JOINING A DIFFERENT KIND OF PELOTON
recently, i received a special package - a new cycling kit. getting new kit is always fun, but THIS kit is extra special. to help you understand what this kit means to me, let me take you on a journey, a journey that requires going back to 2002.
i was just re-discovering the bike after losing my way during my adolescence. prior to 2002, i had never put on lycra. clipless pedals? nope. nutrition and hydration while riding? you have to worry about that? but there i was diving in headfirst unaware just how deep the water was. i found out quickly i was in over my head, but i was in denial. being fiercely independent (and maybe stubborn sometimes), i believed my will alone would help me prevail. after all, it had gotten me this far in life. however, my journey on the bike was fraught with humbling lesson after humbling lesson. i'll never forget the first time i bonked. or the first time i found myself very under-dressed in adverse weather. or the first time i saw a little hill and thought, this can't be hard.
occasionally after a particularly humbling lesson, self doubt would rear its ugly head and i would consider giving it all up, but ultimately something kept drawing me back to my bike. but, as much as i was learning (often the hard way), there remained a void i was keenly aware of -- i was/had been riding in a never ending solo breakaway.
as i got more and more into cycling, i realized i didn't fit nicely within a single "user group." i didn't consider myself a commuter though i used my bike for transportation. i wasn't a roadie, yet all i did was ride on the road. I wasn't a racer though i liked to race against myself (side note: i do race cyclocross now, though badly i might add). while i valued my independence, i also wanted to fit in. i was jealous of those pacelines that passed me or the groups of twos and threes i saw out on the road engaged in deep conversation, brief snippets overheard as our paths crossed and then silence again. i yearned to join a peloton of my own but after several years of trying out teams, doing charity rides, etc. i still found myself out on my own.
in 2012, ten years after i had gotten back into cycling, i checked out a shop ride hosted by my favorite shop in seattle. the guys i met there were different. they were all strong (stronger than i) and obviously talented on the bike, yet none had egos. i started riding as many of the shop rides as possible, and friendships started to forge. soon, two-wheeled adventures outside of those regular shop rides started taking place.
while each of the guys in that group came from different backgrounds, i like to think we all shared a similar ethos about cycling and life in general. and what made this group exceptional is that while any one of the guys could be the strongest rider on the road on a particular day, they found strength in riding together versus against each other. one could always count on someone being there offering encouragement -- be it a spare tube, a gentle push, shelter from the wind, or well timed conversation to take your mind off the pain. the more i rode with these guys, the more i found myself loving the bike -- i was constantly finding new ways to be inspired and motivated.
which brings me full circle back to the kit i spoke about at the beginning. in the past 18 months or so, not only has this band of cyclists grown in number but its identity has also strengthened. so much so that the idea for a "team" kit took shape last fall. and now, it's finally here for everyone to wear. including me. you see, i finally found my peloton and that is why THIS kit is so special.
if you'd like to see what we're up to, follow #nativeinthewild on twitter and you can be assured there'll be more from us about our little project in 2014.