Then it hit me - literally. The vile stench was coming from my helmet. Much relieved - but still a bit sick to my stomach from the horrendous odor - I thought that there are some things that make you feel like a real cyclist. Riding clothes and helmets that smell like Death's more odorous little brother are one. If you ride hard for any length of time, your stuff will stink.
But there are other things littering the shore of the Rubicon you cross when you truly become a cyclist.
You really feel like a cyclist when
- you stand up to walk around the house and your legs hurt like hell, and it makes you smile.
- you inadvertently make a hand signal while you're riding down the road... in your car.
- you're a bit hungry at night, and you pass by the Belgian chocolate on the counter, some fresh fruit, and some French cheese in the fridge to eat the Odwalla Pomengranate and Strawberry Bar left over from the morning ride. But you'd definitely draw the line at a Clif bar and eat the chocolate instead. Maybe.
- you dream about riding, and in the evening you daydream about going to sleep because you're going to dream about the great ride you had that day, or the one you're doing tomorrow.
- you know that rest day is going to be depressing as hell, what with all the free time, no chamois time endorphin buzz, and all the food you can't eat.
- when you choose hard liquor over beer because it has less carbs... or drink beer over a cocktail the night before a ride because it has more carbs.
- "going to bed early" isn't a code word for anything. You seriously plan on sleeping. Gotta get that recovery time, right?
- you ride down a deserted road practicing your no-hands victory salute, even though you know that the only way you'd ever win is if an airplane crash took out the lead group and the fireball somehow missed you (because you were so far back perhaps?)
- you don't dread hard workouts, but actually look forward to them and are bummed when your schedule involves "two hours, L1/L2" and similar easy spins.
- you don't mind getting passed by Freds any longer when you're riding recovery, and actually laugh at their beady-eyed challenges. "Wanna race?" "No thanks. Training."
- people introducing you to their friends describe you first as a cyclist, or at least as "he rides a bike a lot." Then they try to hook you up with their other bike riding friends.
- a hot girl drives by in a BMW, but you stare at the DeRosa on the roof of her car. She returns the smoking glance... eyeballing your well-used Specialized Tarmac.
- you have two totally different circles of friends - those who ride, and those who don't - and the circle of riders is as large as, or maybe bigger, than the other group.