomore years in cycling began this way. It was all I knew. However, once I was taught “the routine” by a veteran, I never forgot it. I was taught to think, to plan and to give proper time to the steed. In so doing, I would be the kind benefactor of its flawless function. My friend who taught this to me was one who simply affirmed what he did, his routine, and drew out a logical reason for it. He did not put down my previous routine, you know, the after-thought of whipping the bike out of a trunk and hope it made it that day’s ride. And in teaching me, he instilled the necessity of proper bike care, and thus being then ready for the next day’s ride.
The routine begins when I pull in the garage, upon dismount. I flick the stereo knob for choice music of the day, then place the bike tenderly in the pro work stand with a rag so as to not damage the goods. The bike waits while I draw up from the fridge a San Pellegrino with lemon. I place my helmet and shoes into the cabinet, slide on my sandals and begin methodically the reparations that day. Like a surgeon going in to operate, I assess the bike from across the work area, typically wiping sweat from my brow and sipping the drink. It’s a broad view if you will, considering the bike from a vantage point I don’t often have. Then I begin myopic work, the process of assessing trueness and function of every single part. I begin with trueness of wheels, cleaning the chain, and down the list I will go. From head to toe I assess each part and I know my bike’s every last detail down to the thread pitch of every bolt. Whereas I know every curve, every sexy part, I also know every little blemish, every little flaw in her and have a plan of how to remedy it.
And with each routine I try to recollect the ride, down to the very fine details the function of the parts. Recalling them now at this time allows me to address a mis-shift, a creak, a subtlety. Perhaps only a drop of lube or a quarter turn here is all it takes, but it is necessary so as not to hear the dreaded rattle, or hesitation that reverberates in a cyclist’s mind for what seems to be nearly eternity, or even worse, a snicker from your pals when they hear it. Lastly, to finish ‘the routine’ I take a final look at the tires, looking for small razor-sharp fragments that may have been picked up that day, a run of the finger and an in-depth going over with the eye, and with this, it is done. A snap of the brakes declares, “It is finished!”
Then up on the wall she will proudly hang ‘til being called on again the next morning. Then, each tool that has been used is then placed back on the wall in its rightful place, cleaned and wiped down, of course. The work stand, also, wiped down and folded neatly in the nook. The lubes and oils, all one by one placed on the counter top. Then the music will be stopped, the towel thrown in the bin in the corner, not to be used again, and the hands cleaned of today’s debris. While at one time I considered such preparation to be overbearing, but in all actuality, ‘the routine’ takes no more than 30 minutes.
For my friend, the routine was a regimented structure that functioned so highly it became a skillset. After he taught it to me, I have carefully replicated it ever since; the behavior, the quality, the mindset of supreme function and of ultimate purpose.