My friend Aaron told me I needed to share this story. I’ve had what could politely be called “strained” relations with road cyclists over the years, and when I described this anecdote Aaron insisted I tell the story to show roadies in a good light.

During my 2013 trip to Ohio I set as a goal riding the scenic railroad in Cuyahoga National Park. My plan was to park in downtown Akron, ride the train north, and then ride my bike back to my car. However, my unfamiliarity with the city meant I got thoroughly lost and missed the train. Already in a bad mood, I kept driving around until I found a county park – what in Ohio is called a Metropark – called Sand Run. I recalled from my visit in 2011 that the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath ran through Sand Run, and I thought I’d park at the trailhead on Revere Road and ride to the towpath.

Being hot, disgruntled, and male, I didn’t bother to look at a map. I saddled up and began heading down what appeared to be a charming if narrow bike path that ran alongside the road. The path was shaded and I cooled down, listening to the stream running alongside and saying hello to joggers I passed. The joggers all seemed to give me odd looks, but I guessed they were just looking at my jersey and wondering why someone from Bicycle Club of Philadelphia was riding in Ohio.

After a mile of downhill and no towpath, I stopped. The trail was becoming less groomed and rockier. I checked the map and saw that the towpath was at least another two miles away. Which meant three miles of slogging back uphill. I then noticed the “no bicycle” signs on the trail I was riding. No wonder the joggers stared.

My bad mood returned. I turned around, and rode the trail back to the nearest road crossing, at which point I left the trail and continued in the street back uphill. I huffed and puffed like a steam engine climbing a steep grade, but I reached the trailhead.

As I pulled in I saw two road cyclists heading out. Both were fully kitted, half my age and half my weight, and atop bikes made of carbon fiber. I had a grey beard, a jersey that form fit a body that shouldn’t be form fitted, and a steel bike with panniers.

Why they stopped to talk to me I don’t know. Its clear they were ready to go, as they were clicked in their pedals on one side. But they stopped and unclicked, and we spoke for a couple of minutes. They asked where I rode from, and I explained my ride that morning. “That’s a tough climb” one of them said. “We don’t ride up Sand Run Parkway because its hard work.” They seemed genuinely impressed I’d done it, even if only a mile, and I felt better about my riding.

I asked where the trailhead on the towpath was, and they gave directions. I thanked them, they clicked in and pushed off, and I began to pack up my bike for the drive to the trailhead. I rode fifteen additional miles that day. While the kind words of those cyclists cost them little, it meant a lot to me to get encouragement from them. You never know just when you will have the chance to help someone. Wherever you are, Akron roadies, I thank you!

My bike on the towpath near Sand Run