I went out for a ride yesterday in the Berkeley Hills. A short, slow ride due to the fact I haven’t really ridden for weeks. Near the top of Spruce Street, one of the main routes into the hills from the north side of town, a guy passed me and said, “Nice bike.” I looked over and he, like me, was riding a Bridgestone RB-1, which is kind of a cult classic steel production bike. “You, too,” I said. I’m given to talking to other cyclists when I’m out riding, so I sped up just enough to keep up with him. In just a few minutes, after we had hit the top of Spruce and turned on to Grizzly Peak Boulevard, I had learned that his wife had given him a dirty look when he left the house (“full of screaming kids,” he said) for his short ride and that “many moons ago” he had ridden for Harvard’s cycling team.
“It was a club sport, and we were part of something called the Eastern Collegiate Cycling Association. Twelve schools. As far south as Virginia and as far north as New Hampshire. In the winter we did lots of indoor workouts. Our coach would put on rollers. New Hampshire was tough — the mountains up there, and I think they all did cross-country skiing, too. One time we had a three-way meet — New Hampshire, us, and Columbia. All the New Hampshire guys finished together in front. Five minutes later, we all finished together. Then we went in and got something to eat and took showers, then wandered back out to see the wreckage of the Columbia team coming in. They just didn’t have any chance to train outdoors before the race.”
And so on. The whole time I had been conscious of riding fast enough to keep up with him. I was just trying to keep up a nice quick spin on the very gradual incline of Grizzly Peak. After about five or six minutes of this pleasant cycling talk, another cyclist, a non-Bridgestone rider, passed us. My companion’s response was dramatic: Without a word, he accelerated from our conversational pace to not just catch up with the new rider, but pass him, too. Not that he was in great shape to do it — he’d been complaining about his conditioning. But apparently, he found something a little intolerable about getting passed, even on a pretty Sunday afternoon on which there was nothing to do but enjoy the ride and sunshine. The funny thing was, he continued leading the second rider for all of about a quarter mile, then turned off onto a side street, apparently to head downhill and home.
I thought, see ya, bud; nice talking to you, too.