It's not really about being outside, because that part is easy. It's not really about the parts or the frame, because anything will do - but, admittedly, I do rather enjoy the mechanically-slanted part of the discussion. There is just something about it all coming together. It's a sort of purity, I've heard said. At its core, perhaps, yes.
No-one muddies the waters of purity more than I do, with discussions about this grouppo or that, trials of dehydration, what shorts fit better than others, what helmet is the nicest fit, what tires to run, bike fitting. At MY core, however, it's pretty clear: I simply love to ride, even on days where it might seem I'm having a rough go.
I wake up, I shower, I put on the clothes, and I ride. It really doesn't matter where I'm headed; I'm happier if I'm riding there. Hot, cold, wet, dry; I'd rather be riding. Just like my love of my family, I'll probably keep on loving riding until the day I don't.
I feel a page turning, however - I haven't attended a "t-shirt" ride in years, it seems. The exception, the MS-150, I probably won't be returning this year. I've been absent from most regular "group rides", too. Granted, if I had more time (and a car) I probably WOULD attend some, because there are faces I miss terribly. Commuting alone clearly isn't enough - and that's where randonneuring has come in, clearly. If I can't ride the weekly group rides, I seem to be making up for it on brevet or permanent weekends... mileage-wise, anyways.
Speed? Yeah, I still love it. I guess I still have something of a competitive drive in me. Even as the years pass I still find the county-line sprint intriguing, but I find myself changing in other ways, all the while. I still ache for more prowess in the hills, still wrestle with my own physiology -- all while seemingly making my bikes heavier and heavier as time passes. Part of me still wants the trim physique of a pro climber... but I still want a front rack and a good handlebar bag, too. I still prefer lugs on my frames... but I drool over SRAM Force parts. Just yesterday I reveled in the fact I was able to hammer on a flat at 27MPH, keeping up with residential traffic.... but I still want bigger tires under my fenders. All healthy things, I suppose, if not a little confusing on the exterior. I can almost see myself in ten years, sitting astride a specially-made lugged behemoth with 26" wheels, 2.0" short-knob gravel-specific tires, fenders, lights, racks, bags, wool, probably a full beard, probably eating a PB&J from my, by-then, nicely worn-in handlebar bag, complaining and beating-up on myself for not staying in the lead break at the weekend fun ride. I chuckle at the thought, because I doubt I'm far off. I'll probably talk your ear off about it if you happen to be there and I'll certainly blog about it, assuming such a thing hasn't slipped into obscurity.
Another part of me sees myself astride that same bicycle, with any luck at all my wife by my side, staring across the open plains on Old K-18, way out west of here west of Alma, KS. Who knows, but I'll probably be smiling.
While it's not about the bike, clearly equipment CAN be a limitation - and of late I find myself with desires that my current set-up doesn't quite support. I read other blogs and I ache for adventure. I read of highway bans and I see local traffic becoming more and more of a hazard, and I long for open stretches of rail-trail or gravel back-country roads, remote and quiet - where, in large part, being on a bicycle puts you back at the top of the transportation food-chain.
No drastic changes here, not yet - but I feel it coming. I feel it slowly becoming easier and easier to let go of things like the "skinny tires"... and by "skinny", I mean the 700x28c tires I've been running for years now. Yeah. Letting go of things like the "small seat bag" and the restrictions of "long-reach" road caliper brakes. Hmmmm... It's still years away, but I can almost envision it hanging upside down in the garage, waiting to be used. I'll keep the road bike, for sure...but for some reason I see myself redefining "road".
It's one thing to be perched atop a hill on the side of a road, looking backwards and realizing that the only thing that got you there was the power of "you"... that's a very satisfying feeling, and it never gets old... but I imagine it's quite another feeling to be standing on the side of an excuse-for-a-road, upon which you haven't seen a soul for over a day, where your GPS says you're not ON a road... and looking backwards from there... well, that feeling has to be something altogether special in a completely new way.
I hope to have the health and the resources to someday make that happen, if only for a short time.
Thanks for reading, and no matter HOW you do it -- ride on.