“Hey, you still wanna ride? I’m off Friday.”
Even though we had discussed riding together a time or two, I was caught off-guard. I may have even blushed. Those first outdoors dates — be it for a backpack trip, to go climbing, to do a trail run — are fraught with tension. Are you as accomplished as you’ve let on? Can you really do 15-mile days in the Appalachians with a 35-pound pack? You may have done a 5.9 route, but that was 20 years and 30 pounds ago; can you do one today? And yes, you may have run 9-minute miles in a 10K — but that was on pavement, on a downhill course.
I’ve known Jason for at least a year, maybe two. I met him when he worked at Performance Bikes, always helpful with gear and patient to endure my latest tale from the trail. Then he showed up behind the counter at the local Bruegger’s, where I often work in the morning. We resumed our discussion of bikes, especially the mountain variety, to which we’re both partial.
This summer, I kept Jason updated on my training for ORAMM, he kept me apprised of his bike rebuild in anticipation of a trip out West this fall. We don’t speak directly to our abilities, but through what we do talk about — my bike “racing,” Jason’s rebuilding a lighter, faster bike — Jason, who is at least 20 years my junior, seems to think we’d be compatible on the trail. Which lead him to pop the question this morning.
“Sure, Friday’d be great,” I said. I then began combing through our past conversations to make sure I hadn’t oversold my skills. I’m pretty good at not doing that, at not portraying myself as something my physical appearance would suggest I’m not. I don’t think anyone has ever come away from a mountain bike conversation with me thinking, “Dang! That guy must be an animal.” And if there was an animal associated with the image they went away with it would be a flat one, on the roadway.
So … I’m a little nervous about our date to ride Friday morning.
For starters, with rare exception, the only person I’ve ridden with in several years has been Alan. And get that thought out of your head: Alan and I have an open riding relationship, he’ll be fine with me riding with Jason. I may not ride with other people but Alan, well, Alan will ride with anyone. Some weeks he may ride with five, six, seven different people. Sometimes he does rides with two different people in the same day. Sometimes he brings a friend along on our rides! And he loves a good group ride, the bigger the better. Not the lifestyle for me, but it works for him.
Me, I’m a little rusty in the company category.
What if we get out there and prove woefully incompatible. Fortunately, we’ve picked Harris Lake, a fairly neutral network, for our first ride. Good beginner warm-up loop that leads into a nice intermediate stretch. And with only a couple exceptions — some monster whoop-de-dos — the advance trail isn’t too technically taxing. I may not be the fastest guy around, but at Harris Lake I shouldn’t have to worry about embarrassing myself by getting off and walking. Still there’s the chance that after hitting the trail we may not see each other until we’re back to the trailhead, Jason leaning against his car, in his street clothes, checking his watch, waiting, as I hobble in exhausted. Awkward.
But you know, he’ll just have to accept me for the rider that I am. Maybe we finish up, talk about what a good ride it was, but secretly agree that it will never happen again. If that happens, fine. It’s not like I have to ride with someone else, that it someone how makes me a more complete cyclist. There’s nothing wrong with riding solo. Nothing at all.
Deep breaths, it’s just a ride. No worries.
Actually, there is one worry. I don’t have a decent kit to wear.