It was a cool morning with very little wind and a few hundred people in spandex made their way under big banners that said “START.” I was nervous because I ride bikes a lot, but usually by myself. If I had to rank things that scare me on a bike it would be 1) Trucks* 2) other bikes 3) dogs on leashes 4) dogs off leashes ( I can outrun a dog on my bike, I cannot outrun a leash getting in my spokes) and seeing as this was the largest group ride I had ever been a part of, and I have wanted to ride in this ride for the past eight years, I was very nervous indeed. If you follow me on twitter (and you should, y’all) you are aware that I am a fan of the sport of cycling. To me, it is the purest expression of the human ability to overcome suffering and also the human desire to see beautiful landscapes shot from a helicopter. It is very rare that my other sporting interest, Auburn University Athletics, intersects with my love for cycling. Once a year, however, the Venn diagram of riding bikes and loving Auburn overlaps in a mighty way.
Bo Bikes Bama started after the 2011 tornadoes that took so many lives and ravaged Alabama. When Bo Jackson—Auburn’s closest thing to an actual Avenger having gone to school here—announced he would be starting a charity bike ride to raise money for those affected by these storms, I knew I had to participate. This was BO JACKSON. And a BIKE RIDE. Alas, I wasn’t anywhere near Auburn, AL, and couldn’t feasibly get there for the next six rides. This year marked the first time I was in town and in shape, so I had to do it. Especially considering the immense loss of life and property of the March tornadoes here in Lee County and how money raised from this event would go to help the people in Beauregard and Smiths Station, I had to do it.
If you are a cyclist of an intermediate skill level, this is a ride you can do. The break stations are in the perfect locations to keep you fueled up and the volunteers and police do an amazing job of making this ride a great time for everyone. It isn’t easy by any stretch, and since most of the climbing is on the back half of the ride, you will definitely need to be in decent shape, but it is a doable ride. I hadn’t gone further than 20 miles on my bike in 2019 until Saturday, and I finished and felt fine. See for yourself:
There was an early break, and I even saw a guy riding his top tube down a short decent early in the race.
Buddy, you ain’t Chris Froome and this ain’t the 2016 Tour de France
You just look like a dork. Speaking of dorks, cycling is full of them. Most of us are gearhead dorks who know way too much about component sets and say funny things like “eTap” and “Ultegra bottom brackets” in casual conversation. I am one of these people, and I ride a bicycle that is by no means state of the art by 2019 standards. It is a great little bike that has served me well since 2009 and I have taken great care of it. I have ridden 100s of miles in the saddle on two different continents and four different US states. I never dreamed I would need a new bike until this one crapped out, but over a half-dozen times on Saturday some other rider would see me riding my Cannondale and make a comment like it was “vintage.”
“Hey, sweet bike man,” a guy on a new Cervelo said, “that’s a classic.”
“You remind me of Breaking Away! Ciao!” A lady exclaimed.
Reminding someone of the best movie about bike racing ever made is one of the nicest things anyone has ever said to me, but I think she was saying my bike looked like it was from the 70s. Its not! I bought it used, and it was probably 9 years old when I got it, but it’s only 20 years old oh my gosh I need a new bike don’t I? Crud.
Anyway, I had a great time. I got to meet Bo Jackson, who has never heard of a certain basketball parody song I once sang and recorded for the internet, because gods don’t visit soundcloud.
I also decided I will be trying to organize some College and Mag group rides, both long and short, this summer. So if any of you intrepid readers want to join for some good conversation and great times, please do it.
*If you or anyone you know decides to drive a half-ton pickup right up next to a cyclist and hit the accelerator in order to billow black diesel smoke onto said cyclist just know I support the death penalty, but only for that act—and it should be by impalement.