221: By Stick or by Carrot.
It is not often that I get to see the whole of the Embrocation Cycling Journal Team race their bikes. It is not that I do not want to, just the whole Midwest gets in the way sometimes. So, when a freak volcano blows up and ruins everyone's plans for international travel you get to find yourself in some new situations. Coming "home"(there's that word again) is always a fun thing to do, if only because you get to see things that somehow feel incredibly relevant and totally ridiculous at the same time.
Such was the case with the Turtle Pond Race. Which, oddly enough I was able to participate in. I did not get to do this one last year. Or did I? But either way RMM's greeting of "You're the X Factor" upon arrival was enough to remind me that I was home. Or at the very least confuse me and frustrate PVB into slaying the front end of a field unwilling to chase for a few laps. Which made me smile a lot and frustrated others. But PVB always makes me smile.
I had a Di2 Equipped Seven that kept chirping like a little Golden Eagle on the attack. Such a satisfying feeling to hear that chirp and know that it means it is doing something. Not exactly sure what, but something. Shifting probably, but it is too smooth to even decipher that much. Either way, that is my review. Smooth, golden, eagle-like, pass it on. The best part about it really was the ease at which you can shift while standing. Because I do that shit all the time (not really- but in all actuality, it is possible with this stuff.)
Read Bill Strickland's recent Sitting In. And then tell me that you have not experienced this. I felt jabs of guilt mixed with nostalgia when I read it. I have probably yelled at a few newbies, I try not to, but I am sure that it has happened. Or maybe I just feel guilty for everyone when other people yell at newbies? I know that it is a necessary evil and, honestly, probably the quickest way to set them on the straight and narrow. But at the same time I know that I have been the newbie. And most likely, more than once.
It made me think back to that Tuesday Night World Champs ride that is, or was, put on by the Charles River Wheelmen, or the BRC, or whomever chooses to take ownership of that ride. The first time I showed up (Don't laugh - ok, laugh) it was wearing a Descente reissue 7-Eleven Jersey. Holy shit did I think I was the coolest fucker out there. Did not even matter that I could have tucked that thing in my shorts or that I would not be thinking I was cool as I limped home by myself a mere 20 or 30 minutes later. All that mattered were those first few moments of awesome.
On the way to the ride my riding partner had told me that I needed to get out of the big ring. This early in the season was for spinning and I should be in the little chainring doing just that. I was pretty new to it all at this point, especially the gears part and at this point I remember feeling that there was just so much more to think about with this version of the sport than Single Speed Mountain biking or just riding your bike to work. In any case he knew more than me so I promptly forced the left side of my 8 Speed shifter inward causing the chain to drop to the inner ring.
The only problem at this point, with this scenario, is that I never shifted back into that big ring. Not when we rolled out of the meeting spot. Which was fine as there was a bit of an uphill to begin with. Not even when we made that first left and started the long drag to the next turn. And that was probably ok too. Because at that point I was still keeping up. Sure, I must have looked the part with my legs all aflutter, but it didn't matter too much, because I was about to be dropped as soon as we hit the twisty back roads of Needham. I did not know that I was about to be dropped either. But the strong hand that calmly grabbed a fistful of my jersey and all but shoved me out the back of the group said otherwise.
I was mad at this man for not letting me into his club. Mad enough (or embarrassed) to dejectedly wander home on my own accord and not want to ever come back. Not understanding how an old man with old components and a dirty old tire stuffed under his saddle (a man with no helmet nonetheless!) was allowed to participate in whatever the hell went on past mile 10 out there, while I was, decidedly, not.
I went back eventually. But, at that point I had armed myself with a little bit more knowledge (once we get rolling then use your big ring - here's how to follow someone) and maybe a little "I'll show those guys" attitude too. But, inevitably they smashed me more times than not, and would probably do so again today. Each and every time though I learned something from those experiences. How to hold someone in a group when they dropped their chain. How to stand up on a climb and not eject your bike into the front wheel of the person behind you. And of course how to rotate through a paceline and keep keep it moving.
Maybe it is because I grew up in a household full of teachers? Surrounded by a community of teachers, but I hope, whether it be by stick or carrot that there is still some of this high paced, motion based, enrichment happening out there. My father would say things like "if you aren't learning something from it, then why are you doing it?" Which by cycling standards is the equivalent to "If you aren't moving forward you're getting shot out the back." So, there is always that.