Mike, my riding partner, is a nag. He’s pushy. He goads and mocks me. He calls me names. He pokes fun at my age and makes derisive comments about the size of my butt blocking his view when we ride single file.
I love him.
Needless to say, I verbally throw it right back at him. It’s how we inspire each other to venture out in lousy weather, to take the hillier ride, to increase our performance, and to do the things necessary to cycle regularly.
Without Mike I would not ride nearly as often as I do. Maybe I’m feeling lazy or think I’ve ridden enough for a week. Then he’ll call or e-mail to say he’s had a tough day and needs to burn off some steam on the bike. And I’m there with him.
Likewise, I’ll ring him up and say, “Let’s ride.” And he’ll saddle up with me.
A riding partner is more than an inspiration; he’s also a life saver. Yesterday, I stupidly forgot a water bottle. Mike brought two. Oddly enough, he never brings two. But for some reason, he did. And I drained it. I can’t count the times he’s used my tire pump when fixing a flat. Mike is a magnet for all things metallic and sharp on the road.
He and I have been riding together for nearly eleven years now. In that time I’ve seen my performance increase at all levels–total miles, average speed, RPM. You name it. I’d be lying if I said I did not owe my improvements to him.
This notion hit home hard in the past year. Mike’s life was turned upside down because of a life-threatening illness in his family. He devoted all his spare time to caring for his loved ones. Among his many friends, I lent a hand. But as anyone knows who’s experienced similar crises in their lives, all the outside help in the world can’t handle everything, and little of it can assuage the emotions that boil inside.
Thankfully, after a long, scary, and difficult series of medical procedures, the dangers have passed. Mike’s family health crisis has shifted into a remarkable recovery. So, he’s able to ride more frequently again.
While he was fully engaged in the crisis, I rode less because I did not have him to prod me to go out as often. My performance suffered, too. I did not have him to taunt me into picking up the pace or choosing the steep side of Skyline Road. Now that he’s back, I expect to improve quickly.
Still, I have been able to ride much more than him during the crisis. He’s a little out of shape compared to me. That’s only natural. But it won’t take long for him to return to his old form. Until then, I’ll have some trouble seeing around his big butt when I ride behind him.
© Mark Everett Hall 2011