It was fffffffffrickin' cccccccccccold. Timmy and John pussed out beforehand. Young Tom, who is of an age where a pussout or two is no big deal, with luck he's got 60 years or so to rally, also pussed out. Johnathan said his wife was sick - not a pussout, but suspicious. Highly suspicious.
Much to their credit, Trevor and James showed up and we rolled. James made it about three miles before we heard "flap flap flap flap flap." That was James trying to shake his North Carolina fall-weight-appropriate gloves to try to get Wisconsin-ass-winter-deep-freeze out of them, as his hands were icing up after just ten minutes. So he had to bail. That's not a pussout - when the weather kicks your ass, as I've established previously, it's not a pussout.
So the appropriately dressed and well insulated Trevor and I rolled Bell Branch out to 450, to Crownsville Road down the Millersville Road, up Dairy Farm to Waugh Chapel, to God's Own Gift, the Caribou Coffee. It was a fixie friendly route - mostly flat, up and down false flats, and just one or two little hills, about 25 miles of joy, which was plenty long enough given the temperature and the wind. (Around 25f, with winds gusting up to probably 20 MPH. Can you say, "fffffrickin wwwwwwindchchchchchill"?) We had a nice chat about lots of stuff, mostly family, just an easy zone two spin. The effort level was surprisingly high - I'm working on a theory that because the body pulls blood out of the extremities into the core when it gets really cold, that's why cycling in the cold seems so high effort. By "working on" I mean "conjecturing about on cold rides."
One "Mint Condition" later - a huge coffee with about three shots of espresso in it, and mint / chocolate sprinkles on top, along with some mint in the coffee - we were headed back to Crofton. It felt pretty good in spite of the weather and dead-numb toes. I'm sure there were some hard core people out there who rode much longer today. I'm sure also that most of them waited until 9:00 AM, instead of shoving off at 7:00.
It struck me that cycling is about acceptance. We talked about racing with different people and I discussed some minor crit altercations I have had with folks, for things like half wheeling, whacking the brakes at the wrong place, and so forth. But I accept those folks - first accepting the fact they do that, it's just racing - but also accepting them as friends on wheels. No, they aren't friends like an old best Army buddy who at one point would have died (literally) to help you, but they are good friends, people who share in the struggle on wheels.
We also accept things on the bike the way they are. If it's cold, we accept the fact, and dress right for the weather. If we're slow, we accept it's our own damn fault, and cut back on the donuts while (trying anyhow) to scale up the mileage. If we race and get beat, we tell the other guy, "great race," and try like hell not to excuse away our own failings. Most of all, we accept whatever it is that the road throws at us, whether it's potholes, flats, epic hills, epic bonks, and the occasional road rash. We accept most of these things without really thinking about it, or occasionally make a few quips or complaint about it, but I've never heard of somebody quitting riding "because I just can't stand the conditions under which we have to work." We just accept it and move on, usually pretty silently with the tires making a bit of music along the road surface.
Getting on a bicycle about 18 months ago saved my life. It took a lot of weight off me - not enough yet - and forced me to confront some things about myself I didn't like. I had to accept I couldn't eat or drink like I used to; I had to accept that I'm not exempt from health warnings. I also had to accept the fact that I'm responsible for my problems, and that I have the ability to get myself out of them. Accepting these hard facts that the bike bashed me in the face with, was the first movement I made towards getting the fitness & health side of my life wired back together again. There's no deeper meaning to it, no metaphysics - the bike just says "here's what it is, if you don't like that, find another hobby."
At it's core, it is about the truth. When you ride the bike, it doesn't lie to you ever. Most other people in our lives will lie to us - sometimes in an obviously harsh way, other times in a cruel way, where they are kinder to us than they really ought to be, if they are truly looking out for our own good. It takes a bicycle and a big hill to really tell the truth about our fitness and lifestyle though, and damned if that bike is even capable of telling us a kind little lie. "You're not fat... you're big boned. You carry it well. It's probably genetic." These are things my bike wouldn't think of saying. All it ever says is "hey, you need to lose weight, fatboy," and "you aren't all that fast compared to these other guys," and, "is that all you got? I was designed for T-Mobile. You are most definitely not pushing me very hard."
Yeah, like the weather, our bikes don't lie. But that's okay. I can accept that. Can you?