I’m in California this week on a family trip, from which I stole a morning and did the classic ride up and around the Marin County’s Mt. Tamalpais. The climb started in the dark forest, eventually opening into the sun-drenched hills that buffer the Pacific Ocean. The metaphor was clear: I was climbing out of the darkness of my northwest hibernation and into the light of a new cycling season. Sure, I’ve been riding all winter, but the majority of those miles have been pushing the flat pedals of my long-tail as I take my son to school. This was a return to cleats, carbon, and the almighty V-kit. It felt good.
The bike I rented from ACME cycles, a Foundry frame with Shimano 105 components, was an odd fit. An insufficient drop, saddle-to-bars, for starters. That didn’t bother me for long though. I passed a deer early in the climb, who looked up at me with those ever-vacant eyes. He seemed to say, slowly “Wha? It’s a bike, fool”. “Fair enough,” I thought, it was a bike indeed.
I reached a viewpoint and looked down on Stinson Beach, where I had surfed the day before, and I felt the full swing of summer. The sun was in every pore now and the pedals were swinging underneath me.
As I neared to top of Mt. Tam, however, my climber’s high fell away to fatigue. I began to lament my meager fitness, and my California dreaming drifted in a darker direction. What if I worked less and rode more? What if I lived in a place like this, where I could ride big climbs right from my back door? What if I could fully realize the innate combination of endurance and arrogance I was seemingly born with? These are the daydreams of a middle-aged man on an expensive rental bike, to be sure.
I crested the summit and looked out to San Francisco Bay, the bridges, and the city. I finished the last of my water and deployed my vest for the chilly decent. I stowed my daydreams in favor of the present. I had my health, and enough fitness to get up here. I was alive. And I was on bike. This was, and is, enough.