The fact is, even when I do take that moment to check, cycling takes place over time: what was absent when I first glanced, may be suddenly present by the time I make my move.
So I bought a helmet mirror. They’re called “rear view mirrors,” but in fact they tell the future. Without a mirror, one false move can trigger a series of others whose consequences escalate in geometric progression. With a mirror, there is more information about what lies ahead (based on what's behind); it buys some time to make safer choices.
If only we had such mirrors to guide us in life.
Last year, I went on a ride of the Katy Trail with L and 4 of her long-time friends. I haven’t seen any of them since.
I bring this up because cycling is often done in groups, and fitting into a group dynamic is a skill just as important as knowing how to follow a route map. Musicians are chosen for their chops, but often just as important, is how tolerable their personalities are; because you spend more time traveling together than you ever do on stage. As a musician, I passed this test. As a cyclist, I flunked: I lacked the rear-view mirror that showed dangers creeping up from behind; I was completely out of my depth in a group of people who’d known each other for 40+ years (and pretty much shared the same rear-view mirror). And even if I’d had such a mirror, we all have blind spots.
It’s humiliating to consider that that many people agreed I was not a suitable traveling companion (not that I’m arguing). But the hardest part has been losing L as a riding partner. She was a cycling “mother” if you will. She took me from a Brompton to a road bike with clips; she taught me the value of training, repeat hills and maintenance. She really got me started.
Will I ever join a group cycling trip again? It’s certainly easier (though pricier) to go with the big names: Back Roads, VBT, Butterfield. The rules are clear; the responsibility lies with the company. It’s a little lonely if you’re single, but the trade off is that the personal stakes are low.
As for my trip on The Katy Trail, today I can look back and see where I made the first bad choice which started the unraveling of trust (the fault is not only mine), but I can’t go back and change it. All I can do is learn from my mistakes, and not be too hard on myself for having made them.
Hindsight after all, is 20/20.