After a lot of solo grambling, I found myself in front of Chapman’s house, one foot clipped in, the other on the road, standing there, waiting for the group to get itself together enough to roll out. Silently, I asked myself why.
Alone I ride more slowly and change route whenever I feel like it. Alone, I explore more. I wander AND get lost. I like all of that.
The group rolled out and up the hill and dove down again. I refused to pedal, letting my friends fly away from me. Gravity gives you certain gifts. Why spurn them? The light at the bottom was red, so my laziness cost me nothing.
My misgivings about the ride pooled in my mind and sat there, waiting to evaporate, which they did eventually, once the small-talk ebbed away, and I was only thinking about steering my bike, choosing lines through patches of rock. I stopped riding the ride, and the ride started riding itself.
And my friends were there, and I liked it.
The weather warmed, but didn’t tip over into heat. The sun slanted through the trees, shining its spotlight on tufts of grass and patches of moss, as if this was their moment, finally. Some dog walkers let us pass with a friendly smile. Others let us pass with a recriminating stare. We did our best to say ‘good morning’ and ‘thank you,’ and it didn’t much matter.
I got on the front, where I have no business, and rode faster than I should have, and the line of us strung out, and we lost half our number at a turn where we normally go right, but didn’t this morning. I felt badly about it, but not too badly. It took us 10 minutes to get ourselves back together.
All my solo adventures have put my legs more right than they have been, and for once I wasn’t waiting for the ride to end, too tired to do more than let the bike roll.
I led the line back to some familiar territory, but to a new trail most of them hadn’t seen before. I let the bike run, trying to forget I had brakes, and I didn’t care then if we ever got home.
At one point, I clipped a hidden rock with my pedal and slid into a comical crash coming up just short of smashing my face on a boulder. No harm. No foul. And I rode away again without even the momentary pause a crash usually gives you.
I’m not sure how I feel about riding in a group, even with friends. I like friends, obviously. I like riding. Sometimes we feel like a rambling mess in the woods, more trouble than we’re worth, and sometimes it’s just that magic trick where you’re all loping along like a pack of dogs, moving like one thing, tongues lolling, and a lot of nothing between your ears.