When a man’s thoughts turn to...bikes! Yeah, I know, it used to be romance, but any more, it’s a bike that provides the diversion and escape I need in order to keep sane. Not that romance is a diversion, but there is an element of escape involved. So instead, I escape into oxygen debt, into vistas just over the next rise, into jumps and lines that offer up the big grin factor. Recently, I had a chance to tag along with a cadre of young turks on an urban assault ride, watching drop jawed as they made moves that both gravity and common sense defy. Good times.
I still think the best way to improve on the bike is to ride with folks who are better than you, because they raise the bar, and even if you’re just trying to keep up, you improve. I learned this lesson long ago, when our weekly urban assault rides left from Mike’s garage every Thursday night, hitting the same loop of steps, gaps and jumps on the campuses of CMU and Pitt that are still being ridden today. It’s interesting to compare the talent and technology represented by these disparate groups, separated by 15 or so years. The talent: young, energetic, with BMX-inspired moves and the ability to think like an individual, not content to just follow the masses. This reqiurement doesn’t seem to have changed over the years. The technology: back then, these cats were riding 24” “cruisers” modified with a five speed derailleur. Today, the young guns are pushing hard tails with 5” travel forks, running a single speed with no front brakes. Hardly an easy comparison, yet the 26” wheeled hard tails of today, with their sloping top tubes, mimic the geometry of the BMX cruisers that were used then. The lines ridden haven’t changed much over the years, but the jumps are much bigger, thanks in part to suspension and a generous dose of raw talent.
I find now, just as I did then, that riding with a group of this caliber gives me the confidence to go just a little bigger than I would on my own. I study the lines that they take and realize I can do that, too. So it comes down to confidence, oddly enough the same requirement for romance. Gee, maybe in addition to group rides, I should try some group dates. A little something to egg on my confidence. Just like the song says, I get by with a little help from my friends.
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