As the story goes, one that’s told often around the holidays, a story of which I have no recollection… when I was 6-years old, I got exactly what I wanted for Christmas, a shiny, new red bike. It also just so happened that the weather on that Christmas day was nice enough for me to take that new bike out for a spin. I was a bit of a daredevil, and I tore out my front door like a mini Evel Knievel. I rode that bike right off the front porch…down the concrete steps I went. No helmet in those days of course, only my Kelly green Eagles knit hat with a white fuzzy ball on top. Definitely not enough protection to keep me from getting a baseball sized knot on my head and smashing my face such that my bottom teeth came through my bottom lip when I hit the sidewalk. I believe that bump on my head would come to explain a lot of my future decision making and perceptions later in life. At least that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.
The bike was as mangled as I was. And that mangled bike wound up in our basement never to be repaired. And no matter how many times after that I would ask Santa for a new bike, I never again saw one under the tree. Actually, from that day forward, I was forbidden from ever riding a bike. Period. My mother had an uncanny psychic ability to know even if I’d taken a spin on a buddy’s bike. How did she know? I grew up in tight knit neighborhood and we were always under someone’s watchful eye. News traveled fast. I think this was the real first social network. The Facebook of my youth.
Not having a bike never really presented me with that much of a problem. My whole world was within walking distance. Or, for me, running distance. Just like Forrest Gump, if I was going somewhere “I was runnin”. I ran to school. I ran to the corner store. I ran all day at the playground. And as I got older, perhaps as a teenager enjoying a quart of beer in the park, my running proved a quick getaway from the local police. I’m sure it was that same neighborhood social network that took this news like that right back home where my unamused father would be waiting for me at the door
Fast forward, as an adult my go to exercise, of course, was running. I like the convenience of being able to just lace up my running shoes and head out the door. My wife Gwen after years of spinning and enjoying her hybrid got herself a road bike. She was riding with Team Evesham a few times a week. She would always tell me about how much she loved riding and about all of the great people she’d met on the road. She would try to coax me to come along, but given the choice of heading out the door at 0700 on a Sunday morning vs couch time with a cup of coffee and a newspaper, seemed like an easy choice to me. I would take my time and then head out the door for a typical Sunday run. I enjoyed the physical exertion of running, that runners’ high. I thought to myself, why ride? How hard could cycling be? If you get tired, all you have to do is switch gears! However, not the young pup I used to be, continuous running had started to take its toll. I started to feel beat up. The more Gwen told me about the joy of cycling, the challenging workout that it actually is, I finally conceded and decided to give it a try. Plus, she was relentless. I have a hybrid that I bought prior to and rode in the 2011 5 Boros Bike NYC (where I met future Team Evesham friends like Rich Bernstein and Brad Davis to name a few) but after that I rode it sparingly only for recreation.
So, it was just three years ago that I bought my first road bike. I wasn’t ready to jump into cycling with both feet. So, I searched Craigslist, and found a reasonably priced road bike (which I’m still riding today) and showed up on a Sunday morning for my first TE ride. I was happy to find that everything Gwen told me about cycling with Team Evesham was true. What a great group of people. I met more people on that first day than names I could ever remember. Everyone was very welcoming and helpful. For instance, on that first ride someone asked “where’s your gloves?”. I didn’t have gloves. A nice guy by the name of Brad Lloyd overheard and went into the trunk of his car and gave me a pair. Well, I hope he “gave” them to me… otherwise; I’m about three years overdue with paying him back.
I realized I had a lot to learn about group rides. I learned the rules of the road, rider etiquette, rider safety and how to look out for each other….chamois glide! I learned how to clip in. More importantly than that, after a couple of slow motion falls, I learned how to clip out. It was not soon after, that I participated in my first Team Evesham charity ride, The Pub Ride. The team took good care of me on my first long distance ride…coaching, drafting, encouraging, making that long ride fun.
Later that same summer, I was asked to consider participating in the MS Ride. Gwen had done the century the previous year. I waited for her at the finish line. I was so proud. 100 miles!! Wow! It was really cool to see Team Evesham roll across the finish line together and to see the faces of the crowd, many of who were afflicted with MS. Cheering. Saying Thanks. Celebrating the team’s arrival. It was a very emotional experience. So, when there was talk about doing the MS Ride, I was in. Since I’d done the Pub Ride, 65 miles, I felt confident in my ability to do 75 miles. I made the mistake of making that declaration in the company of Dave Thompson, Gwen, and Brett Wartenberg and when I said I was in (for 75); Brett looked at me and said “I think I see 100 miles in those legs”. And since he’s a Chiropractor, how could I ever dispute that? So with that, 100 it was. Just as I expected, Team Evesham was incredibly supportive. I needed every bit of it. When we got to Ocean City, Sandy Student directed that the new riders cross the finish line first. I was really proud to lead the team and feel a part of everything that I’d witnessed the previous year as a spectator. I felt very fortunate and humbled in that moment. We were doing something good!
Last year, the weather prevented us from participating in the MS Ride. Gwen and I were very disappointed because now the ride has taken on new meaning to us. Just last year we found out that my sister was diagnosed with MS. I’m thankful that Team Evesham gives us the opportunity to support a cause that is near and dear to us. I’ll ride this year with that special significance in my heart.
So… why do I ride? I ride to share quality time with my wife doing something that I know she is so passionate about. I ride with many, many people, whom I now call good friends, friendships that now go well beyond cycling. I’ve become a better runner which is still my passion. The combination of cycling and running has made me a better athlete. In fact, I’ve run faster times in each race that I’ve competed in since I started cycling including multiple 5Ks, 10Ks, Broad Street Runs and a half-marathon. Imagine that, getting better with age?! That in itself is a reason to ride. Also, I think am more charismatic, smarter and more handsome since I started cycling……..or perhaps that’s just that ole bump on the head talking?!