I’m often asked how it feels to be retired. For full disclosure, cycling contracts run the calendar year, January 1 — December 31, so I’m technically still employed as a professional cyclist through the end of 2015. I am practicing my hand at bocce as well as shuffleboard, plus I’ve been going to the communal dining hall around 4:30pm for dinner. Bed by 7:30pm, oh lordy, life is sweet.
More to the point, faux-retirement is pretty sweet. Although truth be told, so far this fall is pretty much the same as any fall of years past. I’ve been to Vegas, Tennessee, Virginia, New York City, Italy, New Hampshire, Vermont, Maine, and Massachusetts, and I’m off to California today, all since last pinning a number on my back in a race. Which might sound busy, but if you look at any of my past fall months while I was a training cyclist, this is exactly the same routine I’ve always taken part.
Professional cyclists are basically making up for lost time in that sliver of the calendar where we’re not occupied by training and team obligations. The best part about retirement, though, is that I’m allowed to ride during these awesome fall months instead of being barked at that it’s time to soak in some RnR and let your body heal. Without a racing season on the horizon, I’m able to ride for the love of the ride. Ride all over the northeast, the country, the world, just because I want to go for a ride.
And I do.
Although pretty much all of these photos are worthy of a half-hour story, here’s a story and picture that need a slightly longer explanation. I recently changed chains on my bike thanks to the generous overtime work of my friends at Exeter Cycles. I stomped on the pedals a few times in the days following and everything was in fine operating order. The metallic crisp buzz of the chain humming over the cassette I’m sure results in an extra dozen watts. Getting any sort of upgrade like that on a bike, be it new tires, new bar tape, or new cables all makes the bike feel lightning fast. It’s likely 97% mental, but I love the feeling of crisp new anything.
Anyway, I’m riding my bike a lot these days, although not doing intervals of any sort of specific sort. I’m often just riding along, but then I’ll hit a hill and want to go blisteringly hard, or sometimes I spin the highest cadence I can for 30 seconds, or sometimes I hammer out a solid tempo effort. Or often, I’m just JRA. Variety is, after all, the spice of life. I decided to jam out ferocious sprints whenever I came to a stop sign on this particular day, so after two successfully mighty sprints, I came to a stop sign, looked both ways, and emitted what felt like a million watts, but was likely just 1200’ish when the cranks violently stopped and I heard a devastating POP. I quickly pulled over and examined the damage, to find a fiercely kinked chain that was about 3 seconds away from being one long line instead of a chain connected.
Hmm. Without a chain tool, my options here were limited.*
It wouldn’t be my first time hitchhiking, and not my second nor third. But instead of thumbing a ride, with a little quick thinking I reached for my phone and called my friend Billy, who’s the affable mechanic at Exeter Cycles who likely was going to work at this very moment just a few miles away. In a moment of glory that goes down in my mind forever, just as Billy answered the phone, like an angle appearing from nowhere, a cyclist emerged from the driveway at which I was helplessly standing and said, “Hi Ted, do you need any help?”
This angel is named Diane and she brought me into her garage which I’ve ridden by a thousand times, but have never noticed is likely often open and teeming with bikes. She offered me coffee and then got her husband to say hello before I let her go off on her ride. It was just 9am on a weekday, after all, and I didn’t want to interfere with her ride any more. She took off and her husband and I then chatted for a while as I fixed my chain. He then offered me an espresso, which I graciously declined with my filthy greasy hands. But he did then remember something cool; he went rummaging around the garage for a moment and came back with a bike helmet. “Check this out” he said, extending the helmet to me, “you signed this for my son a few years ago.”
Bikes are awesome.
Angelic, coffee offering cyclists and biker-parents are awesome too.
*If you’re going to chime in about how and why I should carry a chain tool or say, “Hey Ted, always ride prepared. The Velominati tells you so!” save your time. I often do carry a chain tool, although not always. And with a proven brand new chain, I didn’t feel like bothering. And besides, who breaks a frigging chain?