Just over a year ago I was out on a group ride with Orenco Cyclery. With us that day was an amazingly experienced cyclist from the cycling haven of Arizona, currently out here in Oregon for a temporary assignment.
When we stopped for the end of ride drink, choice of the day being coffee or soda as this was a morning ride, our conversations drifted back and forth over various topics. One of these topics was racing. I mentioned that I might look into starting that next year, after I got better and more settled this year. Joe’s response was, “Why wait?”. I tried offering some excuses, like it would be hard to get time off, my team at work doesn’t work that way, my position makes it hard. He calmly helped me overcome many of those fears and I decided right then that I would arrange for these weekly races the next day.
I got to work the next day and discussed it with my coworker that would have to cover me in case something urgent came up. He agreed. I then talked to my manager, and he agreed to let me be flexible with my hours and be off early that day. After that I informed my manager, and called my wife to let her know also. That afternoon I got off work early, rode home, changed, and rode to meet Joe to go to my first race.
There’s nothing quite like the first time, whether it be in love or in racing. I still remember how the day went, being nervous the whole ride over to Portland International Raceway. Asking questions from as basic as, “How do I know when we start?”, to discussion on techniques I’ve read about. The best advice I received that day, set a goal each time you go out.
Later that year I joined Guinness Cycling and bought my first race kit. I began to learn more, and to structure my work outs, not just riding for the most miles, but riding with more purpose than the beer at the end.
Recreational riding is still enjoyable, it actually feels great to just get out with some others and ride the local routes, and seeing myself improve greatly due to the training I do for racing. I’ve come to understand many more aspects of riding, to see many more kinds of people and the deeper understanding that many others ride for different purposes and we can’t just have everything tailored for our preferred use. There is a type of synergy, though, that comes from the commuter, the recreational lycra wearing weekend warrior, the Cat 5 beginning racer, through the pro racers out there. The community works best when we are supportive of all uses, and not just the couple ones we choose, and falls true for even the other uses not mentioned yet, such as mountain biking, and bmx tricks.
One of the most enjoyable moments is coming across any other cyclist while riding and just a tip of the chin, or a lift of a hand to say hello. It’s sort of a shared moment saying, “I share your pain, and enjoyment, too.” You never know how much work the other cyclist has already done. The slower 50 something you just passed may have already ridden 70 miles that morning while you are just fresh out the door.
The largest benefit from cycling is getting to know the predicament that cyclists are in, why they are on the road, the decisions that they make, and most importantly of all, that they are just normal people, with lives, and families, and that they are just as human as anyone else. I’ve seen how intolerant some are towards cyclists, but also the great amount of people who are willing to give us a break, let us go first, make room on the road to share with us. I’m glad to say that the latter has been more representative of the community as a whole than the occasional jack ass rolling coal in his truck, or passing at speed without consideration to how close they are in their steel caged vehicle.
I will forever remain grateful for my friends at Orenco Cyclery, and especially Joe who introduced me to racing on a bike.