Welcome to The Human Ride.

Because we're all in this together,
this blog is an ongoing chronicle of what it means to be human,
with a focus on what it means to be human ... cyclists.
The good. The bad. The ugly.
The joy of a ride on a lonely country road.
The pain of a cyclocross race.
The rage that comes from dealing with aggressive drivers.
The appreciation of a fine piece of cycling artistry.
And anything else that comes as a result of loving bikes
and living.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Tandem Riders

I’ve been off the bike for two months. Year-end holidays, weeks out of town for work, bad weather, more work, legal problems, more rain – all conspired to keep my four pairs of wheels static, motionless, gathering dust.

But as I pinch my bikes’ tires to gauge how flat they’ve become, I need to admit to you, I’m not whining or complaining. In fact, it’s quite a wonderful choice not having to get up at 4:20 to go riding; and it’s actually liberating to know that I have that extra time to sleep, dream or simply lay in bed, staring at the ceiling.

Of course I’ll get back on the bike eventually. I miss it. I need it. I’ve been riding since I was eight and I’ll ride till I’m 98. It’s a part of me.

But, in the meantime, while that moment comes when I’ll lift my leg over the saddle, I remind myself that this blog is meant to chronicle our journey during the human ride. And this human ride goes on, whether we’re on a bike or not. Sort of like a road race continues after you’ve crashed into a heap of torn skin and Lycra. It’s not that other racers don’t care; the race simply continues. That’s racing. That’s life.

Yet, one of the things that is possible in life, as in racing, is that we sometimes get lucky enough to have good teammates for support, encouragement and companionship. A few, are family, bound by blood and linked to the past and future like an infinite paceline. Some are our work colleagues, united by a common cause. Others are friends – sharing interests, memories and stories.

But today I want to write about a much closer partner on this ride. More than a co-pilot, she’s a rider on a shared tandem bike, pedaling along with me; climbing, descending, steering, stopping and starting, over and over again.

My partner’s name is Lemée; pronounced Leh-may, her great-grandmother’s French last name. At first glance, she appears to be shy, naïve, bookish; somewhat vulnerable. And all those impressions are true. They are part of who she is, but they are only superficial traits. I would guess that most people who know her, even her close friends, don’t go deeper than what they see. And that’s fine by me; I know better.

I’ve been around for 52 years and seen my share of singular people, interesting characters, beautiful, wonderful, intriguing human beings. But Lemée is original in a way that is hard to explain, because she possesses a trait that is unique to her. And I say it’s hard to explain, not because the concept is complicated, but because it’s so simple, and it’s so pure in its form: Lemée is the most honest person in the world. Yes, she’s also sweet, loving, caring, devoted and uncomplicated, which are wonderful qualities, and, fortunately for many happy couples, these are things that many other humans share. But pure honesty? It’s as rare as sticking a one-man breakaway in a Cat 4 crit.

OK, even rarer.

It’s interesting, because it took me a while to find this secret out. When I first met her I was struck by her clean, simple style, her clarity of purpose, and her no-nonsense approach to life. But her inner strength is not perceptible from the outside.

Yes, it took me quite a while to realize that Lemée does not lie. But when it hit me, it hit me hard. She. Does. Not. Lie. Does not cheat. Does not break the rules. Does not cut corners. Does not find the easy way out. Witnessing how she lives by this unequivocal standard is impressive, inspiring and humbling. I am also ashamed, because I remember once in a distant past vowing to live this way, too.

Lemée’s honesty is sometimes a burden for her; she's had her fair share of run-ins with people at work. As you may imagine at an ad agency, there are those who function with hypocrisy, dishonesty and deviousness. And unethical people run up against a brick wall when they deal with Lemée, who shoots straight and goes by the book – always. And, of course, they hate her for it; not only because they are impeded in their deviance, but because, most likely they are confronted with their own deceit. They are reminded they are wrong and they dislike hearing it so much that they prefer to dislike Lemée instead. She tries to take it in stride, but I know it wears on her.

For me, Lemée's honesty is as precious as the most coveted treasure. She's the real deal. She calls it like it is, lets me know the truth, is always on the level. She makes me feel like a worthy human being, sometimes I'm simply a trusted friend and sometimes I’m a superhero. Before Lemée, I was married for 20 years to a woman who always kept me on my toes, out of balance, making sure I never knew where I stood, I never felt certain, I never felt sure, I never felt right. She wasn’t evil. She wasn’t mean. She wasn’t cruel. It’s just that … she wasn’t honest. And, in a relationship this close, if there’s no honesty, there’s no trust. And, pedal stroke after pedal stroke, if there’s one thing tandem riders need from each other, in the long human ride, it’s trust.

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