How Writing is Like Riding

Bike riding, that is. Cycling. Let me tell you a story.

A few years ago, I entered a 200 mile bike race from Logan, Utah to Jackson, Wyoming. (Of course, the year I did it they changed the route due to road work and it ended in Alpine, Wyoming and was only 188 miles. But that's beside the point. Why am I even mentioning it?)

The last rest stop was in Star Valley. I don't remember which town. Star Valley is a beautiful, rolling break in the Rockies, dotted with small towns. The mountains cast long shadows. The riders are strung out over fifty miles of road by that point. I sat with my wife for as long as I dared, getting a foot rub and trying to eat despite queasiness.

When I finally got back on my bike, the saddle felt like a pile of pins. My legs felt like rubber. But the sky was gorgeous and I had a slight tailwind. I ended up riding with a guy who had the same idea that I had:  get to the end as fast as possible.

Without a word, we fell into the accepted pattern. One would pull (ride in front to break the air) as long and as fast as he felt he could, and then move over to let the other take his place. We averaged about twenty-five miles an hour, much faster than my average through the rest of the race.

We rode thirty miles together as the sun set to our left. At the 2k to go mark, the other guy hit the wall. I still had energy to spare. I could have ditched him and sprinted to the finish line, but it didn't seem right. So I stayed with him, in front. It didn't matter if I got there a few seconds later. The winners had crossed the line hours before.

It was the first time either of us had ridden that race. He found me afterwards. We shook sweat-crusted hands and he thanked me for staying with him. I thanked him for pulling me. That was all we said to each other.

Everyone can use a little help. When cyclists meet, whether it's during an organized ride or just a random crossing of paths, we help each other. (Riding behind another cyclist uses about 30% less energy.) Sometimes we just talk. We're automatically friends because we share something—the joy, the pain.

Writers are the same way. Thanks. Nice pull.


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