20 Apr Lone wolf be gone?
So, I bought a road bike, which as a mountain biker, means a huge cultural, emotional and physical shift for me. To fully immerse myself in this change, I joined a bike group and last weekend I went on my first road bike trip: 75 kilometres from my apartment in downtown Toronto to the burbs of Oakville.
Meeting at a coffee shop at 8:30am, I wasn’t surprised by the other riders: all the men were wearing team jerseys, talking about bike components and their pitiful sluggish shape, this being the first group ride of the summer.
I’m so grateful that the day before this group ride, a friend of mine schooled me on some of the hand gestures and rules of riding in a pack. “If there’s a pot hole ahead, shake your hand out near the hole so the guy behind you knows to swerve.” And, to this end, you really must rely on your team. This pack mentality is new to me.
As social as I am, I am not used to riding with other people. Sure, I rode with a friend all the time on the mountain bike trails, but once you’re on single track, you’re in your head completely. Focusing on the front tire, the trail ahead, the tree roots, the descent: mountain biking is a lone wolf sport, which suits me fine.
But road riding has its own weeee moments, which I’m discovering. Zipping past cars and street cars packed with forlorn and helpless passengers and drivers gives me a bit of a jolt; they’re stuck while I’m still moving. I have control. They do not. Flying through industrial parks and suburbs, and rows of ugly strip malls– the speed was addictive. But it also scared me.
To draft behind the rider in front of you, to shield yourself from the headwind, you have to get close: sometimes inches from their back tire. “Get closer,” says the French dude with a goatee. “You’ll be fine. I know you’re having a hard time trusting me. I’m a mountain biker so I get it. But you’ll get used to it.” Frenchie was perceptive. The thought of sliding on asphalt scares me a bazillion times more than falling on a dirt trail. Pavement is like a steel grating on exposed flesh. But I’m also scared of trusting. I have to trust that the rider in front of me isn’t going to suddenly brake or slow down. If I have an accident, I want it to be because I screwed up. I don’t want to rely on someone else.
But, as we all took over all the seats of the bakery patio, sipping lattes and eating some chocolate croissants, people stared at us. Our team. I liked this immensely. Being part of something feels good. I could get used to this. I could get used to being a badass road rider.