My kid wants to take all of his prized possessions to school to show his friends, his Beyblades, his Bakugan, his collection of StarWars Lego. They don’t even have Show-and-Tell in his class, that strange custom (at least in American schools) where you bring in your favorite toy and tell all the slobbering kids about why you love it. Is this a uniquely American ritual? The underlying premise here is that simply by having, we are doing something worth doing.
We are a species who loves our stuff.
Not only do we devote the better part of our every day to earning money to be converted into stuff, but the very best stuff gets collected and preserved in museums, so we can play Show-and-Tell with later generations. “Hey, future people!” we say, “Check out our tea pots!”
This internet we’re all looking at is, in great part, a compendium of information about stuff. For bike people like us, there is no better source of Show-and-Tell. Is the idea that, if we can’t ride, we can still be with the bike virtually?
My riding has a show and tell aspect too, except that they seldom happen simultaneously. Mostly I lead with the tell. I chalk this up to the inherently competitive nature of physical activity. Even when I’m riding with the guys I ride with every week, I tend to arrive nervous, secretly worried I won’t be able to keep up, so I talk.
Sometimes it’s sand-bagging. Sometimes it’s just idle blather, but it’s all about affecting a facade of being capable, of being part of the group as we pedal over roads we’ve spun a thousand times before. The tell is the first layer of non-riding that has to be stripped away before the good riding can be done.
I have to grind the tell right out of my mind. This is where the relief comes. I pour all that anxiety and bullshit into the pedals. I strip away the nerves to reveal the real work of riding the bike. Truthfully, no one is very interested in the tell. We enjoy it, as a group. In fact, usually I describe our Saturday ride as a long chat, during which, occasionally, a paceline breaks out. The talk is just the fuel you’ve got to burn off to get to the good part, the show.
I imagine the kids in my son’s class oohing and ahhing over whatever shiny plastic bauble he’s dragged in. He’s talking about how it spins and dives and dips, or how the lasers fire and the sounds they make, and the other kids don’t hear a word he’s saying. They’re transfixed by the show, and they want to get their hands on whatever toy is on display as soon as they possibly can.
It’s probably better to do something, than to talk about doing it though, right?
To me, nothing feels better than pulling up at a water break 40 or 50 or 60 miles into a ride and not having the energy to bullshit. I can be quiet then, focused on emptying my water bottle and quaffing some quick calories, all of it going back into the pedals in short order. It’s that quiet focus that gives me immeasurable relief from the constant churn of thought circling my life-addled brain.
The tell can be good, but the show is almost always better.
Paul Weller maybe said it best in the iconic Jam hit “That’s Entertainment.” For all the romanticism we bathe our everyday lives in, it’s the mundane from which the real entertainment comes. Talk about riding your bike. Wrap it in a thousand pretty words. Riding until your legs are lead and your buddy’s back wheel is all you can see, that’s entertainment.