Bike Lane

So there I was at seven thirty in the a.m., perched on my scooter at an intersection waiting to turn. I was sitting at the lights lost in my own thoughts when all of a sudden I became aware of a presence… no, not a poltergeist; a bloke on a mountain bike had pulled up along side me.

Three feet away.
Coulda touched him.
Game face on… waiting for the green signal.
Like an Olympian waiting for the starters gun.
Focused.
Committed.
And dressed atrociously.
Didn’t matter… it’s all about function.
I actually laughed in my helmet, he looked so funny.
(No, he didn’t hear me).

Here’s the picture:
Chubby guy, maybe thirty five years old and twenty kilos (44lbs) overweight.
Ten year-old bike (at least) accessorised with one of those white and yellow foam helmets from the eighties strapped too tightly around his unshaven cheeks.
Kind of like a chubby Adam Sandler.

Some twenty five year-old sneakers providing a home to two lovely brown business socks!
A sweat-stained grey training-shirt, not quite covering the totality of his ample tummy.
Some too-small black track pants revealing some pretty significant (and hairy) calves and just a hint of ass-crack.
Nice.
Classy.

All in all, quite the picture.
So glad I hadn’t eaten.

I looked over at him.
He looked back.
I gave the obligatory head nod.
As us hard-core(!) scooter riders do.
He looked back, smiled and opened his mouth to speak.

‘He’s up for a chat’, I thought.

I lifted up the visor on my helmet.

“G’day Mate”.
“G’day.”
“How’s the scooter go?”
“Yeh, pretty well.”
“That’s what I need; a motor.”
“You’re doing okay.”
“I’m givin’ it a crack anyway..”
“In training for something?”
“Yep, gettin’ married in six weeks.”
“How’s the progress?”
“Great, lost six kilos (13lbs) in three weeks so far.”
“Good for you man, that’s awesome.”

He certainly was ‘giving it a crack’ and he turned out to be a really nice guy.

Just then the lights turned green and a large group of cyclists (all on their five thousand dollar road bikes and clad in the obligatory lycra) sped through the intersection heading into the city. Lance Armstrong (my new friend) and I pulled away from the lights and the funniest thing ever happened… Lance decided that he would attach himself to the back of the peloton (bunch of cyclists) and ride with them!!

This was amusing for all kinds of reasons… but here are my top five.

  1. He was out of shape and relatively unfit – they were all serious, fit riders.
  2. His bike was worth fifteen bucks (max), weighed fifty pounds, had knobbies (off-road tyres) and a bell.
  3. They were all ‘in uniform’ and he looked like he’d just escaped from a shelter.
  4. His helmet made him look like he was about to be shot out of a cannon.
  5. He wasn’t one bit worried about what anyone thought – I loved that about him.

So we were off…
Lance and I followed the pretty boys on their over-priced ‘Giants’ and ‘Cannondales’ down the road.
His legs pumped like angry little pistons and I laughed so much that my helmet started to fog up.
Within one minute he had caught the group and I thought he was about to expire.
I tried to recall my first-aid… “is it five compressions per breath… or four?”
He looked in pain.

“C’mon Big Fella”, I yelled through my helmet.

His work rate increased.
He was lovin’ the love.
I decided not to overtake the group (not hard to do considering I was the only one with a motor) and to coach my boy to the next set of lights.
Such fun.
Lance and I sat at the back of the pack, I offered more encouragement and his rapidly fatiguing pistons continued to pump.

About two km’s (just over a mile) into the journey he turns and yells to me “how fast am I going?”
How funny is that?
I laughed my guts out.
Again.
Only an Aussie bloke who’s near death would still care about… ‘how fast he’s riding’.
If he was a she… not a chance.

I looked at my speedo.
“About forty (25mph).”
“I’m flying.”
(more laughs)
“Yes, you are..”

And with those words.. the big man started to ‘hit the wall’.
His legs began to turn to rubber, his pink cheeks started to turn a lovely shade of grey and the friendly dialogue came to a standstill.

Lance began to drop off the back of the pack.

“Champ… don’t let those pretty boys get away.”
He mustered one final heroic burst, kind of like Sly in the first Rocky movie (the only good one) and momentarily caught the group again… he hung on for a bit and then surrendered to his screaming body.

He was exhausted but triumphant.
Strangely, I understood his triumph.
To anyone else, me and my chubby athlete would have been a bizarre sight, but to us it was a significant moment.

The ex-fat kid (me) was delighted to invest five minutes into the friendly chubby guy ‘training’ for his wedding day.

We pulled up at the next set of lights and Lance was breathing like an eighty year-old smoker with emphysema.
But he was happy.

“Thanks Man.”
“You’re welcome… keep up the great work and have fun on the big day.”
“I will…”

We exchanged a few more pleasantries, the lights turned green, we gave the alpha-male nod and I left the exhausted, but happy, groom-to-be to finish his training session.

I rode away with a big smile on my face.
He was happy, I was happy… and the ‘real’ cyclists thought we needed help.

As I continued my journey, I thought about what Lance had taught me:

1) It’s really easy to connect with people when we want to – especially when we make it about them.
2) Everyone responds to encouragement.
3) Most people like some attention and care.
4) It’s amazing what a little support (even from a stranger) can do to a person’s level of performance.
5) When we slow down and notice what (and who) is around us, there are lessons to be learned.
6) Helping a stranger can make me feel better than helping myself.

Thanks Lance.
Enjoy your wedding day and your life with Mrs Lance.

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