Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Happy New Year

I closed the shop doors for the last time on Saturday the 22nd of December and the next day Clare and I flew to Spain to spend Christmas with our son Michael and his family in Girona.

The final Saturday was a good day. Many friends came by to wish me well, enjoy a celebratory drink, and reminisce about time spent in the shops. It was a shame that Tom was not there. He had been with me for 17 years and he certainly deserved many of the thanks and good wishes. Tom has moved on to a new career but I hope that he hasn’t left the bike for good and that we shall see him out again before too long.

We have had a wonderful Christmas in Girona with Michael, Dede, Liam and Ashlin. Michael is training hard with four or five hour rides most days. I’ve managed a few rides of two or three hours but I am pretty unfit and I am certainly struggling on the hills. However the weather is great and it is a real treat to be able to get a few rides in at this time of year.

On a couple of the rides I started out with Michael and turned off after a half hour or so. One day, when he didn’t need to train hard he rode two hours with me. Of course it is always a treat to ride with one’s son especially in such wonderful countryside. It is also a treat because he never makes me feel as if I’m holding him back. We ride side beside, elbows almost touching, chatting. At least he is chatting I’m often finding it a bit difficult to chat when I’m climbing the hills. What a great way to spend some time with one’s son, just doing what we both enjoy most in life.

This got me thinking. It seems to me that many cyclists do not experience what is to me probably the finest aspect of cycling. That is riding in company in a tight group, side by side, enjoying one another’s company. Most cyclists I see are riding separate. Even those that are obviously out "together" are not riding close enough to chat or perhaps more importantly, not getting the drafting advantage of riding close behind a rider in front. A group of six or more is ideal with the riders in pairs riding two abreast, never three. The lead is shared with the front pair swinging off and going to the back of the group after perhaps a kilometer or two. The time at the front will change depending upon the conditions. If there is a strong head wind then time at the front will be less. If conditions are really favourable then the lead will change less often. If one of the riders is having a hard time then he/she should be sheltered at the back out of the wind. In this manner distances can be covered more easily and more enjoyably.

In recent years we have had many people taking up cycling that have never had the benefit of an organized club or have come to road cycling from mountain biking or triathlon neither of which discipline encourages group riding. Also it seems that to many cycling is just a way to get fit. What a lot they are missing, as there are so many aspects to cycling that they will never experience. Riding together in a close group is probably the most important.

Here in Girona everyday we see a group of retired men that meet to ride. There are about twenty of them, most in their sixties and seventies, they meet at a local bar/cafÈ and finish their ride at the same spot. They ride out in a group for about thirty of forty kilometres to a restaurant where they have a very social hefty Catalan lunch and perhaps a drink or two before riding home. They return home after spending a few hours in conversation with friends and having got in some good exercise. Not a bad way to spend your day. I’m sure that most get encouragement from both their doctors and their wives but foremost I think ride because they love the social aspects.

I started cycling with a club in London, England and I was immediately taught the benefits of group riding. Of course it takes a while before one is comfortable riding close to others but with a little practice it becomes second nature and you will get so much more enjoyment from this wonderful sport and pastime.

We return home to Canada in a couple of days. It will be strange not having to be at the shop everyday. I will however, still have some mail orders to take care of as I intend keeping that going. I also have many restorations and projects I am eager to get to work on—and I hope to write a bit about those in the coming weeks.

I’m sure the weather in Toronto won’t be conducive to cycling but when it isn’t then I will put on the running shoes and try to get fit for those group rides in the Spring. Even on a cold spring day, the thought of riding in a small group, chatting with friends, stopping for a coffee and cake gets me dressed up, out the door and on the bike.

Happy New Year to you all.


julia hensley said...

Hello Mr. Barry,

I don't know if you'll remember me from the last Ramble at Douglas's - Julia Hampsten (now back to my maiden name of Hensley). I loved this post - thank you and please write more!

All the best to you and Clare in this great transition, and I hope to see you on this year's Ramble.


............. said...


A very nice read. Speaks to why we do what we do.

That said, I think if I lived in Toronto I would probably do a lot less riding than I do now ( in the hills in Southern BC).

I had always wanted to get a MAriposa made for me, and as with all things, I waited too long.


Enjoy retirement and keep writing.

Khal said...

Very thoughtful essay. Unfortunately, riders riding in decent size groups, two abreast, on most roads in the U.S. are more likely than not to be harassed by motorists and the police. We need more of the European model where there is more to life than an SUV.

Anonymous said...

Personally, I'm a lot happier just riding by myself. It's not that I'm not friendly towards other people, and other cyclists, it's not that I don't stop to help whenever the occasion calls for it, but I'm a loner. On a ride, my friends are the feel of the bike on the road, and the sights and sounds of the ride. I've been riding for an unbroken 39 years, not counting another decade as a child, and I really don't feel like I've missed anything by not riding in groups. Nothing wrong with being whoever we are as long as it's not harmful to anyone.