As riders there are rules we obey without even thinking. No tube socks. No spitting into the wind. No bare knees when it’s cold. We make our Saturday rides and find ways to get our miles in even with the pressures of work and family. Some weeks are better than others, but we are defined not by the deviation, rather the aspiration. It is the rule that tells who we are.
Does anyone really need more rules in life? The reasonable answer would seem to be no, but the rules we use can reveal a lot about our ability to judge the situations in which we find ourselves.
Are all Saturdays created equal? Must Saturday mean at least 75 miles and a few thousand feet of climbing, or is every fourth Saturday dialed back for rest?
If there is a break off the front, do we chase? Is there a teammate in the break? Is the 11 the right choice on a wet descent? Do we ride injured or sick because we can’t give up the miles?
Our constant reassessment of road conditions, the group, our own legs are—no matter how much we aim to impose our will on the bike, on the ride—a sign of humility. I once heard on the news a political analyst who specialized in the Middle East. He said, “Well the first thing you have to understand about the region is that every statement you make begins with, ‘it depends.’” To me, it was a sign of true insight.
Every new lesson I learn results in a new rule. Maybe it’s a sign of aging—that I don’t have the strength of will I used to possess—but I think my riding is more a test of my knowledge and experience now. My own wisdom has overcome my loss of youth.
But there is one riding rule I’ve come to value, even to cherish, and it’s not about riding at all, even though I learned it from the Grand Tour riders. It’s about saving. For them, it was saving something for tomorrow, next week. For me, yes, it means saving something for tomorrow, but more importantly, it means saving time for my family, saving some energy for the rest of the day, saving myself so I can be fully present for those who love me. We’re not much different from soda: That first sip is sweet, but no one wants the empty can.
Image: John Pierce, Photosport International.