Cycling/bike racing is a sport that provides a diverse variety of opportunity and experiences. Travel, the unique local attractions, sights and culinary experiences of the bike race scene and comradery with like -minded people are just a few of those offered. I’ve done plenty and experienced much on my way through the circuit. However, cycling is not something I just stumbled on and decided to pursue on my own. You see, I come from a cycling family.
Imagine this, you are a middle-class family from Mid Michigan, planning a weekend get -away. You team up with your neighborhood friends and decide on a trip of camping and biking in Northern Michigan. Would you pedal your 1960, 3-speed Schwinn through the hills of Leelanau County, or out and back Old Mission Peninsula? My grandparents did and they lived and laughed to tell us about it. I have the legacy of biking in my family.
That same 1960 3-Speed Schwinn Traveler that rode through the hills of Leelanau, rode my mom to kindergarten. That bike was well cared for and preserved by my grandpa and my mom rides it to this day. Legacy.
It was during a recent return trip from St. Louis, MO, and the Gateway Cup that memories of great times biking as a family came to me. You see, there is a lot of car travel involved in bike racing, a LOT. It affords ample time for reflection and goal setting. Often, driving through certain landscapes or viewing landmarks will jog the memory of similar sights. This trip, it was a long drive through the corn fields of Southern Illinois that reminded me of another trip along roads lined with corn fields.
My brother had been able to travel from Tennessee to St. Louis to watch me race and catch up. It was a good time. This probably caused me to reminisce about other things we have done together, especially as kids. I remembered, with a chuckle, our very first road bike ride together. I was eleven years old, my brother thirteen and my Grandpa was still in his prime. I was able to use Grandpa’s road bike, a 1990’s, ten speed Univega. We had done plenty of riding about town with Grandpa, but this was a much bigger deal.
Our plan was to get up and out early in the morning, head out from Grandpa’s home and ride north 40 miles to the family cabin. Our preparation for this long ride? Well, this was prior to my knowledge of riding nutrition and hydration. We weren’t up on the latest sport drinks or gu packets needed for a 40 mile ride. We did however, set out with plenty of water and planned feed stops along the way. The first stop was 10 miles up the road at a local, rural diner. We carbed up with a large stack of pancakes, enough to fuel us through a long, windy stretch of farm land. Twenty miles to go until our next feed stop. This one happened to be at Grandpa’s buddy Bob’s place. Bob was an avid weekend triathlete. He knew a bit about the best fuel for our bodies, so this stop we filled up on Gatorade and bananas. After we caught our breath and visited with Bob, we saddled up and headed off for the last leg of our ride. Ten more miles to go until our destination. The mood was a bid more subdued those last ten miles. My brother and I were wondering what we had gotten ourselves into and Grandpa was good-heartedly goading us along the way. “Ya doin’ okay back there sweet peas?” Or, his famous reverse psychology routine, “if we stop at that house up ahead, I’ll bet they will let us use their phone and you could call Grandma to come get you.” Seriously! This guy never let up! All in love though, he would have never pushed us harder than he knew we could go. He also knew how those remarks would cause us to be even more determined to push on. And push on we did. We arrived at the cabin with plenty of day light left. Our recovery drink? The same that I use today: an ice cold Coke.
Cycling families tend to stay connected. I got another chance to catching with more of mine at the Detroit Cycling Championships. Which was another, not quite as long as the previous weekend’s, car ride away.