Dipping Your Toes

Written by Patrick Stelte - April 2017

el presidente

A favorite idiom of mine is “dipping your toes.” Caution is often applied by children when starting something new or exposed to unfamiliar situations. Being careful is a measure we all practice before we find confidence to go forward. Trying something new always starts with dipping your toes. We all experienced that first group ride nervousness when we looked over the parking lot at the other riders, but our desire to “dip our toes” conquered the anxiety.

April is prime time for toe dipping. We have spent the winter in cycling hibernation. Some put the bike up in October temporarily  trading it for a gym membership and a spin class on a devise that has no memories other than a glassy-eyed business transaction between body and soul. Others have been saddled to an anchored horse, fixed to unchanged scenery sansa monitor or television screen that transports them to an altered reality. But spring is here. The sun is angling at celestial singularities that wake up the rapture of renewal. Shadows cast further into the evening are like songbirds calling for a mate. Our cycle-biorhythm is attuned to such elemental signs.

With our wanderlust piqued thoughts of feline adventure crackles old habits. Is the bike in working condition? What will I wear? Where will I ride? What have I forgotten and can I remember? With a ride and a few more, the desire for shared experience expands the quest for adventure. Social media offers suggestions and illustrations of others in cycling heat . Ride leaders are summoned to set the herd on course. Group rides become circles on the mental calendar. Who is meeting where and when matters. For club members, April is the start of ride season. As club touring director Steve Pequignot notes in is newsletter article this month, toe dipping starts on Sunday, April 8 th . Weekly rides begin shortly thereafter. Excitement is in the air with spring smells and sounds.

However, a fair warning is afoot. Spring is crash season. Months away from riding side-by-side with others has rusted the senses, straightened the elbows, and dithered focus. I will start my twelfth riding season with the club – a neophyte to many – and I can painfully attest to the yearly ritual of happenstance. It will take a number of weeks until everyone has their“legs” a level of fitness that gives confidence inside the group.

Until then, vigilance is what I can offer. Be mindful of your surroundings: who is in your group, the quality of the pavement, your own fitness limitations, and the weather conditions. Wind can wreak havoc on aspiring ride fracturing uneven abilities and thrusting a surprise in a blink of an eye. Focus is the key. Lose it and you could be rubbing the tire in front of you followed by an over-reaction and fall to the pavement. Although I am sounding a siren call for the dangers of riding with others, I want to remind everyone of the virtues of group riding, mainly, the help of others. You are not alone and desire to nurse the wounded is strong in cycling. I have witnessed many wonderful acts of kindness and responsibility. There are no strangers at an accident.

Every spring, there is a time when I am riding alone and thinking about the new se  as on a  stir. Mostly, I think about the new cyclists I will meet. There have been so many over the years. The personalities, abilities and shared adventures sear my memory. Some have come back year after year and others for a short, but indelible while. I was such a cyclist just like everyone else. I was in the parking lot measuring bikes and perceived fitness. The caution was palpable. My heart raced with anticipation for something new and fear of not measuring up. Now, I look back with countless experiences under my wheels and feel buoyant for dipping my toes.