Three great Christmas gifts to give yourself

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Do you ride or do you cycle? Both? What’s the difference?

I consider riding to be using a bike for any purpose, whereas cycling is the fake science of trying to go as fast as you can without crashing. These two categories occurred to me the other day when I took Mrs. WM out for a bike ride on her new Fuji Supreme bicycle, whose salient characteristic to her was its color, baby blue.

Never mind the carefully chosen components. The bike was blue and that’s what mattered.

It quickly became obvious that we had different expectations. She expected fun, a little exercise, happy conversation, and bonding time with her spouse of thirty years; i.e. a bicycle ride. I expected what I always expect every time I get on my bike, whether alone or in a group: mayhem; i.e. cycling.

Most people enjoy riding their bike. I once did, I think. But now it is an exercise in death avoidance and it has been for many years. When I ride with a new person I am not concerned with whether they enjoy it, whether they get a good workout, whether they like me, or whether it encourages them to continue riding. I am only concerned about staying upright and not getting hit. That’s it.

Cycling, if you do it for very long, teaches you that no amount of fun or happy conversation compensates for falling on your face and fracturing your eye sockets. No super fun coffee ride is worth doing if you finish on the grill of a pickup truck. So when I go out with a new rider I am all business, which is absolutely no fun at all, and I like that because people who are having fun are not paying attention to the task of not getting killed. A little bit of wet blanket Wanky riding can be very salutary.

Can you have fun on a bike? Of course you can. But typically not with me.

Below are three things you can give yourself for Christmas that don’t cost anything.

  1. Keep your front wheel even with the person next to you. It sounds easy and it is, but only if you concentrate on it, and when you’re having fun, who wants to concentrate? Learn to do this (it can be mastered in a year or so) and your cycling experience will be much better. Mine will be awesome because I will not have to growl, “Quit half-wheeling me, dogdammit.”
  2. Ride bar to bar. You know how when you’re pedaling along and the other person seems to be over in the next county? That’s because one or both of you isn’t in very good control of your bike. Come together with only a couple of inches between your handlebars. It is scary and you might bump together, but if you’re mastered No. 1 above, you will soon master this in another year or so. You will go home with greatly improved bike handling and I won’t go home hoarse.
  3. Look ahead. Do you enjoy turning your head and gazing at your partner’s lovely profile? Is it important to shout directly into your partner’s ear? Do you enjoy staring at things along the road like houses, fancy cars, or Cooper’s hawks? Please stop doing that and look ahead. There is nothing off to the side that needs your attention. Virtually all the things that will knock you off your bike are coming up, ahead, in front. This means you need to quit looking at (better yet, toss) your trip computer, and survey what’s ahead, which, when I think about it, isn’t a bad metaphor for life.

Merry Christmas.

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