Friday Group Ride #222

Friday Group Ride #222

My 7-year-old, a very reluctant cyclist who INSISTED on training wheels until I finally pulled them off and stashed them in the garage, learned to ride his bike. To see him riding away from the house, up the street (yes, with his shoe untied), a look of intense shock and delight on his face, left his father weak-kneed and confused. I would almost equate it to the birth of our oldest son, whose arrival stirred awe and incredulity somewhere deep in my brain. You know these things are going to happen, but seeing them is still somehow incongruous with your sense of reality.

This coincided with the Giro, and thinking about thinking about the Giro, like maybe I’m just over the cynicism that slaked my interest in watching pro races. Tactics and performances lit up my mind. I was excited. I thought about visiting my friend Felipe in Torino next summer. I daydreamed about climbing narrow roads through small villages.

Then I wrapped up a new build project, a dirt road bike with disc brakes. For a while, it was all I could think about. Which disc brakes to get, hydraulic or mechanical, where to route the cables, what saddle, what wheels, just the sort of obsessive, every-decision-is-important project I love, except that I also hate that inescapable feeling that I might make the wrong calls, which, of course, drags the project out even longer…and maybe makes it more fun.

Then the other day I had a transcendent trail ride. I don’t ride mountain bikes that much, which entirely explains why I so seldom feel at home on the trail, and yet I met some friends for a spin in our local trail system and some combination of fitness, caffeine and the aligning of the planets gave me that flow that all mountain bikers crave, the first time I’d had it in a few years.

My passion for the bike ebbs and flows. What I sometimes do by rote, leg over top tube, clipped in, pedals turning over, can quite unexpectedly be illuminated by event or happenstance. And then I’m back in love. I find myself cleaning my drive-train when I ought to be going to bed. I cheerfully set my alarm for rides I might otherwise dread.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what are YOU thinking about right now in your cycling life? What do you really care about? What’s lighting up your rides? Or are you just turning the pedals over? Are you bored?


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  1. Aar

    Right now, I’m concerned about raising my fitness without aggravating the arthritis in my knee again. After the knee pain reduced me to 2 rides per week from Feb through May, wedges between my cleat and shoe have me now riding as much as I want each week. Keeping myself from riding too hard and too fast too soon is its own minefield…

  2. jimmy

    Patience seems to be my mantra at this stage. I mostly ride with my son whose almost 6. I rarely ask if he wants to ride but where. As a teen I discovered cycling as a way to escape. I’m learning now to ride as a way to bond . Racing to compete and club rides are no longer a reality but occasionally to simply be in the group is an every-other-odd-week luxery. But those evening sidewalk rides I attend daily.

  3. Kevin

    Bought a ‘cross bike in January, and started working nighttime urban rides, and some short dirt rides into the mix. While still 98% roadie, I did my first long-ish (45 mile) dirt/gravel ride on the CX bike a few weeks back. What a blast. Can’t wait for the next one. In the meantime, still fired up for my 3 or 4 time per week road rides.

    Enjoy your writing. Thanks for sharing your stories.

  4. MikeG

    Adrift is the best word I can come up with. I used to lead the “B-Group” ride every Saturday at my friend’s shop. Some bad apples started showing up and chased away all the good/cool/fun riders. I gave up leading the ride, then my friend had to shut down the shop. The core group basically scattered to the wind. Now I find myself riding solo, but much shorter rides, or the SS 29r along the canals, swimming, jogging, etc. Its a bit like part of myself has been misplaced and I can quite figure out how to find it again. Its quite surreal…

  5. Andrew

    Right now I am super motivated/ scared to death about my trip in two weeks to Bormio, Italy. I’m giving some talks first in Basel, Switzerland, and then a very good friend from Zurich is picking me up to go to Bormio. We’ve got about 4 days to do the Gavia, Stelvio, Mortirolo and whatever else we can find. Coming from SE MN it’s a little bit daunting to try to train for the Alps, but I have been doing a ridiculous number of hill repeats, and as much hilly gravel riding as I can possibly do. We’re never at a shortage of super windy days here, and I’m hoping that these endless slogs into gale force winds at least partially simulate long Alpine climbs. But basically I am expecting to suffer, suffer, and then suffer some more. And then after I get back from that, I’ll be ready to get all neurotic about training for the Dairyland Dare!

  6. armybikerider

    You know…I just love to ride. This weekend I’ll do my routine twin 53 milers, alone, over the same route on Fort Campbell that I’ve been doing for the past 4+ years. My wife asks how I can do the same route…over and over and over etc. But, when I’m out there, riding my bike…I’m off in a million different mental directions – or none at all. It really sets my mind at ease and recharges me. I dig, no I NEED that time on my bike, mind turned off….turning the pedals over. I’m not bored at all.

  7. Pat O'Brien

    When I ride I try to experience everything around me. Everything changes every day. Every ride is different. Every ride is special. Like two weeks ago when I almost ran over a black tail rattlesnake on a ride we have done twice a week for years. Or riding with the pronghorns on Ft. Huachua a few years ago on a ride we have done more times than I can remember. Or getting the roadside radar unit in a 25 mph speed zone to flash “SLOW DOWN.” So the question is, how can you get bored?
    But what do I think about? Bike touring is the latest dream. I might never do it. But, I like thinking about it.

  8. LB

    The arthritis that showed up in my left knee was a life-changer. No longer can I ride like I used to. And that’s just not acceptable; but it is fact, acceptable or not.

    One way to ameliorate my circumstance was to change my 11-28 cassette with one that bottomed out at 32. That helped some, but the Di2 derailleur is made for only 28 and I had problems in the extreme gear positions. There is no long cage Di2. So I bought a used manual shift long cage Ultegra on eBay, took it apart, took out the long cage sides and installed them in the Di2 derailleur. I didn’t realize going in that removing the cage walls necessitated taking apart all the inner guts of the thing, and I was doing some hair-pulling with derailleur guts spread out on my bench, and trying to get them back in against the protestations of that spring that nestles inside.

    Eventually got it all put back together with a couple extra chain links, readjusted the B-screw. On the stand anyway, it worked; all gears in both chainrings, up and down.

    My thoughts are on this weekend, when I do a road test. I will keep close to home just in case a rescue is needed.

  9. JohnK

    Congratulations! I have a five, soon to be six year old on a red Specialized with training wheels. Sweetest thing you ever saw. He is the third of three sons and in my experience you just let them go at their own pace, raise the wheels up a bit, wait until you sense they’re no longer using them, and take them off. (If you’re in more of a hurry, those kick bikes with no pedals really do work to teach balance.) As for myself, I am the proud father of a new Ellis. (thank you for acknowledging their excellence on your site). Working with Dave Wages, an excellent guy, was such a terrific experience, such a unique experience, how many things do you buy in this day and age that are built for you and where you actually get to know the person who builds them? The bike is fantastic, exhibiting so many of the traits they seem to be striving towards with carbon, light and lively, (16.1lbs with Dura Ave 9000, Hed Ardennes +, 25c tires) with a great ride and handling.) The price is competitive with a brand name bike with similar spec, I think. A bike to hand down to my kids — if they can ever pry it out of my cold dead hands! My own performance has fallen off a bit with work stress and Maker’s Mark, but my kids, the beauty of that bike, the view from the top of the mountain you just climbed — all light up my rides.

  10. Ransom

    I just went from three years of telecommuting to bike commuting, and am trying to get my bearings at the new gig to the point that I can stock some shorts and jerseys at work, and work a real ride into the commute home… There are logistical concerns surrounding my distaste for carting panniers or bags on a recreational ride, but if I can figure out how to do a couple of Mon/Fri provisioning/laundry rides, this could be awesome. If I’m lucky, I may add a commute to my day and still get more recreational ride time.

    And then there’s the increasing frequency of thinking of getting a real road bike to lift that duty from my ‘cross bike…

  11. Tom in Albany

    My 8 year old son ditched the training wheels when he was just past 5. I had tears in my eyes the first time he went down the driveway. I was so damn pleased with him AND myself! My nearly 6 years old daughter just kicked the training wheels. Her balance lessons came on her Disney Princess scooter! Those scooters were the bomb and, it’s what the neighborhood kids are riding now – not bikes. ALAS! Sadly, I missed her maiden voyage as my wife got her going while I was traveling for work. I have mixed emotions about that but, love that she’s on her way!

    Wait. What was the question? Oh yeah. My cycling life right now revolves around when I get my new wheelset. I cratered my back rim and am running my sister’s Rolf Vector until the replacement comes in – or the 21st June, whichever comes first. I just friggin’ wish I paid for expedited delivery. I hate commuting on my mtn bike…

  12. Michael

    I just returned from a month on Reunion Island in the Indian Ocean. I brought my coupler bike and rode whenever I had a bit of time off work. The roads were steep and rough and a blast to ride (with 28c tires). So now I stopped in Ireland to look for a house for us to live in next year, and put my bike together this afternoon and went out for a ride before dinner. So different from where I have been, and where I will be for the next month before we move over here. I guess it is that variety and the joy of seeing new places and roads that is turning my cranks these days, but I expect I’ll love the rides in the next month back home because of the knowledge I won’t be doing them again for a year or so.

  13. Hautacam

    Riding. Meh. I am at one of my cyclic (ha!) low points. Every 5 or 10 years I have an ebb in my relationship with the bike. At least I’m old enough (er, experienced enough) to recognize it now. This slump started in 2012 or so, I think, and marked the end of a 10-year 2-wheel love-fest. The turnaround ought to be coming up in 2015 if the past is any guide.

    These days I’m just commuting regularly and poking around town on my road bike, plus the occasional MTB ride or CX workout in the park. Or pulling my daughter on her trail-a-bike. I seem to be spending my limited “free” time playing with a secondhand paddle board in various water bodies, or hiking with my wife. It’s all very nice and a lot of fun. Not at all hard, unlike cycling — the suffer-factor is decidedly low in these other distractions.

    The bike is always there, though . . . I still attack certain hills during my commute, to the point of gray-out, and my traffic instincts are still sharp. It’ll be interesting to see what reignites the flame this time.

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