I knew I needed to ride, but I just couldn’t bring myself to move out of my chair. I felt too weak, too tired, too depressed to get out on the road. Still in pain from a wreck last week where I dislocated my shoulder, I was dying to get back on the bike, but my self-pity was getting the best of me. While immersed in this sorry state of indecision I started to think about my buddy, John. He is a longtime friend of mine that I’ve always held a deep respect for. We worked side by side as mechanics for a number of years in a small hole-in-the-wall bike shop. Throughout that time John would regale me with humbly spoken stories of his time spent road racing in the 70’s and 80’s while schooling me on the finer points of mechanical wisdom. Although John is currently in his late 50’s, he possesses a level of fitness that rivals most 20-something riders that I come across.
Impressed by this fitness and envious of his abilities (that far exceeded my own) I told him, “I sure hope I can be as fit as you when I’m 50. Shoot, I’d be happy to be that fit when I’m 40.” John’s response to my compliment was unexpected, “We’re all one wreck or one virus away from losing it all.” The truth of his statement slammed into my psyche and transported me out of my dreams of fitness, and grounded me in the reality of how little control we have over much of our lives.
It’s true that we can get out there, work hard, eat right and build our bike handling skills. These are all within our control to accomplish, but whether we get sideswiped by a car, contract a serious illness, or experience a life changing event that makes getting out on the bike far more difficult, these things are certainly beyond our control.
A year after I had this conversation with John, he was in a group ride accident where two riders ahead of him crossed wheels, one went down, and John hit the fallen rider before being catapulted into the ground. The impact left him with a fractured wrist and collar bone. Over the months he spent recovering, his fitness ebbed away as the numbers on his bathroom scale ticked ever higher. Some years have passed since that time, during which John eventually returned to his old form.
As I reflected on John’s story the resentment I held for my personal misfortune melted away as my gratitude for the present opportunity to ride came to light. The truth is that the time we get to spend on two wheels is fleeting. As such, it should be savored at every opportunity. Out on the road with the sun on my face and the pavement rolling by beneath me, I feel alive. On those days when the weather doesn’t cooperate or I am dragging, feeling tired, or too busy to ride, the path to happiness is clear. Seize the day while it is upon me and go riding, because I might not get another chance. Whether I get another chance or not, one thing is certain, I will never get back the opportunity to ride that I passed up. So, I’d like to humbly offer this piece of advice to anyone reading this short reflection: If you are thinking about going riding, now is the time my friends.