Happy Thanksgiving everyone! My family left to the closest thing we have to a cottage, the parent-in-laws that live north of the city. For me it feels like too much time away from the projects, repairs and everything else that needs to be done at home. I stayed back and will take the train up to join them soon. After I investigated the to-do list, I found the projects to be wrapped up, the vehicles are running well, and the bikes don’t need much of anything repaired. Anything the house needs is a massive undertaking so… how about actually RIDING a bike?
This is something I used to do quite well and am trying to determine if I’m still able. I dedicated a lot of this season to randonneuring at the exclusion of gravel races and club rides. Two types of riding I dearly enjoy. Then my summer audax goal came and went and I was wondering what cycling meant to me now. The universe decided that it didn’t care what I wondered, and I immediately pulled something in my leg. A muscle or a tendon, it caused pain from the middle of my back to the heel of my foot. Then I got Covid. By the time I started riding again it was a full month off the bike. Please use your tears of sympathy for good purpose and clean your bike shoes with them.
Now I knew I wanted to ride on my day off of fatherhood duties, but with whom? Being a member of a few clubs, I shopped around. Dark Horse Flyers didn’t have any rides scheduled. Peterborough Cycle Club was the same and I’d be riding cyclocross with them on Monday anyways. Morning Glory had the bagel lined up, but knowing the pounding I would take on the loop north of Toronto pushed that thought from my head. Randonneurs Ontario, Toronto Chapter, had a 200 running out of Grimsby. I checked the route and it was perfect, places I’d never been on a bike and a bonus; the promise of anonymity and alone time.
Pardon you? Yes, the long ride, the brevet, guarantees you time alone with your thoughts and your issues and all the other “you” things that you’re able to accumulate and ignore in the course of daily life. Simply lag back or push on ahead and you’ll be guaranteed hours of silent suffering. With only 10 of the 20 registered riders actually showing up at the start location, along with a variety of strength and speed amongst them, it’s not hard to get lost in the wilderness. I also mentioned anonymity (no spell check required!) and yes, this too may be something you are looking for. Shallow talk of the weather, the scenery and the wind! That’s it. People to be present with in the moment! To be in the now for a short while is a great feeling. Nobody who knows me enough to be aware that even though I’m latched onto your wheel for dear life, I still am watching over your shoulder for the next town sign sprint. Maybe these things appeal to you too?
And yes… now that I revise this text and dwell on it… this anonymous conversation presents itself as the opposite of being alone. Can I blame it on being a Gemini? I’m of two minds and there is beauty on both sides of the fence. My love of a tightly packed paceline with long time cycling friends, catching up about what been happening in our lives, appeals to me equally as much as the alone time I search for on the rando rides.
As for the ride? It was perfect randonneuring. A punishing climb up the escarpment 10 minutes after we rolled out. Beautiful rolling hills taking us to the mechanical marvel that is the Welland Canal. Locks and freighters and drawbridges galore! First, I had a very pleasant conversation with a cyclist about our recent experiences of riding and it was delightful. Then another cyclist and I had a lengthy discussion about the pros of “good enough” bicycle equipment and I was happy to banter about hubs, bike fit and
tools. Then we reached the beauty of Niagara Falls and I walked on alone (literally) so that I could take it in by myself, for myself. I rolled on and eventually discovered a fatal flaw to my plan of riding alone… a serious headwind. Immeasurably (had to spell check that one) strong, I swear it would push you off the bike if you took your eye off it, even the wind turbines were spinning! HEADWIND! I hit the drops until my body reminded me that I don’t spend enough time down there to pretend to use them now. I held the tips off the hoods as though they enabled a reflector shield. I pushed down sections of road so bare and devoid of anything interesting, seriously one was 17km, the most typically mundane Southern Ontario farmland roads there can be. I was reminded how little I enjoy flat, straight, high speed farmland roads.
But then a beacon of hope… a blinking light from behind! I buried the urge to ask him to switch it to solid and instead asked if I could catch a ride. Salvation had come in the form of two riders and I couldn’t have been happier for the company. Oh how great it was to have people to talk to and banter with and draft!
Thank you, Erin M, for meeting us in the morning to give us the brevet cards. You’ll likely find yourself e-mailing me in a couple days asking for an image of mine along with the GPX file of the ride. I swear I will get it to you. But right now I’m in a boiling bath praying to the old gods that Epson salts really do work miracles.
Ride for yourself, ride to be with others, but get out and ride. Glory be to the bike (and to my wife).