Good-bye, old friend

This is not easy to explain. Three months or so of hard riding atop a 55-lb., fully loaded touring bike has made me really fit. I’ve got cycling strength that is new and different, a combination of power and endurance that feel so good as to be odd.

One of the first things I did back home was to ride my road bike, which is really light, carbon, has skinny tires, and rolls like a gazelle. I couldn’t believe how fast I can go with a fraction of the effort. E-tap, carbon FastForward wheels … man!

For what Matt Brousseau would call the Avid Recreational Cyclist, I had reached nirvana, which is the strength to smash at will on the group ride. The next Donut Ride is on Saturday. The usual suspects will be there, and if it was a ride I used to do well on, now it would be a bloodbath. It could be a return of epic proportions. Scalps and bald skulls hung every fuckin’ where.

However.

I won’t be there.

Today I went down to the coolest bike shop that hasn’t yet been opened, The Dropout in Old Torrance. Baby Seal was there, laying bathroom tile with the precision of a 12th Century mosaic artist working on the stained glass windows of Notre Dame de Paris. Boozy P. was there, hooking up the pipes and whistles for the world’s largest air compressor.

“Here,” I said. “Take it.” I pushed my Fuji to him

Baby Seal raised an eyebrow, grabbing the bars. “And then what?”

“Sell it.”

“For real?”

“For real.”

He shrugged. “Okay. How much are you asking?”

“Whatever you can get.”

He nodded. “So what’s the back story? In the market for a new whip?”

“Nope,” I said. “Me and Avid Recreational Cycling … we’re done.”

“Got dropped by some old guy on an e-bike, huh?”

“Kinda but not really. I was riding up Mt. Bachelor and got passed by a really terrible human being. So I caught him and dropped him.”

“With your touring bike?”

“Yeah.”

“Loaded with those fucking panniers?”

“Yep.”

“Bet that put a kink in his day.”

“He later explained that he’d been sick and was only at 80% max power, and that this was his easy week, and that his coach had his peak targeted for October, and that he used to live next door to Steve Tilford but that he missed his memorial service cuz bike race. He’s now focusing on October for realz.”

“When all the big races are, I guess.”

“Right. In snow skiing.”

“What happened then?”

“I realized that the idiot was me. Here I was, riding my bike on some of the most beautiful roads, meeting some of the most interesting people, seeing some of the most amazing things, learning some of the most important lessons life has to teach, and the second I get passed by an idiot with a coach, I chase him like Pavlov’s dog.”

“Pretty lame,” Baby Seal agreed.

“That’s when I realized I was over it. No person my age trying to go fast has any business trying to go fast. We’re almost in the grave. If we have any sense at all, we need to be slowing the fuck down. Way down.”

“Pretty insightful.”

“Yeah. And as soon as that epiphany happened, I got passed by another dick, this time some guy in his 70’s.”

“Well it must have felt good to let him go. You earned your inner peace the hard way, man.”

“Yeah. Except I chased him down and dropped him.”

Baby Seal looked perplexed. “That’s fucked up, man. I thought you were going to have this awesome story of enlightenment. Sounds like you’re the same old wanker you always were.”

“I had a couple more opportunities where I got passed and then couldn’t resist.”

“You’re a lifer. I’m not taking this bike. See you on the Donut.”

“No, no,” I protested. “You didn’t let me finish my story.”

Baby Seal had a shop to open. “Okay. But make it quick.”

“I got to LA and got badassed on San Vicente, first thing.”

“And?”

“And I let it go.”

“Oh.”

“Then I got badassed on Ocean a few minutes later.”

“And?”

“I let it go.”

“Wow.”

“And on the way to Manhattan Beach, you know who I saw?”

“Who?”

“Shirtless Keith. And you know what he was doing?”

“What?”

“Smiling. Waving. Riding his fuggin’ bike. That’s the lesson, Baby Seal. And I’m done.”

He wheeled the bike into the back. “I think we can get $2,399 for it.”

I stood on the street, for the first time since I was 18 the non-owner of a speedy road bike. If I could have looked at it in a rear-view mirror, I wouldn’t have even spared a glance.

END


Haven’t subscribed yet? Maybe it’s time! Your $2.99/month keeps the pedals turning, the shutter snapping, and the pedals cranking. Please Go ahead and hit this “subscribe” link. Thank you!

29 thoughts on “Good-bye, old friend”

  1. Now that’s something I was expecting, and wasn’t expecting. And yet, having read this a couple of times, it sounds exactly right. Thanks for sharing your enlightenment with us, Seth. I look forward to more.

  2. That’s pretty drastic, Seth. I hope that, as you settle back in to whatever your life might become, you don’t regret that. Bikes take up little space, and require no real maintenance while stored unused as things evolve. And I say that as someone who likes non-racing bikes.

  3. Very nice work. Helluva a journey Seth.

    Letting go of the inner idiot is painfully difficult for most graybacks. Welcome to the park bench.

    Please don’t feed the ducks Oreos.

    1. I suspect Seth already knows and is not going down that aisle anymore. “Sometimes it’s not enough to quit. You also have to know.” For me, I’m just going to have one more.

      1. So good. Baby Seal suggested one more last final trip to the bar for old times’ sake I mean group ride.

      2. I simply meant the “bicycle disease”. Many of us ride way more than for our health. It is medicine and disease at the same time.

  4. I am not sure how to process this. When I was hiking the AT last week, at no point in my journey, or perhaps let’s say 99% of the time, my heart rate while walking was 75-85 bpm. And I hike pretty fast. “Eric? He’s a cruiser!”. When I got a heart stress test, they had to put the treadmill at max angle and max speed to get my HR to go over 100.

    What is the point you ask? Well, I guess I had always attributed it to the avid recreational cycling. When my GP asked me “Ever had a stress test?” to which I replied, “Well, I know what kind of test you are talking about, so not that kind, however, I could argue that I have had stress tests at least 3-4 times a week for the last 30 years.”

    So, I think maybe I am wrong. Maybe, all you have to do is simply ride your bike, and your health and heartrate will be fine.

    BTW I am looking forward to my first new bike in 13 years. So excited!

  5. All good except who says you can’t ride slow on a light road bike & have fun? I’ve been doing it for years! I even ride it in shorts, a T shirt & a baseball cap.

  6. Tim Joe Comstock

    So you obviously won’t wait for the custom you bought…I have an ’81 Schwinn Super LeTour collecting dust (stroke) I will gladly send your way. Totally built and ready to go. Just the ticket for rrs&p.

  7. michelleryryback

    Selling your bike! Sounds like a profound step that you’re taking. I admire your willingness and ability to let life move you in new and unexpected directions and not be defined by your past. That seems to get harder as we get older. IMHO, your blogs about your adventures as an itinerant bike rider are far more interesting and relevant than the recounting of a bike race! I hope you find peace and freedom in your willingness to let go and move on.

  8. Ah! You’ve found it: the calm of the non-racer. Some of us have it thrust upon us — my bad lungs have long meant it’d be a fool’s errand for me to compete against anyone except myself — and some choose the path. No matter how you get there, or what you get there on, hope you enjoy the journey.

  9. Hey Seth, remember the, um, COVIDs? Which you wrote so much about? Did you just, um, forget about that?

    1. You mean where I said you were a moron if you were doing group rides in a pandemic? And where I said that it was better to ride alone? And then how I went off and rode alone for three months? And how when I got back I still refused to do group rides? Or do you mean some other covids?

Comments are closed.

%d bloggers like this: