Damn, I Miss Group Rides, And I Miss My People.
How much do I miss him? Right now, I’d gleefully lend him a tube and fix his tyre while he returns home to get the left shoe he forgot (again).
He’s not the only person on the group ride I’ve been missing. I’ve become wistful for the rider who complains about being out of shape before taking off like a Cat 3 racer with something to prove. And I can’t wait to ride with the friend who only brings a half-full bottle of water and a single 5mm Allen key on a four-hour ride. (After all, her existence validates me carrying a pack that looks like I’m preparing for the zombie apocalypse because you never know when you’ll need four stroopwafels and a backup chain tool.)
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Don’t get me wrong, some of my best memories are solo rides. But I haven’t ridden with others in months. Weeks before the phrase “the new normal” became the new normal, I broke my ankle in an accident, torpedoing my spring riding.
Initially, I thought the hardest part would be not being able to ride, but I was only half right. The hardest part is not being able to ride with my people. When I close my eyes, I don’t just dream about tyres scurrying over piles of rocks and leaning deep into tacky spring dirt. I dream of alarm clocks that go off too early as friends fulfill ride plans conceived the night before over 2-for-1 margaritas, and morning conversations that always start the same way:
“Are we really doing this?”
“Yup. I’m microwaving yesterday’s coffee right now,”
“Gross. Why are we friends again?”
“Because I agree to your stupid plans”
There’s something magical that happens when you team up with a bunch of grown-ass adults in lycra. The Avengers know it. Eighties glam bands knew it. And, dammit, us cyclists know it. And we miss it.
We become more than the sum of our parts.
Going into the pain cave peels away our facades, no matter how much JB Weld we used to hold them in place. An unrelenting climb turns the quiet corporate executive into the rider whose grunts would be right at home in a Wimbledon match. After a nose-heavy landing, the soccer mom drops a collection of swears that’d make Dennis Leary take notes. I miss all of this other-worldliness. And occasionally, between pre-ride preparations and post-ride high fives, the stoic friend who always seems to have her shit together admits that things aren’t as good as they appear.
Sometimes the best part of a group ride isn’t the ride at all, but summer memories filled with impromptu happy hours or watching someone progress from riding in takkies to deciding the living room is the perfect place to store three bikes.
As my healing ankle adjusts to its own “new normal,” I’ve started pedaling the empty gravel roads surrounding my house—roads that I took for granted up until a few months ago when my idea of an easy ride still involved sharp rocks and kneepads. Which makes me miss my cycling clan even more.
On the rare occasion that I see another rider coming my way, I get downright giddy and immediately start winding up my wave. And it seems other riders are feeling the same way: Even the most spandex-clad curmudgeon musters at least a finger-lift greeting these days.
When my fellow rider waves back, I secretly wonder which character on the group ride they’d be. Are they the person who stops every 15 minutes to adjust their saddle or mump a tyre, or the rider who always has a six-pack to share and a rusty tailgate to share it on?
As social interaction has transformed from a given into a scarce commodity, I’ve made myself a quiet promise to appreciate it all a little more—the pre-dawn alarms, the sunset chats, and even the guy who shows up late with a flat tyre and hot coffee.