I know a guy

September 10, 2022 Comments Off on I know a guy

Look, I don’t pretend that riding a bike here and there is heroic or world-changing, certainly not the way that I do it. I’m old, not very fast, not especially strong, and I tire easily. Most importantly, I do it for myself.

Which is a change of sorts.

There was a time when I rode to compete, or to complete arduous events in order to show that I was special, better, amazing. Time was, I couldn’t wait to regale strangers with the exploits of the day, to answer casual inquiries with overboard detail of derring-bicycle-do.

No more.

These days I’m tight-lipped about where I came from, where I’m going, and what, if anything, it’s all about. Of course I’ll answer politely, but I’m brief and reserved. What I’m up to is my business, you see.

And with this reticence I’ve been listening more carefully, hearing for the first time things that people have been saying to me since, literally, the first day I ever went touring. And the thing that people have been saying, or rather that (usually) older men have been saying is, “I know a guy …” Or I have a cousin. Or I read about. Or my friend knows a guy who.

A guy who what? Of course, a guy who has done something way more amazing than YOU. Typically, this Super Amazing Guy is ten, twenty, or thirty years older than I am (see, you ain’t so tough). And SAG has ridden a lot farther, usually around the world (see, you haven’t ridden very far). And SAG almost invariably overcame a horrific injury, usually a leg they were going to amputate but didn’t (see, you don’t even ride on ruined, rehabbed legs). And SAG has a bike or three that cost over $10k each (see, you’re on a starter bike). Finally, of course, SAG is a retired astrophysicist/investment banker/brain surgeon (see, you’re a moron).

Of course all these things are true. I’ve not ridden that far, I’ve never been badly injured, my bike is cheap aluminum, and the world is full of people a lot smarter than I’ll ever be.

But what’s annoying is that the person demeaning me is without exception fat or obese, barely mobile, not particularly bright, and desperate for me to know that because they know someone better than me, they are by implication better cyclists as well. Today I was lectured about a cousin who almost lost a leg and who has a garage full of $10k bikes and who is skinnier than me and who can ride 120 miles in one day. And he’s 70.

The person demeaning me always has to throw in something about their own terrible physical condition that prevents them from showing me what’s up, in this guy’s case a torn meniscus, a prior heart attack, and melanoma. Not kidding. And the organ recital was so smooth and firm and polished that it was almost impossible to say, “But that doesn’t explain why you’re so fat.” Almost.

A couple of days ago the demeaner was a young, flabby German man who knew two people who rode from Germany to Greece and then Sweden, and never stayed in a hotel. Had I ever biked to those places? He personally didn’t bike because it was too dangerous, but he was an avid “overlander” and had a tricked-out van, and he had driven to Greece before and camped throughout Albania. The math was simple: he knew presumably better cycle tourists, he has driven to Greece, therefore he was even more badass than some old guy who had merely ridden up to Kings Canyon.

But perhaps the most excellent putdown came from a fat, limping old shit wearing a US Navy cap who walked up, asked me if I’d ever heard of blah-blah-blah, a SAG who had cycled around the world twice, then proceeded to tell me about the Adventurers Club, a group of SAGs so elite that, for admission, you had to have done something that “changed the course of history.”

As an example he told me about a fellow who rowed a boat across the Atlantic. I suppose after that feat rowboats were never the same. Then he half-staggered up three steps to buy his two boxes of wine. He had showed me.

It’s testimony to how weak and out of shape people are that the appearance of an old guy going slowly uphill on a loaded bike sends them into paroxysms of defensiveness. But I suppose after all the times I’ve answered simple questions about my travels with boring harangues, I deserve it.

What goes around doesn’t always come around, but in this case it does.



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