The 2013 Spencer Martin Memorial Ride

As I bid adieu to friends and made my way to the car, I overheard a ride organizer tossing out a rough estimate on the number of cyclists who rode in the 2013 Spencer Martin Memorial Bike for Habitat Ride. I didn't get an exact number, just "enough to cover half the cost of building a house;" that's how much money we raised from our little bike ride.

I mention this number before moving on to write about the ride itself because that's what matters the most. The Bike for Habitat ride was, first and foremost, an event to raise money for Wyoming Valley Habitat for Humanity and to honor the memory of a man named Spencer Martin, to whom the charity and the work it does was so important. So, that's that. If nothing else, we did a very good thing for people we'll likely never meet, and that's what counts.

The Ride

I wish I did get a total on how many riders were there. 50? 100? I really can't be sure, but there were a lot. It was amazing to see that many bicycles all riding along at the same time.

At first, my aim was simply to keep pace -- to find a comfortable place in a group of riders moving at a decent rate and stick with them. Soon, however, I gave way to the temptation to push out and pass riders, to see how fast I could go. It wasn't a race, and I'm sure more riders would have dropped me if it were, but I just couldn't help myself.

Eventually, I slowed down a bit, knowing that I had a long way to go and didn't want to burn out too early. Around mile 14, I found myself face-to-face with an extremely steep hill that I came upon so suddenly that I didn't have time to down shift and had to pull to the side. That was a bit embarrassing, but not as embarrassing as the fact that I hadn't learned my lesson and ran into the same situation later on. I reminded myself that I was in completely unfamiliar territory and that I had no idea what was around the corner, so taking it easy was well within my best interests. Even so, I just had to go fast! 

The weather could not have been more cooperative; nothing but blue skies. The morning started chilly, but it wasn't uncomfortable. With the rising temperature, I was worried that I'd be stuck sweating under my jacket, but the wide-open spaces quickly gave way to shaded roads with plenty of tree cover. It was never too hot or too cold.

As we circled Harvey's Lake, I found myself incredibly jealous of the people who get to see this beautiful scenery, every day. I wondered what it would be like to live in a house on stilts, out in the water. Is it terribly cold in the winter, when the lake freezes over? Is there a lot of wind? What are storms like out there? I'd never given much thought to living in a lake house before, but it's definitely become a new fantasy for me.

I'm glad that I got to see a few familiar faces, including +Michelle Davies, who volunteered as a guide to direct us on where to turn and keep us on the same route. I met a few new people, including a woman named Colleen who I was keeping pace with until we rounded one section and headed up a series of inclines on our way back towards Harvey's Lake. She just climbed right up the hill and disappeared from sight. Even in my wildest dreams, I couldn't have possibly kept up. And she wasn't the only woman out there...

I've seen a lot of talk generated around the topic of "how to get more women on bikes." I really don't know what to say to that, except that they are out there and they are in force. Maybe the people who worry about such things just aren't looking in the right places, because I'd have to say that nearly half the cyclists at this event were female, and not that it matters, but they weren't dressed up, dainty little things in high heels and fretting over what a helmet was doing to their hair -- they were kitted out in full cycling gear, dropping other riders left and right and just generally kicking ass. And that's been my experience, all along. I see women on bikes all the time, I just wish I saw more people, in general, riding bikes.

This ride was absolutely beautiful, and I can say I am officially hooked on doing large, group rides. Looking back now, it should have been obvious, but until I found myself out there in the middle of a pack, all I ever knew were long, solo treks.

Fraught with brooding introspection, it's easy for a solo ride to become the kind of mental cleansing that you'd have to pay a professional for. This wasn't that, however. This was social and engaging. Suddenly, where you were once suffering steep hills and battling fierce headwinds alone, you now have brothers and sisters around; you're a family man. I can't wait to do it again!


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