To Forget

I forgot a pump. I often forget a pump. I have come to a strange place in my cycling experience where I neither completely believe in CO2, nor love jamming a small hand pump in my jersey pocket. And despite having a pump peg welded to my head tube, I have also passed up every opportunity to buy a frame pump that would nestle there conveniently beneath my top tube. Anyway, I didn’t bring a pump, leaving me at the mercy of my more conscientious companions and the shifting winds of fortune.

I also forgot which turn it is. There is a lovely serpentine route here somewhere, a quick left off the main road that ducks and dives between horse-grazed pastures and hidden ponds, a way to get three extra miles in without getting any further from home, a way to make wealthy people nervous that their expansive manses, their country estates, are being cased by a pack of lycra-clad burglars. The road is called Dow, or Dawes, or Dove. I think we passed it.

I forget what time I told my wife I’d be back, which is beside the point, because I also forgot to check what time it is. Saddle time is fluid and elastic and entirely unpredictable. That first ten miles seems to take about two hours, while the next 40 disappear in ten minutes. Did we do 50 miles in an hour and ten? No. It’s two o’clock. When did it get to be two o’clock?

I forgot that my front tire was a little soft, and instead of turning back at the end of my street to firm it up with the floor pump that perches next to the garbage can in the garage, I blew it off, and now every time I go round a turn I’m convinced it’s going flat. But it’s not. Until it does. Does anyone have a pump?

I forgot to eat. There was a banana before I left and the thought that I should begin topping up the tank at about the ten-mile mark, but I was going so well that I didn’t think of it again until my stomach rang hollow on the front side of a long climb. At that point, you’ve got to get on top of your calories tout suite or risk turning the ride into a bonk-fighting, death march. How many times have I made this mistake?

I forgot how strong this one guy is, all of us fighting to hold the wheel in front of us when he goes to take his pull. I hate this guy, except that he is actually pretty nice. I forget his name, Matt or Mark or Max. I’m going to ask someone, and then I’m going to intentionally forget it again, just to spite him.

There are times I wish I had my wits about me a bit better. Certainly, standing by the side of the road with a flat tube in one hand and a dawning realization that I have no way to inflate it, I chide myself for not having it more together. At the same time, my life doesn’t admit of more organization. Work, family and home tax my capacity for organization and effort, so that I don’t really have it in me, sometimes, to stalk about the night before a ride, gathering every last detail and bit of equipment.

I wing it.

I could do more, but I can’t do more, you know? And forgetting is at the core of why I ride anyway. I ride to slough off the remains of the day, to burn off my troubles, to disappear from my own life. As soon as I try to bring the same focus to my cycling that I bring to my work and the rest, cycling ceases to have the same power to soothe.

So I forget and I forgive myself for forgetting, and that doesn’t mean I don’t sit there frustrated as hell by the side of the road with a flat. But I accept, at some point, that this is what I am and this is what I need to do if I am ever going to get away from the things that are chasing me, which is all and everything most days. If I can remember that I ride for fun, to remember what it’s like to be free, then I’m willing to forget the rest and stand and wait for someone with a pump to happen by.

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  1. Bryan Lewis

    I thought that was a well-crafted bit of prose, man. You’re also getting better-looking with time. So stick with your style.

    Having said that, it’s not my style. I’m one of those people who stalks about the night before, gathering every last detail, precisely so I can lose track of myself during the ride. (Maybe you should come over to the geek side and pin packing lists to your garage wall. And carry a voice recorder.. it would go well with a helmet mirror.)

  2. ELG

    Well written and thought provoking story for sure, but Im just not sure I can identify.
    Im not particularly fast, or particularly well organized, and I dont take cycling near as serious as most around me, but food and air (in the tires) are two things so critical to a good ride that I cant say Ive ever forgotten them.

    Ive never gotten to work and then realized I forgot my pants either.

  3. Full Monte

    Spin it the opposite way.

    Mindful Preparation. It’s a way of forgetting the troubles of the day as well.

    Focus, plan, and plot. The night before, fill your bottles, put them in the fridge. Lay out your kit – after you’ve checked the morning forecasts. Get your toaster out, put the bagels beside it, along with the honey and peanut butter. Then get the coffee pot ready so all you’ve got to do is flick it on as the day breaks. Put your banana and bars beside your gloves and helmet, so you’re sure not to forget to stuff them in a pocket. Double check your bike. Tires, chain, cables. Check your seat bag (if you use one) for a spare tube, multi-tool, CO2 inflator. If you’ll be riding pre-sunrise, check your lights, make sure the batteries are up to snuff. Put the floor pump right beside your bike in case you need to top off a soft tire first thing. Put your phone on the charger. The house is completely quiet by now, only a couple lights still on. Fire up the laptop, take a look at MapQuest. Remind yourself that it’s Dove Street, and it comes right at the bottom of the big hill, so it’s easy to zip past. Check out other cool routes if it’s your turn to lead (or if you’re riding solo). Surprise yourself and others with an unridden road. Yawn. Stretch. Pet the cat. Climb the stairs and slide into bed. Kiss your wife. Double check the alarm. Drift off to sleep imagining the morning’s ride.

    There. You’ve just distracted yourself from you and your life for an hour. Cycling has given you an escape even before you’ve climbed on your bike.

  4. Alan

    Love this.

    My pre-race mantra: Shoes, Jersey, Helmet, Bike.

    That’s all I need.

    Well maybe this pump. Shoes, Jersey, Helmet, Bike, Pump.

    That’s all I need.

    Well, maybe this set of tire levers. Shoes, Jersey, Helmet, Bike, Pump, Tire Levers.

    That’s all I need…

  5. Andrew

    I tend to forget underwear when I commute. No matter how many times I’ve gone through the same routine of laying everything out on the floor and rolling it up to put it in my backpack. I’ve had to resort to stashing it in my desk, just in case.

    I only used to forget a pump when I rode solo, never on group rides. I finally broke down and bought 3 identical Lezyne pumps, so each bike is set.

  6. Nigel

    Wonderful post.

    Yesterday I had the pleasure of being asked by a young woman “You don’t have a pump, do you?”

    “Why yes I do!” I cheerfully replied as I pulled over and got the hand pump out of a jersey pocket.

    After a good inflating of both of her tires she thanked me profusely and I told her “That’s what cyclists do! We help each other out.”

  7. Patrick O'Brien

    I forgot what I had for breakfast today.
    The trusty Road Morph hangs from the top tube of the Saga; it’s there when you or I need it, always. Reading that piece was fun. Thanks.

  8. LesB

    I have not done the probably biggest “forget” a cyclist can do:
    Forgetting there’s a bike on the roof when pulling into the garage.

    No, I haven’t done that one; but just about everything else I take on rides has been forgotten at one time or another.

    In coping with ADD, I actually have checkoff lists, one for each kind of ride. And I dutifully check through the list every time I go ride.

    And I still forget stuff.

  9. Petros V

    I’ve always had a frame pump. Always. Full size zefal hpx. I broke down and bought a Lezyne for my new bike because the zefal was too big, and to save some weight and get with the times. But for Christmas last year my wife bought me the right size zefal ‘Classic’: shiny silver, old skool, and able to fully pump a 25mm road tire.
    Anyway, what I’m trying to say is….

    oh.crap.I forgot.

  10. John Romeo Alpha

    I forgot a pump. Once. On the walk back to the campsite I chose a three mile GPS guided hike-a-bike through a forest I’d never been through that had no trails instead of a seven mile backtrack on the forest service roads we went out on. I think you only get one of those that actually work out per lifetime, with neither cliff nor canyon nor running out of water halfway in, so from that point forward I always carry a pump. Although I’m told pine needles work in a pinch.

  11. Michael

    Same thing that happened to Andrew has happened to me on a few trips to the office. The worst is on Friday, jeans day. Semper ube, sub ube… if I can remember.

  12. SAM

    Even when I’ve done my best to remember everything, my back wheel often “forgets” I only brought one tube when I’m in the middle of nowhere in the cell-signal-less hill country of southern Albany County, NY.



  13. Dustin

    I try and not forget things, but it happens.

    I most certainly forget what time I’m supposed to be home, and forget to keep an eye on the clock when I know what time I’m supposed to be home.

    Also forget to eat. Forgot at a 40mile MTB race in TN a few years ago. 20something miles in it dawned on me that I hadn’t ate anything yet. I was having so much fun I forgot. It was a great ride, even if I did bonk with 10 miles to go.

  14. Peter Kelley

    I forgot how freaking awesome the Stanley Cup Playoffs are! But now I remember!

    Unfortunately, it’s going to be a late night, and I gotta wake up early to ride tomorrow… So I’m not going to remember sh*t on Thursday…

  15. VLS

    I am not a rider. I’m merely a fan. However, I do participate in the sport of dog agility, so I can relate the problem of forgetting. Once Upon A Time, I loaded the car prior to an ability trial with the necessities of my sport:portable crate, food, crate pad, etc. Because all you need to go to the start line is…appropriate collar, leash, entry number properly displayed, the person in acceptable clothing, and treats for the end of the run. Right? Five miles down the road, I looked into the back of the car, and realized I had forgotten THE DOG. Shit happens. And though I didn’t have to depend on anyone else to help me, or worse, be unable to help someone else stuck miles from home…it still sucked to think I left the most important part of my team at home. No one is perfect.

  16. punkture

    ha! Great piece. Never forgotten a pump but ive forgotten patches a few crucial times. Got a pump, tire levers and…..oh bollocks!

    Forgetting to eat is also way too easy when you feel strong at the beginning of a ride.

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