I never intended to neglect her, even as I stopped to admire her pearled finish and timeless beauty as I passed her each day. We used to be constant companions with hardly a day where we didn’t spend at least an hour together. She was a gift, cherished in a way that expressed my true thanks to have such a wonderful machine. Never a spot did I allow, never a fault or blemish. My partner was too precious, too much a part of me, to allow any harm.
Then came the other one. The dirty pleasure who showed me things that I had never even dreamed of until I met her. She brought me back to nature, a satisfied peace that helped me escape to a place of refuge, my body experiencing a different challenge than my pearly beauty could ever give to me. I was taken away, away from the stress of the road, away from the constant effort that the other required of me. Sure, she had a bigger, more sturdy frame, but the ecstasy she brought made me forget all else. With her, it was about the experience, not so much the sheer appearance. Soon, all I wanted was my time in the woods. Rarely did I come back to my pearly beauty, my first love.
I had to come back. Saturday, I donned the spandex that I had spurned during my hiatus from my titanium beauty, the Serotta road bike that I have loved for so long. Tentatively, I returned to the garage, prepped my white steed for a ride, picked it up, still astonished at how light the bike is for such old technology — the frame is over 20 years old. It felt strange to wear spandex again, the tight material stretched over my 56 year old frame, a bit self conscious as I rolled down the first stretch of road. The click of cleat to pedal brought a smile as my right foot found the Look Keo pedal, a surge as the first down stroke took affect.
It was a different feeling, not unfamiliar, the speed of the light bike underneath me, the resistance of high pressure road tires to the pavement much less than knobby mountain bike tires to dirt. I rolled along at a nice, 18 mph pace after my body warmed up, content on a pleasant but humid Saturday afternoon. The traffic was light, the ride easy. 10 miles in, I encountered an old friend at a stoplight, a fast rider who races, and settled in behind him for another 10 miles.
Home again, I realized that my muscles were sore. Riding the road bike works different muscles than the mountain bike. I was happy to know they still existed, annoyed that I had let them go.
Sunday found me with a text message from my “wife”, telling me that she had visited our daughter at her summer camp, where she is a camp counselor. The air conditioning on our daughter’s car wasn’t working, so my “wife” wanted to know what to do about it. I drove the 90 minutes to the camp, exchanged cars with my daughter, brought her car home.
The car went to the mechanic early Tuesday morning. Instead of hitching a ride with my office manager, who lives close, I decided to take advantage of my renewed relationship with my road bike. I rode to work. For more than 20 years, bike commuting was something I was known for around the office, an activity I took advantage of nearly 12 months out of the year. But since I took my new job over three years ago, I have bike commuted only a few times, not once since we changed office locations at the beginning of 2016.
Commuting by bike is different than merely riding for pleasure. Unless one gets up to commute before dawn, a bike commute is going to mean that I am riding in the presence of a large amount of motor vehicles. Even a dawn ride involves more vehicle interaction than an early Saturday morning ride. Almost immediately, within the first few pedal strokes, I felt the uncomfortable closeness of cars constantly zooming past my backside. Years ago, riding with traffic had become second nature. It took a bit for that second nature to kick in again.
I enjoyed the ride, parked my bike in my office, a bit of pride at once again using my hobby in a practical way. Really, I should have parked the bike in the storage unit my company rents in the basement. Instead, I left the bike in my office window for all to admire. She is a beauty, after all.
Last night, my second ride home on my commute. Approaching a stoplight where I had to cross over a second lane to get to the left turn lane, a small brained motorist behind me decided to take his aggression out on me. I won’t share the details — they are not important. But I remembered another reason why the peace of the woods and dirt trails has become so precious to me. I arrived home with clenched teeth, a result of stuffing the temptation to react to the angry motorist.
I will continue to return to my pearly white beauty for weekend strolls along less travelled roads. I am pretty sure that I don’t want the stress of commuting any more. Oh, I could get used to it again, as I did so many years ago. I got to the point then where I rarely had an incident.. but the roads are different now, the congestion of the suburbs more pronounced. I ride the bike to relieve stress, keep my body in tune. I want to keep it that way.