Friday, February 8, 2013


i know her, inside and out, for better or for worse, while this life pushes us through our parts.

when riding bikes in a group of people, personalities mix with physical attributes and get imposed upon the collective ranking categories to result in a hierarchical setting in which momentum runs its course and the rest of us do our jobs. there is the big guy who hammers and provides a great draft for the skinny guy who will come round on the next slight rise and bring tempo that will be easily be matched by the woman in high socks who watches her watts and worries about the handling skills of a jittery accountant in matching team kit on a matching team bike that refuses to match his team drive when it's interrupted by the out of tune chatter of a chain about to be dropped after the next rider in line finally figures out his new shifter combo and tries, then fails, to calculate his effort and its relationship to gear inches. riding. it's complicated.

when i get on the bike, or get off the bike, or go out to just ride, or come in to refuel or put on my helmet or unbuckle my shoes on smear on the chamois creme or rinse off the searing embrocation or lather my calves or dispose of another dull razor or fill my bottles or tuck another wrapper into my pocket or put my bike in the trainer or wash all that grime off of my legs or put it all into words, i am alone. the lady i love does all of these things too, some of them better than i, and she does them alone. somehow, we signed up for all of this. somehow, we spent the best parts of ourselves making a life together, making little dreams come true together, living a big dream come true, outlining the outcomes and plans and necessities, only to do our parts in it all, alone. 

i'm not sure if anyone else gets it this way, but there are a few things i don't like to do unless i know that i will do them well. i don't like to run unless i know i will be able to keep up. i don't like to dance unless i know that it won't matter that i don't know how. writing this is almost nauseating in the knowing that i may not get it right, the first time, for good. i know that i will not ride well with my lady. to begin with, she has twice the fitness that i have on the bike. i suffered through thirty minutes on the trainer with very low outputs the other night; she put in an hour and a half of zone five intervals then got up in the morning to do it again. we have different riding styles. i like short and punchy climbs; she savours long hauls. i hate time trialling; she pines for aero bars and disc wheels and the simplicity of punching the pedals against seconds and minutes. i handle like a mountain biker on a road bike; she prefers to keep things smooth, and only started tucking her descents three seasons ago. my bike is the heaviest metal bikes are made out of, welded by one man in america, a tube at a time, to my measurements; her bike comes from taiwanese factories, a layer of carbon at a time, to be painted in italy, assembled in canada. she sweats and goes harder; i've had salt lines on my kit since kilometer three. of all the sports i do (there are two), riding bikes is the one i do the worst, by far. individually, it's fine enough. in a group, i'm average or below. in a race, i'm subpar. in the grand scheme of things, my name is not listed. the lady is a star, an exemplar. she is part of the industry. she advocates and has the skill and fitness to back it all up. she is in the top 5 in a race. she is in the fast group, or leading it, on a club ride. there is no way i could ride well with her.

we were made for each other. 

i remember a time, a long long time ago, when she was a climber and i was a rider and we did each other's sports because we loved each other so much. i dropped a couple hundred bucks on climbing kit; she made me a chalk bag and dropped a grand on a fancy mountain bike. we tried to go out for a ride on the root-infested trails of lowland squamish, b.c. we got lost. i tried to help her with some handling tips. it sucked. we didn't fight then, but we both smouldered silently, me wanting to help and her wanting to not need help. 

these days i train to be able to keep up. i have no idea what it's like to train to win. but i think that if i can do it, if i can pull it off, one trainer session at a time, it will make all the difference. if we could get a babysitter and leave the dishes and have an extra ten spot for some espresso and a brownie and get some gas and just go, just ride, just be, together, we'd be set. i could keep up or let her go and catch her on the descent the way my dad used to catch me on rockingham road. we could spin and laugh and let momentum take its course. we could shine. 


this is the first time i've been able to lean back in my seat today, and most other days in the week.

it snowed today. it snowed so much that in the few minutes it took me to shovel our miniscule front walk and portion of the sidewalk, the first areas i had cleared were already white again, yielding not to the ground-in salt or the wind that brought it and threatened to take it away on the next gust.

in these kinds of conditions, riding a studded-tire mountain bike in goggles and blinking lights is an excellent idea for getting to work. fresh snow is usually easier to ride in than the packed-until-it-gives-way snow usually found on uncleared roads frequented by four-wheeled commuters come hell or high snowbanks. of course, fresh snow covers 85% of my bike route, and is perfectly good and safe. it's the 7.5% at the beginning and the other 7.5% at the end that truly worry me: that's where the cars are. and cars can't stop. they don't know this, of course, until it's too late, and all lessons are learned the hard way on days like today.

all this, to say: i took the subway.

this blog was founded on the notion of riding bikes, and how that practice links to human pursuits of all other dimensions, so it's odd to break a dry spell on the one day i'm not actually riding bikes. the fact of the matter is, this break from churning pedals through salt-crusted tracks has given me pause. i don't like being able to lean back in my seat.

most other days, i arrive at work well before the main rush, and i am soaked in sweat and covered in road grime, usually salt. having no showers available to the lone bike commuter, and no area in which i may drape my clothes in the hopes of drying them before my return trip in the afternoon, i work all day in the residue of the morning's effort, and my kit hangs in evidence all over the collective office space. i kinda feel bad for that; i kinda can't bother to fix it.

not having ridden today, the back of my chair is covered in dry outerwear that was not soaked in the sweat of an honest commute. i took the subway, stood next to all kinds of people i don't know in a rumbling embrace punctuated by squeals of metal on metal, and that kid's headphones screeching some poorly done remix of a 'classic' that came out before 'vintage' even existed. goodness, i'm old. i think this, and type this, as i lean back against the dry liner of a thick parka that is so warm i had to take it off and hold it after the subway cleared out, trembling on toward the next wintry station. i'm typing on a computer i could bring in because i wasn't afraid of falling on hidden ice and smashing it along with all the other contents of my backpack. i'm full from the lunch i just ate, and i'll have to work it off tonight because i haven't done anything other than trudge through snowbanks for minutes at a time. commuting sucks. riding bikes is beautiful.