I’ve spent the winter on a trainer. I don’t mind the experience so much. It’s not like riding outside, but I do it in hopes of maintaining some level of fitness during the winter months.
The first ride of each Spring provides an opportunity to gauge whether all the time spent spinning my legs watching TV with the fan on and the window open were worth it.
I approach this first ride with some trepidation.
The first ride of each Spring requires a re-amplification of courage. The trainer is easy. If you tire you rest. No one on Strava will know. If you need water it’s upstairs. Selecting
clothing is a simple process. The most difficult part of the experience is figuring out what drivel Netflix can provide for an hour and a half.
(I’ve watched every Firefly, Dr. Who, Stargate, Star Trek Enterprise, Star Trek Voyager, Falling Skies, numerous movies and worthless SyFy rejects while on the trainer. Finding something to watch is becoming a problem).
Taking to the great outdoors requires a deeper understanding of the environment and your body. Selecting the right clothing on a Spring day is tricky. The wind can cause the temperature to vary greatly. Standing still
with the sun on your face might feel perfect. Move your body through that same air at 20 miles an hour and everything cools off dramatically. Of course, push your body, your core heats up and you become and artist
at striping while holding a straight line and an even pace.
Today I lucked out. It was 50 degrees. I chose a wool base layer, leg warmers and wore shells over my gloves. That combination worked in harmony to maintain the perfect temperature the entire ride. That never happens.
The trainer produces and irritating level of noise, but it is silenced by a nice pair of earbuds. The road provides no such respite. I occasionaly wear earbuds, but shun the noise cancelling variety. An understanding
of the environment around you is critical to prevent a car from sneaking up from behind or a dog from taking you down from the side. You see the road in front. That’s important for calculating the path ahead,
but you hear the world all around you. Danger almost always comes from behind or from the side. On the road you are subject to the full roar of the wind. It buffets your ears muffling the sound of music from
headphones, the hum of car tires, the taunts of passing teenagers. The roar annoys and produces isolation at the same time. I remain vigilant, filtering the signals from the roar that I use to determine the threats
The trainer is smooth. There are no hills, no pot holes, no gnarly stretches of gravel. The world is not so perfect. Today I fought with the wind. On the trainer I push constant high speeds. The wind cruely cuts
those speeds in half. It leaves me humbled. The beautiful statistics accured over the winter are negated in an instant and I have failed my first test of Spring. I am not as strong as I was in the fall.
Humility erases performance and statistics from my mind. I look around. The earth is brown and dreary, but the mountain peaks are covered with snow. This is why I ride. The world is a beautiful place to be observed
through all her phases.
I know I am a bit ridiculous but the first ride of each Spring always fills me with an irrational fear. The trainer is safe. You don’t fall off. There are no cars, no dogs, no unforseen hazards. The world is not
safe. I avoid busy roads. After an accident a couple of years ago I try to stay focused on the world around me.
I return home safely.
I am grateful for that last part. I’ve ridden for many years now and I love the experience. I love the sun on my face. I love the roar of the wind in my ears. I love the solitude and comradery. I love the pain and
the feeling of overcoming that pain. I love the ride, but every time I return home I always feel a bit relieved.
Bryan Byrge and John Coons didn’t return home. They are fathers, co-workers, friends. They are
no different than me or the thousands of others who share the love of this experience. My heart breaks for their wives and children who said good bye that morning with every expectation that they would
return to them that night.
I shall never take for granted the feeling of relief each time I return.