The North Wind and the Sun – A New “Spin” on an Old Fable.

It was an early January day, cold but not miserable, generally sunny, and without snow on the ground.  The North Wind, bored with the decency of the weather, decided to pick a fight with the Sun.  The North Wind boasted of great strength. The Sun argued that there was great power in gentleness.

“We shall have a contest,” said the Sun.

Far below, a group of cyclists traveled a winding road. They rode in close formation with each regularly taking a pull at the front.  Their switches were precise.  Although consisting of several cyclists, they operated as one with each benefiting from the draft provided by the rider ahead.  Focused on the rear wheel in front, the cyclists did not move an unnecessary muscle or let an eye wander to observe the countryside which was only a blur viewed peripherally.

“As a test of strength,” said the Sun, “Let us see which of us can get that group of cyclists to break formation and slow to observe that which they are missing.”

“It will be quite simple for me to force them into a chaotic mess,” bragged the Wind.  “They may be forced to stop altogether!”

The Wind switched directions to blow directly into the face of the lead cyclist and blew so hard, the birds clung to the trees. The world was filled with dust and leaves. But the harder the wind blew down the road, the tighter the cyclists pulled together.  The gaps between the wheels shrunk until only an inch or two separated one bike from the next.  The riders tucked in to reduce surface exposure and lessen the resistance.  Although the pace dropped slightly, the peloton continued down the road undaunted.

The Wind changed strategies and directions, coming at the cyclists from various angles and stiff side wind gusts.  The cyclists countered by reforming their straight line into an echelon angled across the road.  Each successive rider took up a position on the left hip of the preceding rider when the Wind came across from the right and moved to the right hip when the Wind came across from the left.  Still the peloton was unswerving and hardly delayed as their wheels continued to spin at a high revolution.

“Nice try,” said the Sun.  “Only a group of cyclists that has covered thousands of miles together to the point of each knowing the tendencies and abilities of each other as well as they know their own could withstand such an onslaught without concern that one might not hold the line, swerve, wobble, or otherwise cause a massive pileup of bodies and equipment.”

Then, the Sun came out from behind a cloud. Sun warmed the air and the frosty ground. The cyclists relaxed and moved their hands from the drops to the grips on their handlebars.

The sun grew slowly brighter and brighter.

Soon the cyclists felt warm.  Content that they had mastered the worst the day could offer, each sat up and began to soft pedal through the last part of the route.  No longer needing to maximize a draft, they pulled along side each other and mentioned to one another what a beautiful day it had become and how lovely the countryside looked.

“How did you do that?” said the Wind.

“It was easy,” said the Sun, “I lit the day. Through gentleness I got my way.  Gentle persuasion most usually works better than force.”

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Happy New Year! Let the riding/writing begin!

I’ve been logging my rides since 1991.   Each year, I set a mileage goal for myself.  Previously content with totals of around 1,000 miles per year, I decided to pick up the pace after turning 49.  The mission:  to be better at 50 than I was before.  The goal:  2,000 miles.  It took almost the whole year and on December 26, 2008, the year to date odometer rolled over 2,000.  Not quite done, I finished the year at 2,039.72 miles.  Actually, I should say “we”.  My neighbor and riding partner, Dan, and I pushed/pulled each other around our regular routes along the way to cracking 2,000.

The next year , with my personal cold weather threshold lowered by Dan who hails from central, upstate New York, we believed we could get an early jump on the miles and set 2,500 as a reasonable goal.  Final 2009 tally:  3,390.07 and it has kept going up each year since.  2010:  3,529.89 miles.  2011:  3,623.85.

My wife, Joni, patiently tolerates my regular reports of the fastest ride ever, the new max speed, the breaking of every personal record and I love her for it.

As much as I like to see the numbers climb, the totals are not why I ride.  I love the sport of cycling.  I love the way I feel on a ride.  Not so much on some of the climbs, but certainly at the top.  Not so much with a stiff Kansas headwind, but certainly after making the turn and enjoying a good tailwind push home.  I love cycling because it makes me better than I was after the last ride but not as good as I’ll be after the next.

Over the course of a ride, you can think about everything. . .or think about nothing.  Somewhere in between, I expect the basis for a new post to occasionally materialize.  It’s a new year and the odometer, figuratively and literally, has been reset at zero.  So, in the words of Luca Bloom. . .

Pedal on

Pedal on, pedal on, pedal on for miles

Pedal on

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