You have ridden with these guys so many times, but for some reason, over a different route, longer or steeper or stranger in some way, you are nervous. Or maybe it is exactly the same route you always ride with them, but because of work/family/laziness your form isn’t what it should be. It isn’t what theirs probably is. So butterflies flitter in your guts, and you put extra attention into your ride prep.
There you are trying to decide whether one gel pack is enough, one bar. You pack an extra. You dump powder into bottles and shake it up. You check the weather again. You wake up before the alarm.
I don’t know why it is that a thing so familiar and fun, so already a part of our identities, can stir such anxiety, but it does.
How many thousands of miles have we ridden and yet still fear the unknowns of riding? How well do we know those friends who are willing to show up to coffee shop parking lots when it’s still dark out, but worry what they’ll think if we’re somehow off our game? How much nervous, pre-ride blather do we need to get off our chests before we can just settle down and ride?
To me, every ride is a challenge to be stronger and smarter than the last time I turned the pedals over. I catch my attention wandering. I lose the wheel in front of me or overlap momentarily, before I give the brakes a subtle squeeze and fall back properly into line. Why are these things not yet effortless?
I can take a simple thing, turning those pedals over, left-right-left-right, and unravel it into a pile of threads that each leads off in a different direction, so that I arrive at the meet-up in a state of mental disarray over whether or not I’m good enough to ride with a bunch of people who are as half-assed and ill-prepared as I am.
Fortunately, it is no more than ten miles to serenity. Whatever detail I was churning in my mind recedes by the time someone’s GPS dings at that distance. Luckily, the problems of riding are mostly solved by riding, another absurdity to ponder as you stand in your kitchen in the still dark morning, your bib straps limp at your sides to allow one last trip to the bathroom, to work out your nerves, before you go.
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