Last night was one of the typical 'meet at the local spot and see who shows up to ride' rides. It turned out to be a mix of three groups plus some individuals, all either getting ready to go out or just finishing up.
As the folks I was meeting with suited up and readied bikes, they chattered back and forth, casting jibes about one guys ability to grenade freehubs at will and someone else's recent crash. It was all good natured and is typical of the patter that can be heard in and around pre and post ride occasions everywhere.
I rode in slow circles from group to group, catching bits and pieces of conversations, words and phrases, seeing some new faces and others I have known for 20 years or more. It all blended together, mixing with the sounds of the wind and the click of my freewheel.
It was like that all through the ride. And for some reason, rather than just put my head down and pedal as usual, I noticed it; the faces, the laughter, the people. The people. You know, it really is about the people who ride, not just the ride itself. The bike is just the conveyance and a fine one it is, but without people who ride, a bicycle would just be an exercise in good engineering.
Back in the parking lot after it was all over, I straddled my bike and felt the lactic acid burn in my legs from the finish sprint into the wind. I turned my head and glanced at a friend leaning against his car, the look on his face showing the same pain as mine. He smiled, I smiled and nodded my head, then clicked in and began to pedal home, the face of my friend still in my mind.
Tonite was just another night of many like it, full of bikes, sweat, fun and hard work. And this time it was also full of people, old friends and new. It always is, but this time I noticed and that made all the difference.
"Please don't let me die."
5 years ago