Saturday starts some time Friday morning, once the first cup of coffee takes hold and the realization that Friday is finite occurs in my work-clogged brain. A whisper campaign ensues, the office and shop vibrating with it. “You riding tomorrow?”
We’re all riding tomorrow, some more ambitiously than others. Some will race. We don’t see them much in the summer. They’re always off somewhere, getting dressed out of the back of a car, suffering, coming home.
On Saturday, there are long road rides, the guys in training for events like Dirty Kanza or the Trans Am Bike Race. There are mixed-terrain rides, drop bars on road and dirt and single-track. There are mountain bike rides. Each of these plans to leave at the crack of dawn, or the middle of the morning, or sometimes in the afternoon. We spend much of Friday aligning our schedules and interests. Negotiations and compromises happen. By the time we leave work Friday night, we know where we’ll be on Saturday.
The Friday night part of Saturday is consumed with cartography, route planning, which consists of dropping dots across a local, digital map trying to string together scenery or connect good coffee shops. This is a paradigm shift from not-so-long-ago, when paper maps, cue sheets, and laminated route cards proliferated in our heaps and mounds of cycling crap. Are the rides better? I think so, but your results may vary.
Saturday isn’t done with Friday when the route is settled either. When I’m on my game, I also take the five minutes to gather food and prep bottles, to check my saddle bag, to lube my chain. I am not often on my game, and spend the first part of Saturday morning scrambling to do these things. I hate to be late.
If the ride is leaving early, or it’s a route I haven’t done before, I am not likely to sleep very well, anticipating the alarm clock, reviewing my preparations over and over in my head. Saturday is a big deal. If, as ’80s rock philosophers Loverboy posited, “everybody’s working for the weekend,” screwing up your Saturday ride screws up your week.
And so, the alarm. I try to give myself half-an-hour before I leave the house. These 30 minutes must include coffee, the choking down of some form of solid calorie, the donning of the kit, the pre-ride bathroom visit. If escape from the house’s gravity isn’t achieved quickly enough thereafter, another bathroom visit has to happen. I get butterflies before I ride, pretty much every time.
Shoes, hat, helmet, gloves, and top layer, if necessary, happen at the bottom of the stairs. The bikes hang in the garage. The door rumbles up. I step out. The door rumbles down. There are some strange moments as I pedal up the street, especially if the planned ride is a long one. I have that sense of the mundane, which I expect to yield to something much more grueling and adventurous. It feels incongruous.
Then the ride. We talk about the ride a lot. You know what it looks like. You know what it feels like. But Saturday doesn’t end with the ride, and there’s no soigneur or bouquet to ease the post ride duties.
These Saturday afternoons find me up a ladder, holding a paint brush. I have returned from the ride, swapped kit for work clothes, eaten every loose calorie in the kitchen and gotten to it, the second leg of some demonic duathlon. The lawn needs mowing. Get your mulch down quick, unless you want to spend the summer weeding.
The eight-year-old wants to throw the baseball. The ten-year-old wants to play soccer. I both indulge and referee them both, sometimes from the ladder, sometimes from the middle of the game. By 6pm, the back of my neck is sunburnt. My left shoulder is killing me. My legs are wooden, and my mood is crushed. This is the reality of the modern, middle-class endurance athlete. Iced coffee enhances performance, the shower and couch our only salvation.
This is Saturday, almost over.
Because Monday morning is Saturday again. We recount our rides at work, bikes in stands to be tuned, cleaned, gone over for no real reason, except that Saturday will come again. We are, all of us, working for the weekend.