Widening the circle

September 28, 2015 § 22 Comments

The first time I cycled with my wife was in June, 1987. I’d been in Japan for five months and my mom had just shipped over my pink Tommasini. It was heaven, pedaling through Tochigi-ken, climbing the mountains around and behind Nikko, rolling through the rice paddies on the coastal plain towards the sea.

“Hey, honey,” I said one day, “let’s go for a bike ride!”

“Okay!” She loved to ride her bicycle and had commuted on it throughout high school. It was a cute little red mama-chari with fenders, a rack, a basket, a kickstand, and a wide padded seat.

“Let’s do an easy pedal,” I suggested. “Then if you decide you like it we can do more.” Everyone knows that “do more” is biker codespeak for “buy a really expensive race machine that you can hunch over on, strain your back and neck on, and ram a sharp hard saddle up your ass while you suffer for a few hours.”

She didn’t know that. “Okay!” she said, and even today I remember the happy, pretty smile.

I picked a course out to the prefectural driving license center that was almost totally flat except for a couple of hilly sections, and it was so short you wouldn’t have even needed legs. I was kind of bummed because I knew I wouldn’t get a workout doing a measly 25 miles, but it was worth it to spend time with my sweetie. Plus, once we got going I could kind of pick up the pace a tad so I’d at least break a sweat.

We got most of the way there before she began to really complain. When we got home four hours later she was livid and her parts were raw.

The next time we cycled together was in 2013. It had taken her a while to get over the earlier ride, I guess. We rode down the Strand from Rat Beach to Manhattan Beach on the Fourth of July. It was just us and twelve million other people.

Then in Germany this summer with my youngest son, straddling bicycles as we crossed the country, this occurred to me: Why had I failed so signally to share this thing that has given me such joy with those I love the most? Why has cycling always been a kind of hex that shoos away everyone in my family? Why haven’t I ever been able to widen the circle?

The answer is simple, and as I’ve looked at my friends, I’ve realized I’m not alone. I’ve always presented cycling as something that only an insane person would want to do. Arduous. Time consuming. Expensive. Combative. Dangerous. Populated by other, equally insane people clad in weird and ugly clothing that shows your tummy and haunches in the most unflattering of ways.

Who the hell WOULD want to do it?

So I came back from Germany and set about a stealth plan to get Mrs. WM back on a bicycle. The key was to never mention cycling. Instead I offered to take her out to breakfast.

“Oh, that would be great!” She loves chatting and breakfast. “When?”

“How’s next Sunday?”

“Perfect! Where are we going?”

“Let’s go over to Java Man in Hermosa. You’ll love it. We can ride our bikes there.”

She looked suspicious. “I don’t have a bike.”

“You can use Cassady’s.”

“I can’t pedal back home up the hill.”

“We’ll drive down to Rat Beach and pedal from there.”

“I’m not going to wear those stupid bicycle clothes with the big maxi pad seat.”

“Me, either. Shorts and a t-shirt.”

She brightened. “Okay.”

At Java Man, Manslaughter, Hair, and Emily were waiting for us, dressed like normal people. We chatted and ate and laughed for over an hour, and no one mentioned bicycles or cycling or, dog forbid, bicycle racing. It was one of the best Sundays of my life.

“That was fun!” she said as we pedaled home on the bike path. “Can we do it again?”



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§ 22 Responses to Widening the circle

  • Craig Hummer says:

    I must try this new form of #Bewitchment you speak of…

    • fsethd says:

      First I’d like to see you write out “I will ride no faster than 8 mph” 500 times. Then, maybe. But only a tentative maybe.

  • Strava Junior says:

    Sometimes the best ideas are right there in front of us, but we’re too focused elsewhere to see them. Brilliant, Wanky!! Yesterday I ran a 5K w my daughters on Westchester Parkway and I tried something very similar. It was very unnatural, but I forwent my racing flats, performance wear, and discussion of PRs, and instead talked about bagels and snowcones and how it didn’t matter how fast we ran (although I did coax one of them into wearing a Garmin, for later data analysis – I mean, I am *me*). And lo and behold, fun was had, exercise occurred, and a couple PRs were even set. Next up, project tandem w my wifey, coming to a beach path near you. I overcooked it when I last had her ride MTB w me to the bridge, which turned into the Marina, and then Venice, and then Santa Monica, and I ended up paying for that one for weeks. But your story has given me hope and inspiration. Superb!

    • fsethd says:

      It works. Just go slow. S/O’s are pretty pro at knowing how to have fun as long as we don’t get in the way. Hats off to you.

  • Ovalle says:

    I had the same experience twenty some years ago. Now it is her that drags my ass out of bed every Sunday at the ungodly hour of 10am, wearing her spandex, ready to go with her monocoque CF with Ultegra everything weight-weenie bike. “Dude, let’s ride to San Diego this weekend!” Careful what you wish for.

  • Jim says:

    I saw you and the wife unit yesterday morning; you were just getting the bikes out of the car at the top of PV Blvd. Only realizing it was the Wanker as I started down the hill, I could only call out, “Seth!” as I rode by. I should have stopped and said a few kind words.

    • fsethd says:

      Ha, ha! That was us, indeed! Damn it, I was hoping people might file this one under “complete fabrication.”

  • Deb Banks says:

    Way to go Wanky! There’s much more to cycling than annihilation.

  • A-Trav says:

    I am intrigued while Mea remains unconvinced.

    • fsethd says:

      Practice this: Ride your bicycle around the block ten time at 8 mph. If the mere thought makes you hyperventilate, don’t even bother. And Mea is no fool.

  • Tamar T. says:

    Speaking of raw parts: Where does the Chamois Butt’r go when you’re wearing jeans instead of lycra and a pad?

  • Worldchamp says:

    I rode Tour de Sewer with hubbie (pre-hubbiehood) when friends asked both of us to join them. He rode my commuter bike and I rode my race bike. I had only been doing trainer rides as I was working on my MBA at the time. Turned out I was in better shape than I realized and zoomed off the front with a friend of ours who was a “true cyclist”. Much to our surprise, hubbie finished first! We were shocked. Turned out he did a little pre-GPS reconnoitering and skipped the middle part of the course. haha! He had a great time!

    25 years later, we’ve never cycle together since then. I just got the beach cruiser tandem tuned up and have informed him, we’re going to be riding. I said we can start with “round the block” and work up to “round the BIG block”. Maybe one day we can join you for breakfast in Hermosa.

  • Ahh would have loved to see her smiling , hair blowing in wind on her little lime green ride:) sweet

  • dangerstu says:

    The bicycle as transportation, who would have thought that?!

  • marc caruso says:

    Great article. best to lure people into the sport with a nice easy ride. Then after a while you increase the distance or pace slightly so the raise is unnoticeable. And you keep doing this every couple of months. Reel others in slowly rather then pulling back hard and snapping the line.

    • fsethd says:

      I think this person will never be interested in the sport. But pedaling to breakfast and chatting … she’s already hooked. Wait! Isn’t that a sport?

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