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.