At 9 AM my friend, John, will head into St. Francis for surgery to repair a broken collar bone. It will be his first time to go under the knife. When I talked to him yesterday, he was nervous and excited — but more just relieved that it would soon be over. Here’s to quick and solid healing to one of the guys that has most influenced me on the bike.
I first met John in the early 90s when I was in grad school. Newly married with no kids, I got me a mountain bike to ride some of the trails that existed back in those days. It was the first time riding a bike since my early childhood.
It was Mike McMillan that invited me to join the shop crew on some of the rides on Piney Mountain (yes, there used to be mountain bike trails where George Hincapie’s house is now located) and sneaking into the back of Paris Mountain State Park to ride on the fire roads. John was in the group, but I thought he was a mute. He didn’t talk much and he seemed to have one expression on his face all the time.
After a time, I eased off of the shop rides. They were just way to fast and technical for me! I started to do more riding by myself as I tried to improve my handling and endurance. Of course, the headquarters for all of this was Sunshine Cycle Shop.
Then I had kids, started a business, got involved in politics, and all kinds of other stuff. It wasn’t long before the bike was gathering dust in the garage. It was actually a vintage Vespa that brought me back into the shop. Mike McMillan was trying to help me get it running.
That introduced me once again to the bicycle. However, this time it was a road bike. I found it was a bit easier to keep up with the group and that is when I started to get to know John a little better.
At first it wasn’t very positive. I thought John was a snob. Turns out, he didn’t think that much of me either. He thought I was one of those flash-in-the-pan riders that would never learn anything and just be in the way.
At first I just avoided him on rides. However, as I slowly started to get stronger, I would end up around him more and more. I also started to hang out at the shop a bit asking questions about how I could be a better rider.
It wasn’t long before I learned that first impressions — even ones that go on for awhile — can’t always be trusted. Ultimately, it was John who ended up making me believe that I could actually ride the bike quite well. He was the one that took me under his wing to explain how you are supposed to behave in a group ride — or race.
That is really one of the great things about cycling. It is an activity that gives you common ground with people across social, cultural, and personality divides. Before long you find that you are knocking down some of your preconceived notions and you discover a friend.
John will probably kill me for posting this. He doesn’t like the attention. Maybe that is why I’m enjoying doing it!
Thanks, John, for being a mentor and a friend. Get that collar bone set and get better soon. Summer is coming and I’ll miss you on the Thursday night death march!