Am I gonna get dropped?

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The conversation seems to always go like this. “Hey, Wankster, I’m thinking about doing the Gonadcrusher Ride. Is it pretty hard?”

“Yeah. I guess so. I mean, it depends. We usually stop and regroup.”

“So it’s pretty fast, huh?”

“It’s fast in places, sure.”

Pause. “Am I gonna get dropped?”

The angry cyclist

In the past, I always used to say, “You should come out and give it a try. Even if you come off, we’ll regroup.”

Or if it was the Pier Ride, I’d say, “You might pop off the back, but you can just cut across and hop back in. That’s how you get stronger.”

I’m not going to say that any more, because the other day I was accosted by a very pissed off dude. “Hey, you lied to me,” he said.

“I did?”

“Yeah. The Chokenpuke Ride was way too fast. You said it was a mellow ride, but I got dropped coming out of Dickstomp Canyon. I might as well have ridden by myself. No one even waited.”

This dude was actually pissed. At me. “Oh,” I said. “I’m sorry.”

Then I thought about it. “No. I’m really not.”

My new story

From now on, the conversation is going to go like this. “Hey, Wankmeister! I’ve been thinking about coming out and doing the Ballbreaker Ride. Is it hard?”

“Yes. It’s harder than nails and broken glass.”

“Oh.” Pause. “Do you think I’ll get dropped?”

“You’ll get spit out the back the minute the pace ticks up and no one will wait for you or hang back to hold your hand or give so much as a flying fartfuck. You’ll feel like a worthless pile of dung as you see the entire peloton, including small children, old ladies, and young girls, race away from you. No one will even know you’re missing. Or care.”

“Gosh. It’s that hard, huh?”

“No, not really. But you will get dropped, either because you’re weak, or because you lack mental fortitude, or for the OTHER reason.”

“The OTHER reason? What’s that?”

“The OTHER reason is that everyone gets dropped at some point. Getting dropped is part of road riding if you’re going to ride with people who are competitive. But you’ve built this big cocoon of fantasy around your cycling to protect you from the reality that you’re not very good, and so when you get dropped it crushes you because the droppage impinges on your fantasy.”

So who’s really good, then?

“I suppose you think you’re really good, then?”

“I’m not very good at all. Neither are you. Neither are any of us. The only people who are really good are easy to identify.”

“How?”

“Someone pays them to ride their bike. Everyone else spends money to ride their bike, like you and me. It’s one of the many ways we know we’re not really very good.”

“There’s tons of guys around here who can kick your ass. It’s on all your videos. Are you saying they aren’t any good?”

“That’s exactly what I’m saying. They are better than you. They are better than me. They are better than lots of people. But they’re not good enough for someone to pay them to race.”

“Dude, you sure have low self esteem.”

“Actually, it’s quite high. But I don’t need to inflate it with things are untrue. Facts don’t lower my self esteem. They raise it, if I’m man enough to admit them. I happen to be a slow bicycle rider who is old and easily beaten by countless people. I still enjoy riding and competing, and you should, too. But you won’t.”

“How do you know that?”

“Because your main concern is getting dropped, when common sense and simple observation should tell you that everyone gets dropped. Lance got dropped. Eddy got dropped. Some days you just get dropped, and if you’re riding with people who are a lot better than you, you’ll get dropped every single time.”

“That sucks.”

“If it does, you should join one of those groups where no one gets dropped.”

“Is there such a thing?”

“The ride leader is always some dude with a hairy back and greasy navel, has a little mirror on his helmet, and he polices the ride. He tells you when to slow down, when to speed up, when to do a pace line, when to ease up on the climbs, makes everyone stop at the stop signs, and makes sure that no one ever gets dropped. It’s a lot of fun if you like kindergarten.”

“What if you just don’t want to hammer?”

“Then what the fuck are you doing the NPR and Donut Ride and LaGrange Ride for?”

“It seems like there ought to be some kind of middle ground.”

“That’s just your way of saying ‘I want a ride where I can hammer when I feel like it, but won’t get dropped when other people start feeling frisky.’ It’s just another way of maintaining your fantasy that you’re a good cyclist when you’re just a bone idling wanker. Anyway, now that the road racing season is pretty much over, there’s always a good ride or two going north on PCH. Two by two, steady pace, and good guys leading the ride. You don’t have to go out and hammer.”

“So you’re telling me you like getting dropped?”

“I hate it. But you know what I hate even more?”

“What?”

“Telling myself I’m really strong when I’m really not. And it’s hard to bullshit myself when I’m kicked out the back by some teenage kid.”

Long pause. “So, I heard you went down to San Diego and rode with the SPY and Swami’s guys again.”

“Yep.”

“Did you have a good time?”

“It was awesome.”

“Did you get dropped?”

“Now that you mention it…I did.”

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