Wednesday, January 21, 2009

What Mike Barry said...

As I read Mike Barry's post (there's a link in my previous one), I thought again and again about what he said about the social aspects of road cycling. He drew a lovely picture of a group of maybe half a dozen riders, arranged two by two, chatting as they ride the miles.

That's cycling as I came to know it in the '70s and '80s. It's cycling as it was when it hooked me, when it inspired me to decide to ride until I could no longer climb on a bike. The social aspect was as vital as the athletic or the competitive. 

It was more important, really: you could quit racing or lose fitness, but you'd never give up riding with the guys. Cyclists who did not come up in a traditional roadie way don't get it. They ride alone or they ride in scraggly groups. Whatever.

I miss that aspect of the old days. I don't miss it once in a while. I miss it every day.

Lance has come back to racing. It's my hunch he missed the guys, the riding along two by two and chatting the miles away. I've told you I miss it. If you're an old roadie and you find good social cycling difficult to arrange today, I'll bet my best floor pump that you miss it too.

I'm going to think about this more and write about it again soon. Please comment if the urge arises....


beth h said...

About being out of shape and whatever else as reasons for finding it hard to arrange a social ride -- well, it's true. For someone like me who's never been "in" shape, really, the only kind of riding I could do was mostly alone. As a lifelong commuter and non-racer, I was too slow for the friends who rode and too fast for the ones who never did.

Enter randonneuring, a non-race that allows each rider to do his/her personal best while meeting some of the most decidedly UN-snobby people in cycling, ever. While I stick to the shortest randonneuring events (populaires, or metric centuries), my friends who ride farther and faster have become, well, friends; and every now and then we plan a social ride together of 25 to 30 miles, just for the pure pleasure of riding. It doesn't happen very often -- I'm still a LOT slower than my rando buddies -- but it does happen and it's always very sweet:

Hope your rides are all good!

Steve Courtright said...

Totally agree with you, Maynard.

Folks, if after thousands of miles, hundreds of early mornings, days hot and cold, rides fast and slow, you cannot count your riding partners among your best friends, you are not doing it right!

philcycles said...

Sadly many cyclists are lone wolves and never learn the joys of group riding with trusted friends who won't do anything stupid and put you on the ground. (redacted) years ago Maynard and I rode with a group of about 10 or 12 guys, all good riders, many of whom-including Maynard-went on to fame and fortune in the bike business. I still recall fondly being pulled around Paradise by Charlie Kelly.
Some raced, some just rode, but we all enjoyed our time on and off the bike together. It helped that we were riding in God's Country-Marin-but it was really the company.
I'm still friends with many of the group all these (redacted) years later, have gone on rides with them recently and it's still enjoyable.
Club life for your lifetime is the part of the English cycling scene I'd most like to transport to the US.
Phil Brown

Earle Young said...

After the MS 150 last August, a few of us here in Madison started a ride that is specifically for that kind of riding. We call it the Saturday Social Ride, it has drawn some younger riders. The group encourages me about the future of road cycling. The riders "get it" and are also interested in Brooks leather saddles and Marino wool jerseys, two things about road riding in the past that should not be forgotten.
I have great memories of the 9 O'clock Ride from Velo Sport in Berkeley, which really embodied the spirit Maynard is talking about.

Khal said...

That idyllic world is often broken up, where I live, with the sound of a pickup truck's horn blast followed by "get the f**k off the road".

Nevertheless, very thoughtful essay by Mike Barry. Unfortunately, riders riding in decent size groups, two abreast, on most roads in the U.S. are more likely than not to be harassed by motorists and the police. We need more of the European model where there is more to life than an SUV.

Brings me back to my bike racing team days. We didn't always flog each other senseless. Some of the best times to socialize and get to know each other were on the slower, recovery rides when we would, as Mike mentions, ride two abreast, shoot the shit, and have a grand time out on those back roads of Oahu.

philcycles said...

I don't remember that one but I do remember the Berkeley Wheelmen training ride around Aquatic Park and trying to keep up with Dave Brink on San Pablo Dam Road.
I bought my Colnago from Peter in 1972. Those were the days.
Phil Brown

Earle Young said...

Phil Brown mentioned chasing Dave Brink on San Pablo Dam Road. I'd just like to mention here [maybe brag about what a cool bike I have] that I have a steel road frame built by Dave Brink, and it's the best-riding steel bike I've ever been on. And I've ridden quite a few over the years.

jthurber80 said...

After spending the entire day in a classroom surrounded by 7th and 8th grade students I enjoying solo cycling. The exercise helps relieve stress and the time alone permits me to plan next day activities, etc.

But long distance riding was different. The first three day solo trip was quite lonely. There are different times and styles for all of us. A day alone is a nice thing -- three days is too much. Unfortunately all my cycling long distance partners are female, which lends a nice air (but a potentially dangerous one) to my cross country treks. At least they're neat and appreciate good cooking / food.