It was a pretty standard, which is to say excellent, tutelage I was under as the young me, and at a great time: I was between jobs (I quit my paper route and couldn’t yet convince my local shop to hire me), school was under control (I was fine with Cs), and my social life was on cruise control (nobody understood me so who needs friends anyways plus you just don’t understand me).
Enter Him. He was a family man, which is to say, he was a guy who traded his family for a chamois every Saturday and usually Sunday, too. He rode with the gentlemen on these days. He was one of them and wanted to teach me to be one, too. I was ready to absorb everything.
Fast forward to now: I am a family man, which is to say, I take my time-trading very seriously, cautiously negotiating reasonable amounts of chamois time, understanding completely that what is really important to me perches precariously on the razor’s edge of reason, despite the glaringly obvious path. The option is NOT: abandon family duties, dig a trench around myself, fill it with nothing but blocks of training, juggle credit card debt in the name of weight savings and pedestrian EPO accquisition, and find guaranteed success as a mid-pack Cat-3 (otherwise known as King of the Cubicles). I could, that is, if it weren’t for how much I love my family. I have unbreakable bonds with my wife and children. And I have this hand-typed website with dozens of faithful Googlers happening upon my wisdoms once every couple of months.
So what does all this have to do with Him? It’s a sauce reduction. He taught me how to chop, how to simmer, how to flambée, how to deglaze. He taught me all manner of important things that helped me feel comfortable enough with my past-time passion to be able to shut up about it at work. It became part of the fiber rather than a bumper sticker. These things are important to me. So on rare balmy afternoons when children are content and the barter is correct, I am glad to reach into this manual and reorient. I’m more glad than ever to know and to think about and to ponder these morsels of truth. It’s like talking with Him again, like the inverse-then-reversed-and-perverse leisurée of being between jobs or begrudgingly throwing my race wheels in the trunk as the podium engagement rattles on over on the other side of the parking lot. Bringing up these bites of hand-typed knowledge have become my simple formula for affirming respect, and for making sure that I know the rules really well before I break them.
Things I learned from Him:
- Cycling is sewn together by fruity thread, but European thread, which makes it macho.
- There will be creams, lubes, linaments. They aren’t comfortable to talk about unless you’re around cycles/cyclists.
- Try to always have a bandana on you.
- One half water, one half flat Coke.
- In a proper paceline, brakes are for only for mistakes.
- Cadence, not velocity.
- Helmet, always.
- A successful cyclist should never have to (but sometimes will need to) pay for 1) a massage, and 2) a win.
- Learn to look back under your arm, just so you know how to.
- The best reason to shave your legs is so you don’t look like an ape.
- The craziest racing happens before summer.
- Mostly spin.
- English forks bend a little more abruptly than Continentally built ones.
- Form good relationships.
- The pros have advantages that are really hard to understand.
- Racing is optional.
- Be at least a little bit worried about every car.
- Someone in the group will always have a computer. Don’t assume the same about a pump.
- Form reasonable expectations based on what you know, not what you see.
- You can’t beat science, but sometimes faith helps.
- You can’t beat faith, unless you really know your science.
- Fig Newtons.
- Carry a Twenty.
- It’s not really import what you look like, but when you know what you’re doing, you’ll probably look fine.
- Cycling is fun.
- Be nice.
These learnings aren’t revelatory or exhaustive or fresh, but I love to think about them. They’ve become metaphorical advice for other important sub-and super-professional aspects of my life. They’re part of my setup, part of the process and part of the victory. I’m so grateful that I had him to teach them to me, but I do hope he’s gotten around to spending a little more time with his family. Whether he knew it at the time or not, I think that’s the most important thing he taught me.