This past Sunday, a friend that I've been trying to get into cycling for years finally came out and joined my bike club for a ride. It was a new old experience.
Ken was on a 12-speed hybrid with flat pedals and a rusty chain, wearing a pair of bike shorts and sleeveless jersey that another friend -- Mark Newland -- had loaned him that morning. While I know Ken from work, Mark knows Ken as a long-time student in his Zumba classes; thus, he knew that Ken easily had the fitness to go the distance.
We did the Pancake Ride, which is a fairly laid-back 25-mile loop from a school parking lot in Franklin down to Puckett's Grocery in Leiper's Fork. It's mostly flat, unless you go up Parker's Branch Road on the way down. You also have to climb a hill we call "Dolly" on the way back.
Mark and I introduced Ken to a lot of folks in the parking lot, but once the ride got going it was soon down to the three of us trailing the pack. That was okay with us, however, since it gave us a chance to talk Ken through some of the tricky parts of cycling. Shift up just before the hill. Go single-file when somebody yells "Car Back!" What it means when somebody points to something on the road.
These are all things that experienced riders like Mark and me take for granted, but passing it on to Ken helped us better think them through. I found myself thinking about my pedaling stroke and where my weight was on the bike ... things that don't usually come to mind during the summer, but we sometimes try to work on during the winter.
About five miles in, soon after turning on to Boyd Mill Road, we stopped to raise Ken's saddle about four inches. It was his first time in that part of Franklin, and he was enjoying the beauty of the rolling fields and countryside. I showed him where Michael McDonald of the Doobie Brothers used to live, and the spot where I had seen baby turkey chicks earlier that morning.
We came up on some riders in our group fixing a flat and stopped to help. Ken got to see how this was done, and I showed him the Rube Goldberg device that we call a "multi-tool." We explained what he probably should carry in his seat bag to fix the things that typically happen on a ride. Most important, however, was that he got to see that cyclists are all brothers, and that we stop and help each other when we can.
When we got to Old Hillsboro Road, Ken said that he wanted to do the part of the route where we climb Parker's Branch Road. He had to walk the last bit of it, but was smiling as he got to the top. After rolling along at the top of the ridge there, was came down via Old Hwy 96 and Ken got to work on his descending skills.
"That was fun!" he said with a big grin as he rolled past.
"That's why we climb hills," I yelled, laughing.
When we stopped at Puckett's for a break, Ken was asking about bike shops and what he needed to buy next. If cycling is an addiction, I think that Mark and I had given Ken his first "hit." Even though he was only half-way through that day's ride, but was already looking forward to the next one.