Yes, bicycles are for riding, but they also provide a great way to engage with your community and, hopefully, forge lasting friendships. I have had the good fortune of meeting many people through cycling — which isn't always easy for an introvert like myself.
One such special relationship for me began on May 13, 2004, the day I met Jon Jennings of Hallowell for the first time. To be honest with you I don't remember anything about our initial ride together that day, but according to my biking logbook it was a sunny Thursday with temperatures in the 50s and we cranked out just over 26 miles with Vern Cook, who is also a resident of Hallowell.
And although you wouldn't classify us as speedy on our two-wheeled machines, we have become fast friends on and off the bike.
Time in the saddle serves as a bonding agent that is hard to break, especially as the miles pile up. And boy, have they ever. Jon and I — as documented in that same logbook — have ridden together 724 times, completed 15 centuries and pedaled a total of 20,258 miles. Needless to say, we know the roads around Central Maine pretty darn well. Figuring a 20-mile ride takes us on average an hour and 25 minutes, that's a bundle of hours hanging out with each other.
While my wife, Vicky, finds this hard to believe — because generally I'm not a talker — most of the hours are spent chatting about anything and everything. Politics. Sports. Books. Music. Our kids. Bikes and bike parts. Vacations. Stories of growing up. On and on we go. One topic we shy away from — and this is all in good fun — is mention of the "M" word, meaning mileage. Jon and I have this little game we play during the cycling season about withholding from each other the number of miles we have accumulated. But usually after some laughter, and telling one another "This is not a competition!" — the truth comes out.
The pair of us have been cycling so long together, we actually speak in code. When texting each other on plans for a given day's ride, someone might write "Meet you at Little Alpe d'Huez at 3." So that afternoon we know to convene at that particular location on the outskirts of Hallowell.
I truly enjoy hitting the road — and now even gravel-bike riding — with Jon. It's way more fun cycling with others. I trust my community of cyclists will continue to grow. One recent addition to our pace line is Scott Schiff-Slater of Hallowell; he's been riding with us more and more each year, and even participated with us in his first 100-miler in 2018, the Seacoast Century.
The 2019 cycling season is upon us, and I'm looking forward to my good friend Jon proclaiming "What's happening, dude," as he always does when we meet up for another ride.
Editor's note: Please check out Jon's views on riding a bike in my blog's "Cyclist Profiles" feature coming next week. Thanks.