A quick light
cough, then the taste of blood. I'm lying on my side as the morning
gray fades up from black. Pain from my shoulder is reminding me I
should be more careful. The room slowly materializes around me. I'm
thinking, "That's what they call help?"
The taste of
blood points out that I haven't been riding enough. Chasing the A's
yesterday has left my throat rough from heavy breathing. Right now
it's too early to get out for a ride. The chill autumn nights have
begun encroaching on the mornings. Later in the day it will be much
warmer and bright. It's a good opportunity to stay in bed and review
the lost summer. I find myself going through all the helpful things
Orange County Bike Club members have done for me in the year since I
joined, but I find their motives are suspect. Something doesn't
that time when I had a flat on the first mile of the Hump. I was
walking back to Big V. I was too new to roadside mechanics to fiddle
with changing my back tire that close to home. Stu stopped to help.
He whipped off my wheel, tossed aside my useless hand pump, gave me
a tube, used one of his cartridges to inflate the repaired tire and
showed me a quick trick for dealing with the chain, cogs and wheel
Harriet had come back to see how things were going, so I finished
the ride with them and learned that Pokers don't necessarily poke.
Time and again Stu and I would crest a hill only to find Harriet
close behind carrying a relentless pace. I was a better rider for
the help, advice and insight.
[After writing the previous, I
heard that Tony and some pokers just made it from Chester to Monroe
on the Heritage Trail averaging 18.5mph. For those who don't know,
that's 4+ miles uphill. An' that ain't pokin'.]
I was with the A's on an extended Saturday ride. The Hump proved too
short for everyone's liking, so another 30 miles was added. Near the
end of the ride I was falling behind on some of the hills. Louie
(Prince of Pain) slipped back and placed a hand on my back to push
me. Like a weightlifting spotter he gave me just enough help to stay
with the group. He coaxed me through the best workout of my life
saying, "Just relax and spin. They hate it when I do this." Of
course after that I couldn't let him down and worked harder than I
Later I calculated he couldn't have been putting
more than 30 pounds pressure on my back. All I needed was to lose 30
pounds, and I could keep up on my own even if I didn't get any
stronger. Pretty inspiring and it gave me a clear goal.
Later still, I found out the A's
actually love it when he does that.
was the day Twin George dropped back, so I could hop on his wheel
and be pulled back to the group. He told me the other riders were
taking it easy anticipating the hill and I should draft as much as
possible in order to be rested. I didn't have the heart to tell him,
"I already knew that; but, even if I took a weeklong nap at the
bottom, I would still be hammered before the top."
However, I did
recognize the good advice and truly appreciated it. On other
occasions George has filled my bottles from water he has gotten for
the whole group. Once he loaned me a headband to keep my ears warm
and didn't even flinch when it took me six months to return it. That
was helpful and friendly indeed...and typical.
are always going out of their way to help. One time Jimmi dropped
back during his NJ loop to check on my climbing technique, "Don't
worry about speed. Just spin smooth, and don't push so hard that
your legs get tight."
checks in regularly with reassurances that I can survive the ride
and won't have to work so hard to do it, "Just stay in the group and
draft." It's good advice and would really help if I could take it.
My over-exuberance always gets me at the front, then out in the
wind; and I pay for it.
Mary Ellen never gives up and always gives me plenty of warning to
avoid blowing up. (If only I could control the urge to fly.) She
also gave me great advice about how to make sure my broken clavicle
stayed in best position for healing. That advice I managed to take.
She probably saved me a lifetime of failed physical therapy.
There are too
many stories to repeat of Club members giving help and guidance.
Such as: George and Mitch once telling me about a great ride in
Monroe, "Go right at Feders," after that.
Then there's the one about
Saint Dennis helping me avoid buying the wrong wheels. Elsewhere
Dangerous Dan took charge of my bike when I crashed, kept tabs on my
water bottles. Lots of stories, one after another.
attitude is common throughout the OCBC. One day I pulled up close
behind Paul (Serotta) Levine and (Shiftless) John Handago in order
to catch a bit of the climbing seminar Paul was giving John.
your weight back a little...that's it...feel the difference?"
"Yep, that's great...thanks...grunt, groan!"
continual collegial chatter throughout the Club, "How do you like
that saddle?" "Campmoore has a great price on riding shorts." "Bring
your seat up just a bit." "Which gear you in?" "What's good at the
This is all
fine and good. It makes us better riders, but where's the logical
I mean really, aren't we all trying to, uh...well, you
know...BEAT each other?
I know the
stated mission of the Club is "non-competitive group cycling."
Notwithstanding that, I'm a rabidly competitive rider and have
noticed I'm not the only one.
It appears to me that while the A
rides are absolutely awash in a particularly volatile distillate of
the stuff, the competitive juices moisten all levels of club ride.
On a B ride
it is not uncommon to hear Randy (R&) disavow holding even the
slightest competitive intent, but he is always more than willing to
allow his front tire to lead your own...ever so slightly...and for
however long you may find it aggravating.
Randy's a well known A rider in a B suit, and everyone realizes his
little Zen smile belies his abilities, while his attitude of "been
there, done that" just helps keep the group together.
just one ride with the Killer B's provides plenty of evidence that a
healthy dose of "Don't mind if I DO kick your butt" exists in that
crew. You hear such things as, "Huff, puff, whew...WHO started that?"
Pokers are known to push the pace a little, if only jockeying for
position in order to prove superior culinary acuity at Country
Dreams. Take a ride with them sometime. You might catch a glimpse of
(Relentless) Harriet. Or Tony (the Tiger) leading a group up the
long climb from Chester to Monroe.
So why all
this seemingly innocent "help"?
I guess it's
because, although almost everybody wants to beat "somebody," nobody
wants to beat "just anybody." It's only really good to beat somebody
who's really worth it. The best way to get good enough to beat those
who are really worth it is to be pushed by those who are really
good. The best way to be pushed by those who are really good is to
make sure everybody you ride with is (or is becoming) better than
someone better is a privilege, a privilege that can be earned by
helping make better riders. Help make every rider you come across as
unbeatable as possible. The better they are, the better you are.
This is common knowledge in the Orange County Bike Club.
So next time
one of your fellow Club members offers a little kindly "help," don't
be taken in by their hidden agenda.
They are just trying to make you
the best rider you can be.