Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Ah, the 'Soulmate'...the most cherished of expressions for the dating world, as in "I found my Soulmate", typically to be followed a few weeks-months-years later with the phrase "He (or she) was not who I thought they were".  This is often followed by disillusionment, moving trucks, and lawyers.

But that is love.  This is riding mountain bikes.  And here, finding a soulmate is another thing altogether and does not involve love, starry eyes and misty memories, getting caught in the rain, and pina coladas.

Most people ride solo (by themselves) most of the time.  Sometimes that is for the sake of the busy schedule, etc, but often they do it cuz it is easier and simpler.  Riding by yourself no one can complain but you and who will listen to them?  Not you.  By yourself, no one will object if the trail goes the wrong way or is too hard.  If the day runs long, hot, cold, wet, early, late...and so on, it is what it is.  Solo is easy.

But solo can be lonely too. Finding a riding partner that likes the same stuff you do, can be counted on to deal with what the day dishes out and never cast blame; someone who rides at your pace or maybe pushes you a bit to be better, go faster; someone who is like riding with another part of yourself...that is a hat trick.

Dare I say it?  Cycling Soulmate.

I have been lucky that way.  Over the years I can count three soulmates.  One was in the early days of my mtn biking path and together we opened up the topo maps and blazed it all, riding, pushing, carrying our bikes over 'hill and gone' to coin a paraphrase.  Our paths separated over time and have never met again.  Perhaps they will someday.  Thanks for the adventure, KW.

Buddy Steve was next and came along as I was getting back into the sport after a bit of a recess.  Always ready for a ride, continually lost with no sense of directional skills whatsoever, always happy, quite often injured from more enthusiasm then skills, Buddy Steve was and is the quintessential soulmate on a bike.  But 3 kids and a busy life tends to get ya sometimes and Buddy Steve had to fade a bit into the background.  No worries. Life tends to run in cycles and often comes back around to the things you love.  Buddy Steve will be back.

As one faded, another rose up to take his place.  Ed the Tall is about as good a riding partner as you could imagine.  Stronger than I, he half wheels me into oblivion most of the time and that is just fine with me.  You know those quiet guys?  The ones that say little and pedal large?  That is Ed.  Right now we have a local ride planned that we are all excited about.  It is nothing grand, but we are like two kids planning Disneyland.  By myself it would just be a cool ride to log in the training files.  But between soulmates, it becomes something to plan for and look forward to.  It, in a small way, transcends.

Oddly enough, each of these persons could not be more different.  KW was a wildman in many ways, quirky by nature, not a typical cyclist at all,  riding in hiking boots and dreaming of portaging his bike across lakes by inflatable rafts and other odd things.  Fabulous, really.  He was born to live in Alaska, I think, where big, quirky things get planned all the time and no one thinks anything of it as Alaska is big enough to entertain such quests and not be impressed.

Buddy Steve was/is a jock.  Tough as nails, I saw him crash once so hard I thought he broke his face in two and he rode back to the car, broken shoulder and all.  Not one whimper.  He could get lost in his own back yard and you NEVER wanted him to give you ride details like "how far" or "how long", etc.  Never make it back, most likely.  Buddy Steve is always happy and loves to talk the whole time he is riding, even if most of the time I have no idea what he is saying...doesn't matter, it just needs to come out and be said apparently.

Ed the Tall is a rather stoic man, quiet and good.  He can ride for hours and not say a word.  Solo 12 hour races, long rides, new horizons...all fit in Ed's profile just fine.  He pushes me to be a stronger rider, climb better, ride harder, but never looks disappointed if I ride my own pace.  He asks for advice and then listens to the answer.  Ed is something that is rare really...a humble man, willing to learn from others and willing to overlook the shortcomings of old guys on big wheeled bikes.

I am a blessed man to have had and to have such riding buddies.  A man can live a long life and have very few real friends.  A man can ride a bike for that lifetime and have even fewer cycling soulmates.  I have had three, more than my share and I am thankful for it.

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