About a year later I bought my first road bike. This was a big jump in quality from the Mongoose DH 2.5 I had previously owned. For the first time I knew how it felt to go over 20mph on a bike. I tackled hills and challenged myself riding longer distances every time I rode. Pretty soon I was well acquainted with the area I lived in by bicycle. I learned how to ride on the roads and share the lane with cars. My weekend rides consisted of 30 mile loops which I mostly rode solo. While other roadies were subscribing to the local group rides and buying into all the carbon fiber and Lycra, I mashed my toe clip pedals against headwinds on my aluminum Raleigh. This has given me the endurance I have today, even though I will now sometimes ride my bike with clip-less shoes and dawn on my spandex. But that is not how I started riding, and I think for that I am a much better rider today.
There is the one constant that has seldom changed since my early days of cycling. The solitude. When I was younger my twin brother, Dad and I would go on long bicycle rides. I have always enjoyed having others around to share in my passion. The challenge of cycling is usually enough to keep my mind occupied and forget that its an activity that I have little or nothing in common with my peers, friends and family members. Sometimes I will put the baby seat on the back of my old Schwinn and pack the family for a trail ride. These trips are fun and I do take a lot of joy out of them. Being as I am a more advanced cyclist, I have to keep pace with the family where I would normally let the throttle loose on the concrete paths. This is the compromise, the price to pay for having other people who will want to ride their bikes with me.
Which leads me to second guessing myself sometimes. Am I being excessive in my cycling or are others just not riding enough? Then I think to myself "Oh yeah, my brother's in the Navy, Dad lives an hour away (by car) and is in his mid 50's. Mom always has some new illness to contend with". How about my friends from childhood? Nowhere to be seen. My best friend passed away from an aggressive brain tumor a few years ago. With no reference of my formative years, with nothing familiar or close to home to hold on to, I am left to brave this new and hostile world called adulthood. Like a Don Quixote of cycling, except without a portly Sancho Panza to keep me company. Sometimes I long for that little, fat, man-servant domestique figure to say "Here I am! Let's do a ride this week, I need to lose weight!".
Life is about finding that sweet spot, that perfect center, that zen. When you've found it along with some peace of mind it's like a fountain of wisdom. You've become a sage. It's about learning how to finally let go of those artificial ambitions, like, "I'm going to get sponsored by a bike shop and become an amateur racer!" Or, "I gotta get that $10,000 bike. That will get me to the Tour De France for sure!". A well rounded cyclist just rides. There is a lot he or she may or may not have to contend with, but the answer is always the same, just ride. Having others to ride with helps, but if no one is around then stop calling yourself a freak for wanting to ride. Just ride. If you can't afford a Guru triathlon bike but have that Schwinn 10 speed getting dust in your garage, take the beater out for a spin. I promise you will feel a lot better afterwards. Don't have a cycling computer? Just ride. You don't need numbers to gauge how well you exercised. That's what sweat and tears are for.
Balance priorities, family being number one no matter what the circumstances. Ride your bike everywhere in between. Nothing wrong with that as long as you have your bases covered.