Monthly Archives: July 2019

The Art of the Cafe Stop

We cyclists tend to be serious people. We like speed. We like distance. We talk about suffering in offhand ways, such as “I was really in pain on that last climb”.  We love bicycle tech. There are a lot of ways we show our love of cycling. Not all of us are serious to the same degree; there are quite a few subcultures among cyclists, but on the whole cyclists tend to take themselves seriously.  Having said that, sometimes you just need to stop.  Stopping can be an art form.

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When you can enjoy the artistry of a foam bunny in your Latte, you’re in the right place!

Most cycling rest stops have a purpose.  At events, you can refill bottles, grab a snack, maybe even get your bike looked at by a tech on site, but it’s just a scripted rest in a larger event. Some club rides take rest stops at particular places – as a way to pick up more drinks and snacks and recharge.  The point of such stops is to get back on the plan and keep moving before you get too cool, or too hot, or your body starts to think you’re done before you really are. Normally, a rest stop lasts about 10 minutes or so. Often less.

Then there is another kind of stop, the kind that doesn’t have a time limit or a purpose. Sometimes it isn’t even planned.  Even if it is, what you want from it is time to slow down and talk, or fuel up with style.  That is the Cafe Stop.  A Cafe Stop can’t be rushed. It has to include some genuine joy in itself. It’s about taking time OFF the bike. As I write this it’s an extremely hot day in July.  In order to get a ride in with any hope of comfort, some friends and I decided to take a short ride and leave early in the morning. The point was to warm up, have a fun ride, and be done before the heat got oppressive.  We did, but near the end, we decided on an impromptu Cafe Stop. It was just the right thing to do.

A Cafe Stop has to be the right thing to do in the moment. Whether it’s planned, or you decide on one at the spur of the moment, time has to wrap around it.  At a Cafe Stop, relaxation rules apply. No rush. Enjoy the moment. Enjoy the company. Enjoy your surroundings. Soak it all in.  The ultimate Cafe Stop might have you locking your bike and taking a meal, or a long coffee or tea break, or just sitting around a table with friends having a laugh off the bike in the right surroundings. The magic is in the moment, and the moment doesn’t involve movement, but a meaningful pause.

Some people are natural Cafe Stop artists.  Some people don’t know much about them or don’t care for them, but there is a time for one. A moment when that pause makes perfect sense, or defines a perfect moment.  I love Cafe Stops, and I don’t do them as often as I could or should, but they can make an unremarkable ride unforgettable, or a good ride magical. They add a luster to the experience. Sometimes the key to enjoying exercise is to know when to enjoy a pause.  There are times when you have to appreciate the art of the Cafe Stop.

 

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Sunflowers, Butterflies, and Summer Heat

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My focus in life has always been enjoying experiences. Cycling has always been rewarding for me for that experience and the feeling of freedom. I’ve never been disappointed by my experiences on a bicycle. My focus is not necessarily speed, because I’m not a racer, but there is something about riding among others that makes cycling special, and so I tend to ride with friends, and I ride a lot of events, just because that feeling of community is also a feeling I value.

This week I found myself thinking about the heat and getting in a good ride on the weekend. Since my local cycling club wasn’t offering a ride that felt right to me, I sent out an email to my friends saying that I would be riding through one of my favorite places, at a specific time, and they were welcome to join me.  The response was more than I could have hoped for. Seven of us set out on the ride. All of us had our ideas of what we wanted, but it was wonderful to have them all choose to join me. I had no actual plan for a route to take, just a general direction and a distance I wanted to go. One of the opportunities along the route was a field of sunflowers.  They put me in mind of so many cycling photographs from the Tour De France, with riders passing fields of sunflowers. Since the weather was mostly sunny and hot, it seemed like the perfect opportunity. It was just another experience to enjoy.

We weren’t pushing too hard on that ride. We stayed together and defied the heat and humidity.  We enjoyed the scenery, and I started to notice butterflies on or near the road. I have a story about butterflies and cycling that I enjoy telling. One of the events I’ve ridden is called “Storming of Thunder Ridge”, which is known for a climb up the Blue Ridge range in Virginia. The climb is 13 miles long, gentle at first, and becoming steeper near the top.  There is even a rest stop in the middle.  By the time you reach the top, you’ll know a lot about pain. I found myself near the top of that long climb, feeling the pain, while my world contracted into a tunnel with my focus on the road ahead. What I remember most was the butterflies. There were three kinds I remembered through the haze of pain as I climbed. One was mostly yellow, another mostly black and a third black and purple.  None of my friends who were there seemed to notice them. So the butterflies might have been a hallucination! This day, others noticed them. My butterflies were real, and they came in all the same colors that I remembered.

Despite the heat, we all had a fantastic time.  Some of us had a beer together and lunch afterward, yet another way that these experiences can be enjoyable.  We all got a ride in, rode the distance we wanted, and enjoyed the experience.

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