In 2007, 2008, and 2009 I occasionally commuted to work by bike. I gave it up due to the length of time involved for a 36 mile round trip and the trouble of riding at night. But I sometimes enjoyed it. My favorite night ride was with my friend Steve, as recounted below. Unfortunately for cycling Steve has moved on to politics, and he is now Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Pennsylvania. I’m not sure that’s a gain for the world; we could use fewer politicians and more cyclists.
I’d only been riding a bike for a few months when the ride described below took place. I wrote this account for my old blog, and I’ve republished it without changes.
Last night I rode part of my commute with Steve Scheetz, one of the Philadelphia area’s most active riders and bicycle advocates. Steve is an ultracylist, regularly completing double century rides and longer brevets. He’s completed the Boston-Montreal-Boston event, America’s answer to Paris-Brest-Paris.
I knew was in distinguished company, and I had some trepidation about being in over my head riding with such a cyclist. Would I be able to keep up? Would he become annoyed I couldn’t ride as fast as he does? I brought up the subject early.
“Steve, I’m going to try not to be apologetic tonight, but I hope you realize I’m not in your class as a cyclist.”
“Yeah, I do. So there’s no need to mention it again. If I’m going too fast for you, say something, and I’ll slow down.”
With this out of the way, we both enjoyed the ride. Steve is a great talker – to paraphrase Dryden’s description of Chaucer, “here is gab’s plenty” – and I listened attentively to his accounts of some of his recent rides. We talked about my riding brevets one day, how to improve as a rider, and tips for riding the road bike I one day will own.
I also enjoyed watching Steve’s riding technique. People learn by imitation, and while I can’t pinpoint anything I specifically picked up from Steve this evening, I was impressed with his control of his bike. After one downhill I caught up with him:
“Damn you’re good!”
But there’s more to admire in Steve than mere bike skill. Perhaps more important is his commitment to safety and advocacy. This element in my companion’s nature came out as we crossed the connector bridge over the Schuylkill River between Valley Forge Park and the Schuylkill River Trail. The bridge has recently been damaged, most probably by someone taking a horse across, and there were some broken planks.
“I took pictures of the broken planks and sent them to PENNDOT. I’d really like to find the guy who did this.”
“And the horse he rode in on,” I added.
We were walking across the bridge. Steve and I could have ridden across, but we were obeying the posted instructions that cyclists dismount. Steve’s concern about safety, his and mine, on the roads came out from the beginning; I was given a reflective safety vest as a gift, one much brighter than the one I had been using.
On Steve’s suggestion, we tried a new commuting route. At the Pawling’s Road trailhead in Audubon, we turned left and rode the Audubon Loop through Mill Grove, down the 9 per cent grade, and out to Egypt Road. From there we followed Egypt and other local roads to Mont Clare, where I took Bridge Street through Phoenixville to Rt. 23. My friend left me at Bridge Street with a handshake and a renewed feeling of optimism about cycling. I felt like I was flying through downtown Phoenixville and Kimberton, and I completed my fastest return commute yet. My evening ride was 18.50 miles in two hours rolling time. Thank you, Steve, for a good ride.