Friday Group Ride #213

Friday Group Ride #213

I try not to pass people on my commute anymore. There are two reasons. First, I need to slow down. Why am I sprinting home? How is that helping me? Second, we are coming to a light. You are always coming to a light in the city, and so why get into the I-pass-you-you-pass-me game with someone who is also just trying to get home.

So I was riding behind this guy, and it was one of the first decently warm, sunny days of the spring, and we came to the inevitable light and he stopped and put a foot down and I did, too. Just then he turned and smiled and said, “Sure is a nice night for it,” a friendly opening for 30 seconds of chit-chat. And I said, “Yeah, I guess, but I’m really looking forward to riding without gloves again.”

He smiled politely. I’d rained on the parade, and I knew it. Why on this first nice day would I express disappointment with the gift of warmth and light we’d been given?

The light changed. I said, “Have a great night,” and then I blasted past him and didn’t look back. I was embarrassed, and disappointed in myself. It was a small thing. He won’t remember it. There’s no reason to dwell, but I see these moments, these ad hoc situations, as the canaries in the mine of my frame of mind. And that canary died.

For me, dissatisfaction has its own gravity, its own inertia. If I’m not vigilant, I slip into a perfectionist fugue state that is neither productive nor particularly enjoyable to endure. In this state, I take things for granted. I become ungrateful.

And yet, I have so much, so much.

I woke yesterday to the sound of my 9-year-old barfing in the hallway. I had a ride planned with some guys from work, and my alarm had been set for just about that time anyway. But, instead of getting up, making some coffee and some breakfast, before rolling casually to the meet up, I spent the intervening time cleaning vomit and getting my boy situated back in bed. Then I hiked up my bibs and hauled ass to the ride, leaving my wife to attend to any further digestive reversals.

At first, I was irritated. Why did he have to be sick the one morning of the week I had a ride planned? There I was choking down a banana, slugging gulps of too hot coffee. I made the cafe parking lot just as the church bell finished ringing 7am, and immediately launched into a put-upon rant, at which point the guys said, “Huh, that sucks,” and rolled out onto the ride.

The sun shone bright through the trees, and we quickly sorted ourselves into our pairs. Small talk ensued. I forgot how my son’s illness had been an inconvenience to me (real Father-of-the-Year stuff there). It was a great ride.

I am grateful I even got to ride. I am grateful I have friends willing to ride with me. I am grateful my wife was there to tend my son, so I could follow through with my plan. I am grateful the boy felt better almost immediately, and that we spent some of the sunny afternoon playing catch out front, the ball popping in the pockets of our gloves, that he still wants to spend time with me. I am grateful that I have a good and easy life, even though I screw it up and complicate it as much as I possibly can.

This week’s Group Ride asks a question that deserves a daily answer, what are you grateful for? I could make a list as long as my arm when I’m in my right mind. I could make a list about my family. I could make a list about my job. I could make a list about the bikes I get to ride and the places I get to ride them. I hope you can, too.


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  1. Randall

    My workout yesterday was 23min on the trainer, and another 30 minutes tending to a two year old’s cut finger.

    Thanks goodness she wasn’t puking!

  2. Nate

    I’ve spent much of the past few months griping about the cold, snowy weather which is hampering my ability to to train for my first crack at the Almanzo 100.

    What I need to remember is what a privilege to be able to even attempt that ride. I’m grateful to have a body that can be trained to endure that ride, and I’m grateful to have the resources to travel to that ride, and that I even have a bike to ride. And I’ve got a wife who supports the time investment for that training. There are so many of my family and friends who for health reasons could never even consider doing something like this.

    Why am I riding the Almanzo? Because I can. And it’s that “can” that I’m grateful for.

  3. Andrew

    In a (extremely funny) essay about being on a cruise ship, the late David Foster Wallace advanced a fantastic theory, which absolutely believe in. Basically, DFW postulated that we all have an inborn level of dissatisfaction (or ingratitude, to keep to the topic), and that no matter how good things are for us, we will always raise our level of expectation so as to re-achieve our previous level of dissatisfaction. So, for example, a couple of months ago I would have been beside myself with joy for it to be 20F instead of 0F, whereas now I’m pissy that it is 32F instead of the 45F they forecast some time ago. Anyway, I basically find early Spring to be an ungrateful time, a time of transition from “sucking it up and being pleased with how tough I can pretend I am” to “whining about why things aren’t better”.

    That’s all pretty abstract. You know what I’m feeling really freakin’ grateful about right now? that I didn’t destroy either my bike or my car when I attempted to drive into the garage with the bike on the roof the other night!!! My god I am grateful for that!!!!

  4. Bryan Lewis

    I love that last comment. I’ve located David Foster Wallace’s essay on the web to read a little later; thanks. I fear my inborn level of dissatisfaction is at about the same low level as Robot’s. My riding group has instituted a no-whining policy, just for me I think. Now when I feel like whining I say, “Good though.”

    1. Full Monte

      Please give me a link to the DFW essay! Currently plowing through Infinite Jest (again – it gets better each time). Huge fan of Wallace (may he have finally found peace). Where else but RKP are you going to find commenters referencing one of the greatest post-modernist American writers?

  5. Bryan Lewis

    Sorry, I guess that would be “my inborn level of dissatisfaction is at about the same *high* level…”

  6. Paul

    I’m grateful I’m riding tomorrow –and especially that it’s a road ride (not trail) after two days of well needed rain.

  7. Ransom

    Well-timed, once again. I think this topic is a large temporal target for me, though; you’d have a hard time bringing it up at a time it didn’t apply… I have a work thing that’s complex and stressful, and I let the pall of that hang over the literal embarrassment of riches that makes up the vast bulk of my life:

    * A significant other who’s not only awesome to spend time with, but is totally supportive of the various ridiculous ways I find to burn time and money in the name of fun (and occasionally self improvement)
    * A ridiculous dog, often mistaken for Falcor, the luck dragon from The Neverending Story
    * I have a quiver of nifty bicycles, most better than I am a rider, but thankfully I can appreciate how great they feel even with my feeble engine
    * And a similarly absurd list for each item in the absurd list of other interests I have apart from cycling

  8. SteveB

    in no particular order:
    * My very supportive wife and generally grown up kids that can clean up their own barf.
    * Every single minute I spend on the bike – the worst ride somehow ends up with me feeling better for it, the best ride approaches nirvana.
    * Friends, family, (too much) good food and drink, especially post-ride beers with whoever wants to join us.
    * A job that lets me pay for this silly habit and everything else I really need or want.

  9. Duncan

    I’m grateful that I have a wife who understands my need to ride as much as I understand her need to run. And that my boys don’t mind being treated like relay batons from time to time…

  10. Pat O'Brien

    The list would be too long. I am grateful for realizing I have enough, of everything. Including the pesto sauce I made yesterday for our riding friend and neighbor coming over today.

  11. christopheru

    What am I grateful for? My wife and daughter. Two of the most wonderful people on the planet (to me). The ladies in my life tolerate my obsession – and it is an obsession – with bicycles. Without them to keep me at least semi grounded, I might roll away in the next stiff breeze…

  12. Aaron

    Beyond the usual family mentions – wife, the boys, dog, house – and health – seriously grateful I’m not one of the unfortunate stiffs who can barely roll the flab out of bed to suck a cigarette, down some coffee and turn the keys to merge into bumper-to-bumper traffic only to find my day occupied by a job I hate. I’m also grateful for my commute, and I’m suspecting many of the daily bike commuters are like me, always looking for a way to put on a couple extra miles. Most recently, I’m grateful for the others I get to ride with. Too bad, I can’t attach a picture as I bumped into a colleague that works in a different part of the University at the coffee shop late in the day yesterday. We made a random plan to meet up and ride home – and to extend that ride over the Golden Gate Bridge and back. It was such an impressive evening, with the sun setting over the Pacific, that my buddy stopped and pulled out his iPad to snap some pics and we looked like a couple of kook tourists – in our own home town: here’s a link to one of the pics if you want to have a look.

    The point wasn’t speed, but to ride together. And the miles clicked on by…

    1. Ransom

      Stunning photo! That’s my place of birth, but my family moved away before I got going with cycling. Would love to go back and ride that area…

  13. Hautacam

    When I step back and think about it, I am grateful for every day that I am able to ride, able to run, able to hit the gym — able to work — and able to come home and spend time with my family, all in relative peace, health, and safety.

    In a world where people are getting blown up over religion, or shot/knifed for a smartphone, or getting buried in biblical-grade mudslides (not to mention struck down too early by gnarly diseases) peace, health, and safety are pretty high on my list of things to be grateful for.

    Everything else is gravy. The young woman in front of me at a red light on the ride home tonight turned around and exclaimed to me that we had both sun AND a tailwind for the first time in memory. I smiled, and agreed that it was excellent.

  14. Bill

    I’m grateful for what life has given me thus far. And a day like today, where the wife, pooch and I hopped in the car, explored the local national forest, smiled through rain showers, snow snowers, ice pellets and snow grains, just being together.

    Of course I scouted out a few new rides, both on the road and on the trail, but those will wait for another day.

  15. andrew

    I can’t walk far, definitely can’t run. There are two things i’m grateful for: My wife and my bike. I can ride for hours.

  16. me again

    My not being grateful was something I pointed out to my daughter yesterday. Went by a bar that recently changed hands and mentioned finding 20 bucks as I walked up to buy a pair of $2.00 beers. Told her I was disappointed it wasn’t a larger bill and looking back on it how ungrateful it was.
    I’m grateful for my family, friends and for everything in my life, good and bad. Each thing can be looked at as a learning experience. Take Wednesday for example. Went on a 65 mile ride with the GF and we were talking about how she is uncomfortable cornering quickly. I noticed she leaned away from the bike in turns so I decided to give her a tutorial on proper turning. Describing how she made her turns went well and then as I leaned nicely into the next, I discovered the center yellow line covered in pollen very much to my surprise. I went down like the road was wet and as if I had hit a freshly painted line. Ouch! There goes my brand new Castelli kit, a bunch of skin on the road, a flat front tire and a bent derailleur hangar.
    Sounds like everything went to hell. I’m still 30 miles out. I’m beat up. My new kit is trash. My bike isn’t working correctly, but there’s a positive side. Nothing is broken. I can still ride, and the GF now knows how NOT to make a fast turn. ..

  17. August Cole

    A great time of year to be grateful. Each extra minute of evening light. A few degrees warmer in the early morning. Finding friends who hunkered down during winter are exactly as they were before the cold came. Creating a space in your life to be grateful is the first step, and for me there’s no better place than on a bike ride. Writing. Wife. Daughters. Health. Doesn’t mean it’s easy to force ourselves to step back and bask in it all. What’s hard: slowing down as I try to find my legwarmers, fumbling with shoe covers or the floor pump knowing that each minute of delay cuts into time on the road, watching my heart rate rise as I worry about getting back in time to wear the mantle of family responsibility. It’s a bit of a loop, but being grateful for that mindfulness is where I try to start each ride, if not each day.

  18. Hhbikes

    Great, great post!!
    I too find myself redirecting to gratitude.
    Me? I’ll have to say having an athletic wife. We understand and encourage each other. We ride together when schedules work (we even honeymooned on bikes in Italy)
    She will even have me spend more on a bike than I feel free to do. Still, lifes not always a sunny day so to speak. But as you infer, we have a lot to be grateful for.
    Thanks, R, for sharing your life with us

  19. SusanJane

    I am grateful for RKP and all of you. Why? Because my chronic illness prevents me from riding and at times leaving the house. I live through your exploits, hardware conundrums, ups and downs, puke, bonk, triumphs, suffering, photos (especially the photos!), complaints, and most of all passion for open air, freedom, and wholeness. You are the other side of the on-line cycling world for me. The side that thinks, feels and lives real lives instead of media sound bites and race results. Grateful only says part of it, but I think you get the idea.

  20. armybikerider

    Don’t even know where to start.

    I have to say at the outset that after deploying to the mid-East – I’m grateful for every minute I spend at home in this country, doing whatever I CHOOSE to do.

    Aside from the usual loved ones, warming weather etc, I’m most grateful for the ability to retire at 53 years old knowing that I can easily return to work – if I choose to, but will likely spend my time riding my bike, fishing and playing my guitar.

  21. Mark Young

    I will continue the “thankful for family and wife” mantra. I builtba bike for 20 years ago and she just started riding about a year ago and consistently leaves me eating her rubber when the road tilts upward.

    But I am also thankful for the new job that I started less than a month ago and in a brief conversation with my boss, I find that he wants to go out for noon time rides a couple times a week! What a change in atmosphere from my last job.

  22. Peter Leach

    James Reyne sings: “Any day above ground is a good day. Any moment alone with you …”

    I’m grateful for many things, but in the context of this site I’m most grateful for my personal ‘red kites’ and the chance to offer up thanks as I pass under, over and beside them. I’m grateful for the opportunities I have to ride to reach them. I’m grateful for the learning – about my surroundings, myself and my community – that each ride brings.

    Ride forever …

    I know that many others have sung along similar lines, but I’m particularly grateful to James for “Any Day Above Ground” from his 1991 album of the same name.

  23. Rob A.

    I was on my commute home today when I got ‘stuck’ behind 2 other cyclists who were held up by a 3rd cyclist not riding as fast as we were. On the narrow bridge with one bike lane and full of traffic, you just couldn’t get by.

    At first, this situation was slightly annoying, as you can’t ride at your desired pace. At the first traffic light after the 3 of us had passed the 4th, slower cyclist, I commented “Wow, we got in quite the bike-traffic jam on the bridge”. The woman in front of me turned and said, “Yea, but that means there’s more people biking!”.

    Right on. A minor inconvenience, but it means there’s more of us. More tires on the road, less pollution in the air, more commraderie at the stop-lights. That’s something to be thankful for.

  24. Brent Curtis

    Here is a link to DFW’s article from Harpers. Sit and right that list right now. Have everyone in your family do it too. Talk about it over dinner. You’ll learn a lot.

  25. Jonathan

    Echoing many others: grateful that my wife understands the importance of cycling to my physical and mental health. We actually had a chat about it yesterday, and she’s equally thankful that I have an interest that both keeps me healthy and saves money (from commuting) that I really love doing.

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