As defined as revisiting a setting you were previously exposed to at an older age….
Time travel is possible and in a figurative sense, I was successful last night. Since date night was cancelled I decided to ride my bike some more during the evening in hopes to accomplish the same goals that were set originally (I wanted to mingle and flirt.) Like any wise time traveler, I went with an escort. My good friend Jason who I know and trust dearly escort me to the Mid-Wilshire / McArthur park area to meet up with more casual urban riders to ride bikes, drink beer, and all those familiar tasks at hand.
We showed up a little early but were then met by regular attendees. While observing the scene of riders I am reminded of a time when I was just beginning to discover the bike scene for the first time. So many different shapes and sizes of riders. One of the most common things I saw were people fitting their bodies to the bikes they owned and not the other way around. I tried to push down the old purist’s soul, go with the flow, and enjoy everyone’s company. It was blatantly obvious that the majority of today’s night riders have a narrow approach to becoming the cyclist they wish to be. Much like every enthusiast, we know a handful of pro names and may have even seen a bike race or two, whether it’s a local street race, or wherever the hell you watch pro cyclist on the interwebs. The reason I say this is because there were people with entry level bikes (much like the one I have) the highest end (in no particular order) shoes, handlebars, computers, all while wearing no helmet, no lights, or their bike properly.
Everyone who you chose to talk to was more than friendly. I was unable to find someone who’s opinion I had trusted about more intimate bike talk when discussing parts, riding types, and etiquette. I was most impressed by the ride leader and his most friendly and approachable attitude. He was polite and descriptive about his intentions for the ride, clearly trying to cater to almost all skill types (while the fully kitted riders were ready to throw all caution to the wind.) Nonetheless it was only a short amount of time until I stumbled across a rider I identified with the most whom I felt represented me some six years ago.
An eager to learn soul who showed a combination of determination, attitude, recklessness, while somehow showing an appreciation for the bike. If anything he was a little more open minded since he had both a road and a track bike. Between the substance exchange we established a friendly connection and while the hangout before the roll out is always enjoyable, we were ready to ride. Having already been told This was a street clothes ride, there were a handful of fully kitted riders who were ready to be the winners of the group ride. I had decided before I left my house that I was going to take a more mellow approach to the group ride. In doing so, I saw so much hyper extension in the legs that I had to look away in fear of letting my mind get the best of me an expecting the worst case scenarios of losing control. There were a fair share of times where things did get out of control. Riders not wanting to stop for red lights and giving them and those around them a bad name. Riders not having the ability to stop and locking up their rear wheels either with the sole of their shoes or through brute force of the most popular rear-wheel-skid. I am taken aback to times where I believed this was the norm for this type of cycling. While I distinctly also remember never putting all my trust in a skid and to this day have never used my shoe to slow me down, more than one person did this through multiple steep descents in downtown Los Angles (you know because you could smell it.)
The ride started off on a good note nonetheless. When after some time (before the first stop) a local known name showed up. It was from then on that this turned into a local legend dick riding contest. The pace went up immediately and most riders (males) took off. I will admit that I did partake in such accelerations, leaving out my chances to find a female (or male) counterpart to mingle and flirt with. Much like all ride hijackings for the sake of speed, turns were missed and confusion began (in the heart of downtown with all the one-way streets.) We regrouped and did it all over again. I couldn’t get over the fact that this guy looked race ready on a Wednesday night group ride at around 10:30pm. Clearly this guy has some type of complex, knew this ride was going to happen, and took it as an opportunity to surround himself by others who he knows will give him the attention he so wants. Once we finally regrouped, I got my head back on straight and refrained from continuing to go with this bull. I stuck with the leader, along with testing other riders abilities by seeing how close I could get without them freaking out (not very close sadly.) We stopped at our first stop and I decided it was time for me to leave. The leader had mentioned that once we arrive to our destination, there is usually a race back (for bragging rights I presume) to which I wanted to part of. I’d rather troll the group and make them question their decision making like I normally do in an everyday setting. (Funny story, the first stop was at the top of a hill about two miles long that ungulates a few times before the crest. I was there to see the front group finish, out of breath and out of step. I then shouted, “Who won?!” to no response. (the next question would have been, “What did you win?”)) I’m not sure why I get such a kick out of attempting to turn the tables on such strong personalities. Speaking of….
As mentioned before there was little to no regard to traffic laws, which resulted in drivers saying hurtful things. Two men were passing a group of us by up this hill and proudly shouted something to the extent of, this behavior is why drivers want to run you over (and that he wouldn’t feel bad if he were the one to do it.) “Have a nice day! I replied to which I’m sure the driver got a chuckle out of.
So on my ride home I was feeling a combination of dehydration, fatigue, existentialism, and an elevated state of mind. Did some soul searching to try and cope with the pain I was putting myself through on the ride home to decide whether this (world domination through cycling) is what I really want. I had concluded that it is the state of vulnerability that everyone is afraid to show and what keeps us from moving forward in all walks of life. In realizing that I made an effort to rediscover that vulnerable state that comes from fatigue. Since I was travelling on a flat road, I was able to lock into it with little road distractions. I required myself to dig deep and have my effort be running on sheer mental will. People mention that the biggest differences happen after the athlete is fatigued. This was my goal for the ride home and it was met more than once. Fitness carries the body longer than most of us think. As cliche as it may sound, pushing past that mental boundary is what separates the wheat from the chaff. Once we reach past that first mental barrier, our fitness is on autopilot and it becomes nothing more than a head game. I had forgotten what that was like and pleasantly reminded of times in which I had to ride back home at an even later hour, wearing clothing less suited for the weather, in a more fatigued state.
While not all my goals were met, much like people’s goals are in Los Angeles, they were happily deterred to something else of equal value. I was trying to figure out what it was about that obnoxious type of riding I used to do that got me so in shape and strong. Having experienced that I now know it was because I was opening myself up to such a vulnerable state on a frequent basis that whipped me into race shape. I’m going to keep this in mind the next time the going gets tough.
Until next time….