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Life in the Bike Lane

Cycling Milestones

By: Tom Frady
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There is a difference between goals and milestones.  One sets the former; the latter just happen.  In retirement, I’m not really a goal-oriented person but here are few of my personal milestones.  You might have your own. 

Maybe the biggest milestone for most riders is that first century. Riding 100 miles on a bike is a big deal.

I had been riding for a couple of years when I attempted my first one, the Indian Valley Century in Plumas County, where I resided at the time.  I rode with a couple of friends and made a couple more during the ride.

The route is relatively flat for the first 35 miles, then a tough climb followed by a long downhill and back the same 35 miles.  I remember heading to the finish after the last rest stop, knowing it was an easy route home and I was going to make it. 

I did that ride for nine consecutive years.  Five of those years featured bitter cold, rain and/or snow. 

Milestone number 2 didn’t happen overnight.  But I do remember a few years ago thinking about how people were coming to me – me! – for advice about cycling.  I’m not a bike guru but some of my friends who aren’t cyclists wanted tips about purchasing a new bike, either for themselves or their kids.  Now, after about 15 years of riding, I have just enough knowledge to be dangerous about bike components, local roads and cycling apparel.  I have actually read up on California bike and traffic laws.  I get my share of chances to impart that wisdom. 

On some Saturdays, I ride with a group of folks, mostly out of Sacramento, who are training for the annual AIDS/LifeCycle, a ride from San Francisco to Los Angeles.  Because I have done this ride many times and sometimes don’t (read: never) shave on Saturdays, I am seen as the “grizzled veteran.”

It’s a role I enjoy, since it carries with it very little responsibility and in this one case, I know about what I am talking.  I try to make any advice sound like it comes straight from Yoda and tend to call the younger riders “grasshopper.”

Sharing one’s experience and knowledge is just one of the good aspects about riding with a group.  While one never stops learning, there comes a time when the output exceeds the intake. 

A “kit” is what cyclists call those funny clothes they wear.  Technically, I think, the jersey/shorts/jacket/socks all match, like you would see riders in the Tour de France wear.  Kits usually represent a team or at least a bike shop. 

Milestone number 3, my first kit, was in 2013, after over a decade of cycling.  Wells Fargo, the team with whom I ride on AIDS/LifeCycle each year, supplies each of us matching shorts and jersey every other year.  I used to say you had better be a pretty good rider if you are going to wear a team kit.  I guess it’s not true.

The first time you receive a bike-themed gift from a friend or family member is a sign you are now seen as a cyclist.  Milestone number four.  Few will be able to pass any bike-patterned anything without thinking of you.  I don’t remember when I first reached this milestone, but from where I sit at this moment, I can see two posters, one grandkid drawing, one statue, a vintage tube repair kit and bike license plate, a picture frame, seven bike knick-knacks, one post card, one bike-labeled wine bottle (empty), five books and two pillows. This doesn’t include what I’ve added or stuff in other parts of the house and garage.

Your milestones may be different. The first 0-mph fall, buying a car specifically because your bike will fit in it or the first time you head to the gym to work on your core muscles. 

Your milestones may be different but you’ve got ‘em. 

Tom Frady is a Lincoln resident and avid cyclist and driver.