One reason I tend to ride alone is the blissful ignorance of how fast I am not going. No fancy cycloputer on my handlebars, no stop watch, just a cell phone and a mental note of when I roll out.
Of course, when you ride with friends with gears, everything sort of changes.
Not in a bad way, though. You just start to see things differently. And while I dread using the word, in a way you start to compare.
Heading out this morning on a ride, alone, I almost wondered why I wasn't with a friend or two. It's gorgeous out. Just cool enough to keep the sweat from flowing down your face in rivets, and the sun shining just enough to head out in shorts and a jersey. Not even a strong wind to discourage the ride; and thank God for that, because I was definitely dragging my cleats.
Those are sort of the times I wish I had a friend who didn't have social obligations on Saturdays, and would drag me out on rides. Maybe someone on a single-speed. Because remembering the constant dropping and catching up of a few days ago, my ego wanted to be coddled a bit, not shattered into a million pieces.
I was still pretending, though, that Matt was churning those cranks ahead of me, almost hearing that wet sound of a chain being funneled through a derailleur, and the clickety-click of shifting gears. I mashed harder on the hills, imagining him ahead of me in that bright white kit, and flat terrain meant I had to go even faster to catch up to an imaginary friend.
And I did it fast. As fast as Matt and I did it last time, even. And descending those hills, I remembered how Matt flew down them. Finally catching up to him, I said:
"You don't like to use your brakes, do you?"
He smirked in response as he shook his head. Ah, the irony of learning that brakes are unnecessary from a roadie. Or, maybe it's not so ironic at all.
Home at last, I stretched while struggling out of a sweaty jersey, shorts, and cycling cap. And oddly enough, I finally realized that while my friends may be working while I ride, I'm sort of carrying them with me wherever I go. The jersey from IBC, the spoke bracelet from Chris [plus the two bracelets from my best friend], the cycling cap from CB.
Then, of course, there's the bike. But that a whole nother story involving more friends, sub-stories, and a few broken parts. Suffice it to say that it's the product of a lot of love, and of course, very real friends.