Sitting on a hybrid bike with mountain tires while wearing cargo shorts, leather gardening gloves, a hand-me-down helmet, and high-top Chuck Taylors perched on SPD pedals, I began to second guess my choice to ride.
All around, the Spandex crowd grew.
I don’t know why I expected a more casual scene. These people meant business.
A month earlier, I had decided I would join Bicycle Sport Shop’s 2012 Resolution Ride, the roughly 25- or 50-mile ride on New Year’s Day up Parmer Lane to Andice and back. I hoped to at least make it halfway.
I would cycle like a champ in an effort to pedal farther than I ever had up to that point. My distance record: 16 miles, which I did in 8-mile blocks. Separated by a 10-hour work day in which I sit at a computer. A ride I did about a half dozen times in the previous 20 days.
Maybe this was a bad idea.
Earlier that morning, as I pulled a scuffed Giant Boulder out of the hatchback of my Nissan Versa, gorgeous road bikes with names like Cervélo and Felt rolled by. I leaned the bike against my bumper, and when I bent back into the car to get my water bottle, Lupita crashed to the pavement.
This feels like a bad omen.
When everyone lined up, I shrank to the rear. I knew that’s where I’d end up anyway. I wasn’t there to race. I just wanted to make it to the halfway point and back without puking.
It wasn’t too late to put Lupita away and just grab the breakfast tacos and beer included with the registration fee.
Fuck that – I came to make a New Year’s commitment to ride a bike. Plus, that $15 fee wasn’t refundable, so I was going to get every penny’s worth, even if that meant I just went a few miles and back.
This ride would set in motion my goal to build enough endurance and equipment to go on an overnight cycle camping trip to McKinney Falls State Park before 2012 ended.
I can do this.
“All of you riders who are going to the halfway point,” someone called out. “Let’s see how many of those riders that go all the way get back before you.”
Can I do this?
The first few miles were easy and I remained mindful of my pace. The shoulder on Parmer Lane is wide and there were lots of other cyclists, so the cars that trucks that zoomed by didn’t seem to be a problem.
On occasion, groups of rides would cruise past me, presumably having gotten a late start. It didn’t take long for me to realize I really was the last person.
There were cyclists working the ride, and they’d occasionally loop around to make sure the stragglers were still alive.
Just keep pedaling.
After I crossed 1431, I really started noticing the hills. And the car traffic got faster.
One mind trick I read about helped. I focused on a point in the near distance, and thought only about riding to that point. Once I reached it, I’d find another point. That fence post. The top of this hill.
It worked until the tops of hills revealed a series of other, larger hills. I felt my energy waning.
I didn’t bring anything to eat and only had one water bottle, which I was draining fast.
I can do this.
Humor helped. Somewhere around East Crystal Falls Parkway, about mile 6, I noticed some cows near the fence line. I had been trailing a woman and tried to keep pace with her. As we crossed in front of the heard, a cow bellowed.
I busted out laughing, which caught the woman’s attention.
“The cow said mooove on over, I’m coming through,” I said as I picked up the pace and passed her with a big grin.
The woman looked like I had just pissed in her water bottle.
Did she think I was calling her a cow?
Just keep going.
I kept my pace up partly because I didn’t want to be last any more, but also because I didn’t want to see her give me the stink eye again.
Crossing the San Gabriel River was a triumph because I knew that meant I had gone about three-quarters of the distance to the turnaround, Highway 29.
Hilly road, cars, and grass started to blur. It all looked the same.
The halfway point didn’t feel nearly as triumphant as I pictured. I was grateful for the water and snack, but knowing I had to ride more than 12 miles back demoralized me.
Not long after I started back, some really fast cyclists passed me as if I were standing still. It felt almost pointless to continue, because it was so far away. I was hungry, tired, and just wanted to stop.
Thinking about the cow cracked me up again.
Some real slow pokes appeared on the way back. Maybe they turned back before the halfway point. Maybe the weren't part of the ride. Somehow, passing them made me feel better.
I just zoned out on pedaling. Watching the asphalt, cracks, and grass go by. Before I knew it, I had passed Crystal Falls.
More than halfway back.
By the time I reached 1431 with only about 2 miles left to go, I had drained my water bottle again. I stopped at a convenience store to buy an almond Snickers and a bottle water. On the way out, stink eye managed a faint smile. She caught up to me.
The final two miles were great. Traffic on Parmer had picked up so cyclists were clustering up. I caught up to a group of about 20 and pedaled like crazy. In no time, another 20 joined the group.
This is fantastic!
At the end of a 25-mile ride, I gobbled up two black bean tacos and downed several beers.
I didn't get back on my bike for several days because I pushed myself harder than I had before. I didn't actually make it cycle camping to McKinney Falls, but it set the tone for the year, not just for my life on two wheels, but in just about every other way.
Before long, I started riding the Thursday Night Social Ride, tinkering with bike trailers, and finding reasons to cycle. The Resolution Ride taught me to push myself harder and farther than I thought I could. For the 2013 ride, six friends joined me.
It showed me how to dig deep when I help Recycle-A-Tron haul cans, pickup compostable material for Compost Coalition Austin, and pull my dog Kimbo in a trailer. And to think I almost backed out of that first ride.
-Joseph de Leon
Joseph is the coordinator for Keep Austin Fed and volunteers on the TNSR roadside assistance and recycling crew.