The Bike

Cannondale Bicycle Corporation

Image via Wikipedia

Worked as a ride-leader for the Team Z group ride this weekend.  Most of us are in the taper period for Musselman in a few days time, so it was a short ride around Arlington neighbourhoods, starting from one of our local Triathlon stores (Bonzai) in order to coordinate with a bunch of clinics for our newer team mates (wetsuit fitting, transition area technique, etc.).

Because I was wracked by one of my all too infrequent spasms of guilt over my carbon footprint I decided that since the ride start was only about nine miles away (and most of that distance could be done on trails) then it would be pretty pathetic not to ride to the ride start.  Of course, the fact that even at 7am it was already in the mid-80s and the air had the texture of a high-school locker-room after the big game might have been a bit of a disincentive.  I also slightly under-estimated how long it would take me to weave through the already ridiculously crowded trail (filled with people no doubt realizing they had been tragically unsuccessful in their quest to beat the heat).  Plus, the one nice straight road that led from the trail to near the ride start proved to be a concertina of epic proportions.  So I arrived at the ride start mere minutes before everyone was ready to roll out, out of breath and drenched in sweat.

But I was already having a blast.

Today I left the tri bike at home and took the Cannondale, a hard-tail modified with road disc wheels (yes, they do make such things, or did once).  Now, people misjudge me on this bike all the time.  You slap those larger wheels on the frame, couple that with a more upright riding position, and people are thinking “commuter” (and that is in fact what I use it for).  But I’ve ridden numerous multi-day bike tours on this bike, I’ve ridden centuries, and I rode Mountains of Misery for the first time on it (the double metric no less), a feat for which my team-mates who were present that day still mock me. . .yet when I rode the double this year on my other bike my time was only a couple of minutes faster.

One thing that has always troubled me a little is that this bike doesn’t have a name.  I name everything.  Cars, computers, my phone, you name it I’ve named it.  My other bike has a name–Mabel–and she acquired that pretty quickly.  I’ve had the Cannondale for. . .oh, what. . .7 years?  8 years?  I’ve put over 12,000 miles on it.  I’ve tried to come up with a name, from time to time.  Nothing.

I can come up with name for other people’s bikes, no problem.  My friend Jason bought a new bike last year, a hot bike, but the same kind of Cervelo being ridden by just about everyone in the team.  Naturally, her name has to be Paris.

But nothing for the Cannondale.  And this has always felt like a bit of a betrayal, because she has always been my go-to bike.  This is the bike that is up for pretty much anything I want to do, from short trips to work to epic day-long adventure rides.  Mabel as a commuting bike, for example?  Not so much.  Moreover, while I’ve had some fantastic adventures on Mabel, riding her is always like I’m going to work.  She’s like suit and tie I put on when I teach.  The Cannondale is easy like jeans and a T-shirt.  Even though riding Mabel is now second-nature, there is still always part of my mind that feels I need to gear up for that ride.  I feel like I’m riding a bike.

When I get on the Cannondale, for example, it is like an extension of myself.  I don’t have to think about anything, I don’t have to concentrate (although some part of my mind obviously is!), I just ride.  There’s something about that bike that approaches the pure joy of cycling, of having something that you can just get on and go and have that going be mentally effortless even if it is physically punishing (as with my time-trial sprint to the ride start yesterday!).

As I was riding home yesterday it hit me.  The Cannondale does have a name.  It has always had a name.  It is, quite simply, The Bike.

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