Recently, it rained on a Thursday. That was a surprise. Not that it was Thursday, but rain.
Thursday is ride day for our bike group. In the winter, when mornings run cool to cold, we meet at the “P” Tree (don’t ask) on the bike path close to Chester Avenue. During the warmer months, when it pays to be indoors after 9 a.m, it’s wheels up at 6 a.m. from Beach Park.
Our group has been riding together for 30 years and given this healthy span, most of the riders are over 50 and some way over.
The group consist of dentists, ex-professional tennis players, I.C.E. employees, graphic artists, financial planners, media personalities, physical therapists, teachers and anybody who can ride a bike and has reached a passable fitness level.
We ride more than 100 miles a week; the Saturday ride is longer. We’ve explored Breckenridge, Bear Mountain, Round Mountain Road, Woody, Glennville, Klipstein Canyon near Maricopa, ridden to Ventura, Carpinteria and the Central Coast.
This is not bragging, not that this group would be prone to underplaying its achievements in sprinting, climbing or just trash (important in a peloton) talking prowess. However, riding a bike is a way of seeing the country, much in the same way that riding a motorcycle is, but at a much more palatable pace and presumably safer speed.
This is not to say that riders have not fallen. Everybody has. Everybody has and at one time or another, hit their heads. That said, if you want to ride with this group, helmets are mandatory.
We’ve gone through a lot together. Getting fired, hired, losing spouses, losing parents, making money, losing money. We talk about everything, although politics has become increasingly more challenging to discuss so we are careful about with whom we broach those subjects.
Netflix recommendations are popular and the chances of two people having seen the same series is almost a near miracle. At the end of rides, conversation often centers on food: What are you going to eat for breakfast? For lunch? For the next week in order to replace all of the calories you burned during the ride?
We don’t always get along. There is bickering. Somebody breaches cycling etiquette: takes a pull in front that is too fast and splinters the group; somebody else doesn’t wait for the slower riders, who might ordinarily be fast but may be having a bad day; a third person is wearing earbuds and can’t hear when asked a question.
Grudges can last a ride, a week and sometimes when the offense is egregious, maybe a month. Eventually, everybody gets over it. Everybody forgets. Exercise, fresh air, such as it is, and the sound of humming wheels consumes even the rawest of feelings.
Many of us don’t socialize off the bike. We’ve had quite enough togetherness on the bike, but we don’t have to. This is the way we spend time together and each of us has a role: Show up so that the others will get out of bed and will show up, too.
Keep the faith. Don’t give up. Don’t talk about getting old.
Bakersfield is good for that. Good for cycling, running, boot camps, lap swimming. Good for getting together and exercising as a group. Good for being part of a team.
I wondered what people were doing on the rainy Thursday because the roads were wet and there wasn’t the pre-ride chatter that normally takes place on the 360 dry days of the year.
We’d catch up a couple of days from now. Sling insults, ask about each other’s children and talk about the bacon cheeseburger we might eat when we get home. The company is good and sometimes company is all we have.