From the time I received my first ten speed bicycle, I loved the idea of seeing how far I could go which was hard to determine as I had no way to gauge distances accurately. I simply loved riding my bike. Fast forward many years later with a return to riding, and the thrill of completing my first 100 kilometer ride reignited the passion and drive to go farther. The first century (100 miles) I completed suddenly opened the gates of possibility in my mind as to what I could do. Then I started reading and learning as much as I could about ultra distance cycling. Then it became my passion. Then my training focus changed and my coach thought I was nuts, well, to be honest, he still does. (It’s okay though, I am his favorite client.) The journey into solo, unsupported long distance rides began as preparation for the 401 mile Ohio Challenge (one of the Race Across America qualifying races). During those training rides of 8 to 10 hours I didn’t think much of stopping every 2-3 hours to get off the bike, refill bottles, and have a quick snack; I didn't think twice about the 15-20 minutes off of the bike. Looking back now, I realize it was more about the chance to get off the bike than it was to stay fueled and hydrated.
When it came time to race in the Ohio Challenge, the beginning went really well and then at some point past 200 miles came the voice of my coach crackling through the radio, “John, you need to stay in the saddle and pedal.”
“I’m a little sore.”
“You’re losing time and it's a concern. I really need you to pedal.”
So, I stopped standing on the pedals to relieve the pressure and pedaled. Hard. Seated firmly in the saddle.
I finished within the 32 hour time limit. What little feeling remained was mostly painful but it was not so bad since my bits and pieces were numb. As in very numb. I never wanted to feel that way again and I knew that my plan for the 2018 Race Across the West would be difficult with my current set up. After some research, the suggestion of a friend and from my coach (he had another client who had recently purchased an Infinity seat and he loved it) I decided to try an Infinity seat, which was not easy as I had to make a conscious effort to look past its shape, unusual cut out and fear about it not working for me. I installed it on my primary road bike. I tested it. I adjust the seat a little. I tested again. I readjusted and tested once more. I had it just right. Then I went for a planned two hour ride. Then the magic happened. I rode two hours straight without once thinking about getting off the bike. The next day I went out on a planned three hour ride. After four hours and fifteen minutes had elapsed, the fifteen minutes being used for buying water and at stop signs, the majority of the time I was in the saddle. It was a huge relief in so many ways including being able to ride and stand on the pedals when I wanted to, not because I needed to. It was beyond thrilling.
My beloved road bike, Keely (a BMC RoadMachine), is now spending more time in the trainer because I simply don’t want to spend any time sitting on a bike being uncomfortable.
It was not very long before a new bike arrived. I don't remember how or when or if I named it. I just know it was a cool single speed, coaster brake with a front brake for some reason and that I got a grease stain on my new pants purchased especially for my First Communion. My mom was thoroughly unhappy about that and managed to remove said stain.
At some point along the way between riding the bike to my friends' houses, the park, the library, the candy store, the drug store, the ice cream shop...well, you get the idea...I opened "John's Bicycle Garage" in spite of the fact that I had no clue about how to fix a bike but I did learn how to keep a bike clean, remove all manner of rust and grime and oil a chain. I even experimented with tightening the front brake cable of my bike to point of being able to lock up the wheel and not flip over the handle bars. My bike was the envy of the neighborhood until Steve got a similar style bike with a 3-speed top tube shifter and much like my jealousy, his bike was green. We all thought it was the coolest thing ever. He even let us all try it. Once. That was it.
From the beginning, my dad was always putting me on a bike...well at least at first it was a tricycle with streamers in the handles. I rode that thing up and down our street in Lakewood, Oho until I out grew it. I think that was about when I had my 4th or 5th birthday. Maybe sooner, I'm not quite sure as it was long ago before color.
The real fun began when one of my friends let me try his two wheeled bicycle and he showed me how to ride it. Somehow, the training wheels did not seem to do much other than they were attached to the rear axle and did not quite reach the ground. From that point on, all my dad heard was how I NEEDED a bike (funny how that never seems to change, even now). I begged and pleaded for one (hmm...this seems familiar as well.) Every day. Until, finally, I got a hand-me-down bike from one of my cousins. My dad was shocked when I insisted I did not need the training wheels he wanted to install. As I recall, he basically said, "Okay smart guy, you think you can ride a bike? Go ahead and when you fall over, there better not be any crying or I will give you something to cry about." My dad was sometimes not always so great at encouragement. I do remember his shock at me tearing down the sidewalk on my new to me wheels. It was great. It was even better when my uncle changed the bike from being a girl's bike into a boy's bike by modifying the top tube. Of course, I didn't really know or care because all I knew is that I had a bike!