They say the Male ego is a fragile thing. Hmm.
Cycling is one of those activities that can be enjoyed on an infinite number of levels. Solo pedaling - Alone with the machine, your body and the environment you have chosen to explore. Family cruising - Mom and Dad with the kids trailing behind like some gaggle of goslings. Group rides that become intense competitions at the front. All ages can enjoy cycling. Learning to ride a bike is one of "the rites of Passage" most of us go through. At some point or many, a bicycle is part of our lives.
As a child I wanted to start cycling slow. I seem to recall wanting to ease into it. My memory remembers anything but. Tossed onto a bike way too big without training wheels and pushed down a hill, I remember being terrified. This was going to hurt. It did. Bruised and battered, I tried to refuse any more attempts to put me on these two wheeled death traps. At age four, came my first warning that there are indeed people out there who want to harm me. My virginal trust took it's first hit.
Of course my monstrously huge cycling mentors would have none of it. They let me alone for awhile, but then they came for me again. And again. And again. At some point I must have decided I would have to figure this "balance" thing out if I was going to survive. Do that and they'd leave me alone. And even though my mind cannot really tune in the specifics very well, I obviously figured it out. And I even found it pleasurable. But I still think the "shock and awe" technique used on me bordered on the sadistic.
So I began to ride bicycles. I began to roam further than the arbitrary parental boundaries supposedly set in stone. I went slow. The bike allowed me to expand my horizons. I learned to ride in traffic and survive. I learned how to take on steep hills with one gear. I learned there was a huge World out there I would never ever know all of. A bicycle gave me my first taste of freedom. One of many future "Eureka" moments came to my young mind. Rules (which would later in my life be called laws) were nothing but strongly worded suggestions that brought with them repercussions if I was caught not following those suggestions. Free Will - it did exist.
Over the following 50 years or so, I enjoyed and sometimes toiled many hours away on the seat of a bicycle. I tasted many different types of riding -solo rides, off road and on. Rides that were competitions. And last and probably most enjoyed, the group ride.
The group ride is an event with many different dynamics wrapped into it. The riders at the front always seem to push each other and end up enjoying the competition of trying to stay in the front. The riders in the middle are a mixed bag. Many can hang in the front, but are on the ride for the company. Some riders of the middle often feel stuck. The want to be up at the front, but for some reason they just can't quite hang there. And finally there are the folks at the back.
The group who toil at the rear struggling to keep up are another mixed group usually. New riders with no skill sets or fitness often are frustrated and end the rides unhappy. They want to keep up. They feel some kind of misguided guilt for holding everyone up. They have not yet learned to relax. It's just a bike ride for Chrisakes.
On every group ride there is at least one rider who does not care to keep up. They will keep up if they can, but his/her main goal is to ride the ride, not race it. For them who enjoy a more relaxing pace the group ride is a social gathering of like minded souls. It's a bike ride for Chrisakes. Lives are not being held in balance over whether everyone else hangs at a corner or intersection another minute for the Slow Guy to show up.
I have become that guy. The Slow Guy. If truth be told I have been that guy for more than a few years now. When it first dawned on me I would most likely not be at the front for long, I fought it. I got angry at myself for being the group anchor. But there comes a time when we all need to check our egos at the door. I just cannot ride as fast as I used to. And finally I have become content with this reality. I actually am beginning to enjoy being slow. I am beginning to be less intent on keeping up and more intent on witnessing the land I am going through. Just yesterday, I spotted a fox close on a group ride. Only because I was alone off the back and cruising at a civilised tourista pace. And another "Eureka" moment came into my mind. Free Will still exists.
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