I was dead last and undaunted. Being passed by everyone didn’t bother me in the slightest. I was pedaling hard on a hot summer day about 15 miles outside of Wilmington, NC on my beach bike. The cyclists whizzing past me were bedecked in aerodynamic brand name cycling clothes and sleek $100 helmets. Many wore bicycle shoes that locked into their pedals for maximum push even on the upward cycle of their legs. I had no dream of winning the 50-mile road race, only finishing.I liked the idea of cycling on the long flat country roads among other cyclists.
I had some vague notion of being part of the cycling scene. I also wanted to push myself to see how far I could go under adverse conditions. The miles rolled by. I sat upright on the bike holding the high-up handlebars proudly. The bike was designed for leisure. Not speed. Geared for maximum wind resistance, I got exactly that. Other cyclists passing me with more aerodynamic helmets and tight-fitting cycling shirts and pants hunched over their bikes, gripping the lower-placed handlebars and making minute adjustments in their gears. I had just the one gear, no hand brakes and a $15 helmet a local superstore that I imagined cracking open like an eggshell if I fell off my bike.
I saw miles of countryside, a beautiful river and none of my fellow cyclists after the first 15 miles when the last of them disappeared over the horizon. But it was nice. I pedaled on doggedly. I stopped briefly at a country store at a desolate crossroads to buy a drink. Other riders had water bottles lodged on their bikes or drank from complicated contraptions that included a tube that ran close to their mouths. This reminded me of astronauts drinking in space and invalids in hospital beds who had lost the use of their hands. I had no use for such expensive efficiencies on my beach bike.