Recently returning to recreational cycling, I’ve enjoyed heading out after work for as long as the sunlight allows. These rides are usually alone, and the hours of solo saddle time allows for so many thoughts to get sorted out.
It’s amazing how mental the physical act of cycling can be.
There are also the other fantastic times when I join other cyclists. With a little experience, instruction and commitment most people become comfortable in a pace-line, or “train.” The benefits of working as a team in a pace-line extend beyond the mere aspect of efficiently riding together from point A to B, or C, D, E…
It’s also amazing what being clad in spandex and seated upon carbon fiber teaches you about, well; life.
I was thinking how riding in a pace line illustrates a person’s natural character and tendency. Within a group of most things being equal, some always jockey up to the front, while others remain nestled comfortably away in the middle of the pack. Then, there are the rare few who have developed a special skill for drafting from the very rear of the train.
Pulling the train is an incredible feeling once the front cyclist taps out and pulls just off the lead. The unobstructed view, the open road, the potential for miles traveled as the new leader of your grateful team; and then…
the previously nonexistent blast of headwind welcomes you as its next victim!
The sense of duty, responsibility, and yes; EGO force your legs to pump faster for maintaining the pace. Unfortunately, ego has zero effect on preventing your heart from pounding till spots appear through the lens of your over-priced Oakley’s.
This is the curious part of cycling and life that fascinates me. Back burning, legs churning, heart pounding and lungs searing; what do you do?
1. Gut it out and maintain the agreed upon speed because it’s the commitment you made as part of the team.
2. Slyly slow the pace to a manageable speed despite adversely affecting the team, because you like the idea of being the “leader.”
3. Feign an injury or mechanical failure so others will allow you a sympathy alibi, “If it wasn’t for that cramp…”
4. Safely signal that you will be transferring leadership to the next person who is prepared for leading everyone to the next level.
I will share that taking the chance to pull the train, even if just briefly in cycling or life makes you a stronger person. Carrying the cross for others by sacrificing your personal comfort is sometimes frightening, but seldom unrewarding.
Whether it’s peddling into the wind, or giving of yourself to help others, you become the winner.
And no; you don’t have to wear spandex while doing it. Unless you want to!!