In case it wasn’t obvious from the this post, the evidence points to me getting older. I don’t look all that old or feel it very often, but it’s still an unmistakable fact and you only need to do the math in the last post to see that I am no kid anymore.
That’s why I bought a road bike. I decided that running wasn’t doing my spine any good and the constant pounding would surely take a toll on my knees at some point. Riding a bike isn’t necessarily a picnic for backs and joints, but the lack of impact seemed like a plus. Any way, some good friends ride road bikes, so maybe I’ll be cool enough, some day, to be able to keep up with them.
I wasn’t sure I wanted a road bike though. I’ve seen the form fitting shorts with pads in unflattering places. Who could miss the ridiculous bike jerseys or hasn’t grinned at the uneasy click-clack-click of riders gingerly walking on their clip-less pedals to get a coffee? I wasn’t so sure that was a club I wanted to join.
I found my bicycle on craigslist and living in the Boulder area it wasn’t hard to find an incredibly good deal on a high-end bike. With so many elite riders around, there is a glut of racing bikes with all manner of unusual materials and components. The bike I found is an Eddy Merckx Racing. I know it’s a Merckx because it says so on every single tube of the bike frame at least once and more often twice or three times. I think I’ve counted the Merckxxkssxkks (or however it’s spelled) logo on there thirteen times.
Eddy Merckx is probably the greatest cyclist to ever live. I know, Lance Armstrong (the amazing mutant with a heart the size of my head) won the Tour de France, what is it? seventeen times? But Lance only ever raced the Tour. Merckx won the tour over and over again and also raced in dozens of other races each year and held the record for distance covered in one hour for years and years. When he finally retired he started making bikes to his specifications and putting his name on them over a dozen times. He’s entitled.
My job now, is just to live up to the bike. I’ve ridden a few times and I can just about hear it muttering under its breath underneath me. It’s saying “what’s going on? Why isn’t he going faster? Surely he knows I am named after Eddy Merckx. He can’t have missed that can he? Oh, I know, he’s just warming up, he’ll start cranking soon.” About that time I’m done with my short training ride and the poor bike just has to sit there puzzled and wondering about its fate and dreaming someone will steal it and go really fast.
I bet I’ll be doing a service to the other riders as well. I’ll be climbing up some mountain road, praying for a lower gear and somebody will spot the elite looking bike up ahead. They’ll mount an attack and, strangely, almost effortlessly, these experienced riders will ride right passed me. Smugly they’ll think “Ha! Loser! Bought that expensive ride and I just blew right passed on my Specialized. More dollars than legs I suppose.” Huffing and puffing, I can watch him climbing up ahead of me and think how I’ve just made another person happy with so little effort. It’s the least I can do.
I’ve always thought the crazy costumes that road bikers wear were a turn off. Sure I get the whole “be seen by cars” thing, but that really didn’t explain how ridiculous they look to me. All the same, there comes a point when resisting a style or custom sticks out more than just joining in. Like nuns who dress in full habit because tradition was to be as conservative as possible compared to renaissance dress. Today the same nun’s habit sticks out like sunflower in a wheat field.
I gave in. I chose the most sedate looking bike clothes (which means they’re actually rather flashy and silly) I could find and now, while riding and people pass me, we raise a finger to wave at each other and acknowledge how serious about cycling we must be, since we’re both wearing the traditional uniform of this vast club. I get it. Nice bike, good gear, and not only are you more comfortable riding far and fast, you can recognize which other serious bikers. Turns out, I don’t feel so silly about the jerseys and lycra pants after all. Who predicted that?
Most importantly, though, between the polyester jersey, funny shoes, modern helmet and the elitist bike, I sure do look fast. That’s gotta count for something doesn’t it?