Enjoying the view from Dad World

21 06 2015

Being a dad was never one of the overriding goals of my life.

For most of my adult life, fatherhood wasn’t even on my radar. I hadn’t met the right partner. I had plenty of other interests and activities to occupy my time and attention. I was scared.

Years passed.

Then along came Princess of Pavement. And she thought it would be cool to have a kid.

So we did.

Admittedly I got into the game pretty late.

The patterns and rhythms of my life were well-entrenched.

There’s no doubt the arrival of Little Ring would turn them upside down.

So he did. In the best way possible.

When you’re not of the Dad World, you tend to roll your eyes at all those cliches of dad-dom: it’s the best thing ever; it enriches you in ways you never thought possible; there’s never a dull moment; you’ll never sleep again.

When you join the Dad World, those cliches start to define you.

Some dads go into the Dad World with very definite ideas of the kind of dad they want to be, the example they want to set for their child.

I had no idea.

It would be cool if he glommed onto some of my interests, so we could share them. I’d like him to be curious about the world around him, eager to learn. I’d want him to be tolerant, open-minded, accepting. Brave but not foolhardy would also be good traits to impart. Smart and funny would serve him well.

Somehow, just 34 months into his young life, Little Ring is all of those.

I have no idea how much credit Princess of Pavement and I can take for that, or how much is bred into him.

His curiosity was apparent from the get-go. Whenever we went for walks Little Ring alertly took in everything around him from his stroller, his eyes darted back and forth, his head turned this way and that. Everything he saw was a wonderment. It was as if he wanted to drink the world in in one big gulp.

Who says newspapers are a dying medium. Little Ring gives his daddy hope.

Who says newspapers are a dying medium. Little Ring gives his daddy hope.

Little Ring’s bravery is a force. He wants to try new things, he wants to climb, he wants to explore. But he seems to have an innate sense for his limitations, and he’s not afraid to ask for help when he needs it. That’s the biggest bravery of all.

He’s sharp. He asks questions and makes note of the answers. He can connect the dots.

Road bike party!

Road bike party!

He’s funny. And usually he knows it. preceding his own jokes with a sly, knowing giggle.

That he’d share my love for cycling and hockey was inevitable. One of the first things we did when we got home from the hospital was watch the Vuelta together. I told him what was happening, I regaled him with tales of Eddy Merckx. We hung a cycling alphabet poster in his room.

Little Ring pays rapt attention to the Giro, cheering for his favorite team.

Little Ring pays rapt attention to the Giro, cheering for his favorite team.

The hockey was more accidental. Apparently whenever I watched a game, he was taking note of what was going on. He knew the goalies, the players, the referee and the zamboni. He figured out penalties.

Being Little Ring’s dad is a marvel every day. His smile lightens my heart. His giggle uplifts me. The quirky things he says make me laugh out loud.

As his vocabulary widens, and his understanding of the world deepens, we can share stories, have conversations, and I’m able to see my own world from a new perspective. And it looks pretty darn good.

So on this, Father’s Day, I’d like to thank Little Ring for letting me be his dad. Forever.

Group dynamics, or, the importance of beer at the end of a ride

15 06 2015

FR Fuggitivi is growing.

I haven’t been able to attend many of the Sunday morning group rides so far this season. Scheduling and daddy duty often take priority.

But in my absence, the group has added a number of riders.

What started a few years ago as a chance posting to the internet to gauge interest in a riding group based in suburbia has grown from an occasional handful to a consistent eight to as many as a dozen. Reportedly there are a few more out there sitting on the fence, wondering if the group ride idea is for them.

I had the same hesitation.

I’d always been a lone wolf, preferring the company of my own thoughts, planning and executing my own route, my effort on the road accountable only to myself.

But the routes I favoured had become repetitive. My motivation waned occasionally.

Joining a group ride reinvigorated my sense of adventure on the bike. Everyone brings new route ideas, new places to stop for refuelling, new skills, new challenges, new conversation.

Yes, Guy really does pack latex gloves in his emergency kit so he doesn't get his hands dirty while changing a flat.

Yes, Guy really does pack latex gloves in his emergency kit so he doesn’t get his hands dirty while changing a flat.

But the group dynamic can be a tricky, perilous tightrope. What if not everyone shares the same goals, or ideas of what the group should be?

Factions can form. Cohesion and common purpose break down. Chaos ensues.

I know.

I’ve walked that tightrope for 24 years as the organizer of Sunday Morning Road Hockey.

Every new face is an unknown quantity, a bit of a risk to the status quo.

The group has to balance its principles and raison d’ĂȘtre with being welcoming, open to newcomers and what they can bring to the dynamic. The differences can be subtle. They’re often unspoken, rarely quantified.

A strong group leads by example, manages its parameters by its own behaviour.

Those with other ideas usually get the message and move on. Or adjust their own expectations.

On the cycling group scale from casual to competitive, we definitely ride closer to the former than the latter. We keep a good pace, but bragging sprints are rarely contested; we leave those to Strava trophies. We design our rides to be long enough and challenging enough to test our legs, but short enough to still give everyone time for familial pursuits the rest of the day.

Of course, the group’s success at maintaining that level might have something to do with its unofficial motto; More Miles More Beer. Pretty tough to harbour delusions of Cat 1 racing when that’s what brings you home every week.


Wind beneath my cleats

12 06 2015

I’ve got a need for speed.

Usually I’m only able to indulge it on descents.

Today I aired it out on the flats.

With a little help from the breeze at my back. Or maybe it was a gale.

Overnight the wind howled, flailing our blinds, spinning our patio umbrella. Further afield, it knocked out power, tore branches from trees.

This morning it was still blowing with purpose.

Usually I cower from riding on windy days.

The constant rush of air over my ears is annoying. The effort to get anywhere can be frustrating.

But sunshine and new wheels on the Lapierre beckoned.

Of course with every tailwind must come a headwind.

But some clever routing along urban bike routes, sheltered by trees and houses, mitigated much of the headwind.

When we turned for home, the full force of the day became apparent.

The wind picked us up and sailed us along. With minimal effort, the Garmin quickly climbed through 30 kph, 40 kph, kissed 50 kph.

This is what it feels like to ride like a pro, I thought. Except they can do it uphill.

I’ll take my victories, and Strava achievements, any way I can.

The reward for a fast day out on the bike; grilled lamb with rosemary from our garden!

The reward for a fast day out on the bike; grilled lamb with rosemary from our garden!

Cycling for passion, not fashion

1 06 2015

Not every roadie is a fashion victim.

Yes, most of us covet the latest wicking micro-fibre jersey, the most comfortable, shock-absorbing shorts. All the better if they’re color-cordinated, even down to the socks.

Shoes are bling. Black is passé; white is the new black. Although, ironically, white quickly becomes black as the grime of the road takes its toll.

Helmets have also become a fashion statement, with manufacturers like POC pushing the design envelope while keeping our heads safe. Wearing a helmet from a boutique company is like belonging to a secret society, being in the “know.”

And then there’s Grant.

Grant (fifth from the left) isn't a curmudgeon when it comes to cycling fashion. He just prefers comfort over Lycra.

Grant (fifth from the left) isn’t a curmudgeon when it comes to cycling fashion. He just prefers comfort over Lycra.

A longtime buddy and work colleague, Grant has been riding his own path for a while.

He started chugging on a heavy hybrid, occasionally making his way into work astride its bulky steel frame.

Then, as he started riding more for recreation, he bought a nifty orange ‘cross bike.

As his leisure rides got longer and longer, his cycling goals more ambitious, he started to see the potential in a sleek, light, road bike. So last year, Grant treated himself to a very fine BMC.

But even as his cycling has progressed, he continues to thumb his nose at the cycling fashionistas.

Grant rides for comfort, not to impress. No Lycra for him, just a t-shirt and hiking shorts. And the pedals on his BMC are old-school flat, no snazzy clips to bind him to carbon-soled shoes; sneakers will suffice.

And it works for him.

He’s a strong rider, even if he’s not the most aero.

Chapeau Grant. A tip of the cycling cap.

Oh yeah, you don’t own one.