It’s been a long couple of weeks full of job-related stuff, horrible allergies, the lingering Louisiana heat, and well just life. And life without much of the bike. And a couple of flats, which is odd for me since traditionally I’ve been the “I don’t get flat tires” kind of guy. This summer I got three in a row. Then nothing. And then cane season rolled around in south Louisiana. The roads are full of mud, gravel, and cane cuttings dragged and dropped by the cane trucks. I got two flats in a row. One out on the road with friends. And then two days later as I was turning the corner on my way home from riding with some students.
It’s been that kind of October. But things are looking up. It’s no longer 90+ degrees with 80% humidity every day. The semester is finally calming down (just in time for it roar back to life with a vengeance) and I’m finally back on the road. It’s base building season. Or just riding season. Today I saw a Tweet by Joe Friel “You get out of it what you put into it.” And I generally agree with that when it comes to cycling. I tell my collegiate riders a version of Friel. I tell them, “you get what you give” and just not in fitness, but in terms of the cycling community. You put some time in the wind and people in the paceline or the pack will give you something-respect, a break, room to move up in the pack when things get hot and heavy (or you just get strong). You show up to rides, be friendly, push those who need a push, encourage those who need some encouragement, instruct those who need some instruction, etc. and eventually it’ll come back. People will stop and help you (or watch you) change a flat. Or they’ll sit up and wait for you (or not, knowing that you don’t want them to–knowing that you want to catch your breath and then flay yourself chasing them down). Or people in the cycling community will see you, a young college kid on a bike giving it your all, giving it time, giving it love, and next thing you know they’re offering to donate equipment to the club, to you. Or they’re offering to show you how to sprint better, or…. You get respect and love. You get community.
But there’s another way that you get what you give works. Spend time on the bike and the rhythm of the road, the cadence, the sun, wind, clouds, the seasons, and breathing will give you some peace if you put peace into it. Or anger if you put anger into it (though sometimes the bike lets you pedal out your anger and find some peace). And you put enough time, love, anger, sadness, hope, sweat, and yourself and you become a cyclist. Maybe wiser, but you become a cyclist.