A missing man in the FRF peloton

21 05 2015

The FRF peloton is diminished by one rider.

A ripple of shock rippled through our small group of riders late last week as word spread that John had suddenly, and quite unexpectedly, passed away.

John, second from the right, was an enthusiastic rouleur in the FRF peloton, astride his beloved steel bike with old-school toe clips and leather straps. Sadly, he passed away last week, quite unexpectedly.

John, second from the right, was an enthusiastic rouleur in the FRF peloton, astride his beloved steel bike with old-school toe clips and leather straps. Sadly, he passed away last week, quite unexpectedly.

John was retro, but he was anything but a grouch.

While some of us revelled in our lightweight carbon fibre beauties, he pedalled furiously forward on his vintage steel frame, attached to it by traditional toe clips and leather straps.

His classic¬†leather shoes were the first thing I noticed about John when I joined the FRF peloton. They didn’t have fancy buckles or loop closures. They didn’t have shiny reflective heels or slippery carbon fibre soles. They were beautiful in their simplicity.

Over the course of many rides, we still didn’t know much about John. Just as we don’t know much about each other. Conversations about work and family ebb and flow through the course of the morning, but they’re mostly fodder to help the kilometres roll by.

That’s the way it is for a lot of us; we lead compartmentalized lives. We have a work life, family life, social circle and then there are the things we do separate from those, and the world we create around those activities. When any of those worlds intersect, it’s usually in cursory, glancing ways.

It’s like that with road hockey.

I’ve been playing every Sunday morning for 24 years, and I can count on two hands the number of roadsters for whom I knew their real name, occupation, and would be able to recognize them in street clothes away from the hockey court. We created this world and for two or three hours on Sunday morning, it offers a bit of an escape from responsibility, work, the day-to-day stresses.

It’s the same with FRF.

We don’t have nicknames, other than those of us with Twitter handles. We come from disparate backgrounds, occupations. But in the FRF peloton we’re all just cyclists, taking a pull off the front, shooting the breeze at the back, dutifully checking our Garmin stats when we get home.

But on Thursday we got a glimpse of the John we only knew from listening to some of the stories he told as we rode. Almost 500 people attended his funeral. They were colleagues, friends, people whose lives he somehow touched as a nurse at a local hospital.

It was humbling to be amongst such a contingent, even as we represented such a small part of his life.

Ride on John. We’re going to miss you. And your toe clips.