Letter to a Fair-Weather Cyclist
I loved your enthusiasm as you blew by me on your fancy bike, you looking spiffy in your hipster bike gear. You cut quite the dashing figure. You glanced back at me and my clunky bike and uncool clothing as if to say, "I am young and fast and you are old and slow! Watch me fly!" I didn't mind. Maybe it's because I don't have your Tour de France gear and think of cycling as my commute, not a race?
Besides, I knew it was Portland's hilly southwest. It's not about bursts of speed, it's about steady rhythm and associated gear usage, and about knowing the traffic light cycles. As you rushed from red light to red light I caught up to you repeatedly. Each time you seemed more annoyed to see me again than the last time, before seeing the light change to green, leaping to that cool standing stance to remind me of your energy and speed, and racing off again.
Then I caught up to you one last time on the big hill. I didn't mean to, honest. I was going the same speed I always do, a steady, comfortable cadence of habit. There you were, struggling up the hill in too high a gear, a he-man gear for heroes and young bucks, huffing and puffing, while peering back at me like a marathon race favorite about to be passed by an old guy with a limp. Pride gave you one last burst of energy and you made it to the top of that 2-block stretch just ahead of me, but the effort seemed to break something inside you and it is there that I blew past you one final time.
I fully expected you to pass me again, given that there were no more traffic lights and the hill was now much gentler... but you did not. Concerned, after a few minutes I looked back and was shocked to see that you had fallen several blocks behind me and looked like you were dragging a huge weight behind you. Poor boy. You were so exhausted from all that misdirected exuberance, seemingly devastated and broken; the hare broken and beaten by the tortoise.
I worried about you a bit. Would this put you off biking? Had you invested enough in that fancy bike and all that epic gear to keep you interested? I wondered if you asked yourself how this old fart, maybe twenty years older than you, could have blown by you like that? How terrible to be passed by fashionless forty-something on his overloaded chunky red bike. I really must apologize.
I urge you to forget that most unintentional humiliation and to forget me. Hell, at my age you probably assume I already forgot it. Fear not! Soon you will be more biking fit... and maybe wiser too. Then you will again race by me, your imaginary laughter filling my ears. And me? Why, I'll just keep going at the same pace I always have, the cadence I used all through that wet winter you're so afraid of, the winter of your discontent.
But now is the summer of your content. Fly, young cyclist, fly with the wind in your hair that barely touches your aerodynamic futuristic ensemble. Soon you will be the hare that bucks the trend and I will again be the tortoise with the chipped and dented shell.
Enjoy these sunny days... for soon the rain will return. Winter is coming.