I have just moved to a new town.
Moving to a new town is alternately magical and mortifying. Aside from the ferocious frustration of not being able to find the thing that will allow you to do the other thing cause it’s in that other other box that looks just like the last box, there’s the new optometrist, the new utilities, the new butler/cook/stable hand. You know how it is. So hard to find good help.
I don’t know anyone in this town. The only reason I could do such a brash thing was a result of my learned confidence in the bike community. Everywhere I’ve gone, there they are. An eclectic band of peddlers. Doctors, lawyers, mechanics, house-husbands. City planners, bike-shop staff and retired folk. Find your way onto a ride and in all likelihood, more rides will follow.
However, it is of the utmost importance to be on your best behavior in these early days, kind of like dating except you’re trying to land consecutive rides vs. dates. Gotta be on time, bring your best self, and you really gotta have your shit together. Most people don’t care if you’re slow or can’t wheelie, but you’d better be nice and not “that girl/guy.”
You know the one. She shows up to the ride in a caloric deficit and makes everyone wait while she fuels. He decides now is the time to true that wheel, fix that wobble. She decides today is the day she can ride without a backpack cause everyone else these days is running hip packs but she hates those cause even with a Camelbak she’s probably missing the thing she needs so how on earth would she fit everything into a hip pack? So she goes packless. She feels free, but also a bit like she’s wearing her birthday suit. Her logic is this: the Swat box has a tube, spare battery, and plug thingy. There’s a tool in the stem. Pump? Ah jeez, when was the last time I had a flat?? Tires and sealant are so good these days…
Yup. There it was. That sound. That telltale floppy-flappy-draggy sound that means you have or are getting a flat. I stopped, begging the divine for some intervention (there are no atheists in foxholes) and sure enough, my rear tire feels like a rotten avocado. I walk my bike down to the intersection where my new trail pals await, looking at me and each other a bit strangely.
“Jeez, she couldn’t ride that flowy bit with six medium-sized pebbles? Maybe she’s not a fit after all…”
“Hi! So, um…I have a flat…”
Well, spit it out lady.
“I really super swear this is the first time I’ve done this but I don’t have a pump cause I’m a knucklehead and please don’t not invite me again I promise to be a better person in the future.”
They just chuckled and produced a pump and seemed generally non-plussed by the whole affair.
“We’ve all been that guy. Doncha worry ‘bout it.” Phew!
And I’m certain that other “communities” are the same—horse, ski, llama-wrangling—all surely feel this way about their peeps. We humans are herd animals and we need each other. So whether you are in a new town or your own town and have that “nobody likes me, everybody hates me, I’m gonna eat some worms” feeling that we all get at some point, look up your local shop ride, bike club or clinic. And make yourself go. And as long as you don’t show up with a flat tire, no pump, and a bad attitude, you’ll have made new trail/path/road friends.