June 30, 2013

So, you ride here often?

Biking is a social sport.

This was my excuse for not riding much while I was down in San Diego. Though there was constant dry weather, and a fair number of good riding routes, I didn't know anyone who rode, so I set the bike aside and spent my time running.

Lack of a group did ring a bit false as a reason not to ride, but short of actually going out and, you know, meeting people, it was just easier to lace up my shoes. The excuse gets a bit weaker when you go back to the basic premise that it is so social. While I am not great at meeting new people, and terrible at the small talk that gets the ball rolling, I find it much easier to connect when wheels are rolling.

When I moved back to Seattle, I had some friends who rode, but they hadn't been riding much either, and they had their sights set on a fall marathon instead. Another friend said, "You know, my boyfriend rides, and he is looking for someone to train with." And it was just that easy.

We met up at the Logboom Park in the middle of February for our first ride. I didn't know what he looked like, and it turned out there were 20 other bikers there on a different group ride. Many had matching jerseys, so I assumed Joe wasn't among them. We eventually figured each other out in the crowd, and set out down the Burke-Gilman.

And it was freezing! For three years my bike mostly gathered dust in the sunshine, and my first ride out it was 32 degrees. The cold temperatures probably added a little commiserative bonding, a joint bit of "what were we thinking?" so conversation was pretty easy

Other friends-of-friends have joined in, and each weekend it was a new mix of faces and riding experiences. As we rode together stories were swapped, histories filled in, and a loose riding group was formed. Plans were made, challenges thrown out, and events put on the calendar. We have been out in one form or another each weekend since the end of April, with the miles adding up in preparation for our crazy July.

On these weekend rides, we have picked up random riders along the way as well. We will fall in pace with a group or a single straggler, and people join in and leave as easily as picking up different conversations at a party. We rode with Mosha for thirty miles one Saturday, and then ran into him at the start line the next week. We were all a bit late in leaving, and another rider Ken joined our little group. We spent the next eight hours and hundred miles riding and chatting our way up and down hilly country roads.

I am not sure why it is that much easier on a bike. The shy and awkward doesn't disappear completely, but it definitely fades to the background. Maybe it is the instantly recognizable common interest as an ice-breaker, the fresh air and changing scenery, or maybe it is as simple as speaking side by side rather than face to face. Whatever it is, the social aspect is definitely part of the appeal, and it makes the miles go more quickly and the hills a bit easier to climb.

The miles have been adding up as July ticks closer. In the five Saturdays in June, I rode 519 miles and climbed 25,000 feet. Add in a few mid-week rides, and the mileage for the month was 580. This is more than double what I rode in the past three years combined.

While that it is a pretty big June, it is more a sad statement on how little I rode the last three years. Though I knew biking was social, I used it as an excuse instead of a way to meet new people while I was in San Diego. I should have trusted it and seen more faces and places in the sunny state.

We are two weeks out from the Seattle to Portland ride. This is our STP group, plus one. Front to back on the right side are Joe, Tom and Matt, and back left is new riding buddy Kevin, who showed us around Whidbey Island on Saturday.

A well-deserved beer after 111 hilly miles in the heat. Cheers friends!

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