Bike Week Lesson

Between the rain, taper week, and a stupidly managed sleep deficit, I didn't coordinate a single commute for National Bike Week. I plan to make this up in June with lots of sleep, no tapers, and hundreds of bike miles.

My bike week consists of a trainer session, a pre-ride spin around the KC Tri Course with N. and The Major, and this post about cycling goals.

As I have a new one.

I want to be light and aware on the bike the way Rob is. Now, Rob is not the only cyclist I know who is light and aware on a bike. (I live with one of these creatures, so have a tutor at hand. I just didn't realize it fully.)

Rob and The Major MudBunny are each other's people. Both are cyclists and both race. I'd met Rob a couple of times but knew him most directly as the calm, kind, and matter-of-fact person who helped me get past my near wipe-out at God's Country.

Out at Heritage Park one afternoon, I saw two daubs of green and black jersey in the distance, the unmistakable LiveStrong Army team kit. The riders went around a curve and I hoped they were riding slowly.

"Rob said that was you back there," said The Major when I finally caught up. "He said it was you on your red and black bike."

I am not light and aware on my bike. I am still much constrained by gravity and a lack of experience. On the bike, I'm doing well to remember to process the road in front of me, what's to my sides, and what I can see in my mirror. I look down to find my water bottle cage. To think of looking way back and identifying a rider and bike?

I paid attention to Rob as we rode a gentle warmup loop through the park before he left us to do hard hill repeats. The three of us rode together only a few minutes, so I had to confirm what I thought I'd noticed with The Major later. (I hardly know how to interpret any phenomenon on a bike; I'm never sure what I'm seeing. I could be making it all up.)

"I'm not sure," I said, "but it's like he sees EVERYTHING. It's like the bike isn't even under him, he's so able to take everything in. And it was the same in transition at BikeSource... without, y'know, staring, he was getting every detail. Am I right? Really? 'Cause that's an odd thing to be able to notice about somebody else."

The Major told me this was correct. "Oh yeah," she said. "Rob is completely observant." She said a lot of other nice things about his cycling prowess and general demeanor, but I don't remember them verbatim. Rob, you'll have to ask The Major.

So, light and aware. That's a kind of rider I want to be more like. To be so natural on a bike that you can absorb as much of your environment as you would just walking around. To be able to stand, twist, look around. To have such light balance that you give the impression you could change clothes while riding, complete with windsor knot, tiepin, and full shoelaces, without losing a bit of stroke efficiency or the thread of the conversation.

Fast is not the only progress. Strong is not the only measure. There is also awareness.

Most people stand around and look and don't notice much. At the BikeSource race, Rob seemed still and quiet, yet was taking in what seemed to be a 270 degree field of vision. Very cool. I didn't know a person could actually radiate observation. I mean, if your job was to pick the one person who could immediately rank everyone else in a surrounding crowd by height, age, and shoe size, you'd pick Rob. Or someone like him. You wouldn't even think twice.

And he seems to observe this comprehensively WHILE MOVING ON A BIKE. Now that I've recognized this skill, I can see how little I possess it. Feels like I've been given a gift, the information needed to study every cyclist I see for this quality, so I can learn and mimic. It's just about the coolest thing I've seen all Bike Month. Something to emulate. And a new way of thinking about progress on the bike.