Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Chasing Dave Stoller, Pt. II

[Read Part I here.]

So, this bike thing. Could it do for me what it did for Dave Stoller?

It seemed like Dave and I had similar personalities. What’s more, Dave’s vehicle to happiness and self-expression was a ten-speed. I had a ten-speed, too -- a brand-new ten speed. and I was going on a four-week, haul-ass trip on that shiny new thing in two months. What if I actually prepared for that? What if I showed up in shape and impressed everyone with my cycling prowess? What if I did what worked for Dave?

What if, indeed

The very next day, I was in Riverside Park, doing laps around the empty half-mile promenade alongside the broad, steely Hudson, which flowed to my left, and then my right, then back to my left. I wanted to experience riding fast, as fast as I could. Sure, I’d had a bike before, but that was for transportation, fun, freedom – not speed. So, I got down in the drops, stood on the pedals, and I felt a new, powerful connection with the bike as I bolted down the flat pavement.

I liked that.

After a couple days of this, it became clear I needed a bigger challenge. I got up the nerve to head in the other direction from the front door of my apartment building, over to the the five-mile bike loop in Central Park.

My first two laps left my lungs burning like a house afire. I decided right there and then to quit smoking. Popular friends? What popular friends? What did they know about oneness between body and machine? What did they know about the Dave Way? They were shallow, insecure; they wouldn’t be caught dead wobbling their bike down the road, un-ironically singing an aria at the top of their lungs. Me? I was on my way to Davehood.

I dove in head-first. I started getting up early on Saturdays to beat the crowds to Central Park, where I went 'round and 'round the loop, now including the extra mile and the more serious hill starting at 116th Street. I picked up speed, endurance. I drafted racers here and there. I began to understand how doing something hard over and over pays off. This was an insight that was to inspire me for the rest of my life.

I went on the trip, up through the mountains of New Hampshire and Vermont, and enjoyed riding strong. When I got back, I talked my best friend Kenny into signing up with me for an AYH trip the next summer, down the West Coast, from Portland to San Francisco (which is a whole ‘nother post). I bought my first issue of Bicycling magazine. I bought Richard’s Bike Book and learned to adjust my derailleurs, my brakes. I began taking apart my bicycle in my bedroom (to my parents’ dismay). I even learned to repack my hub bearings.

Somewhere along the line, thoughts of Dave began to drift to the background, as I discovered, in my wide-eyed, teenage way, my own reasons for, and style of, riding the bike and enjoying it as a way of life. At some point, we all have to branch off from our source of inspiration and forge our own path, yes?

Which, when I think about it, is just exactly what happened to Dave.

For me, Breaking Away will always be more than just a great movie about a great era in cycling. It was the right parable, appearing to the right student, at just the right time. For this confused 16-year-old, it was a bridge to strength, self-worth and a boatload of fun. Grazie, Steve Tesich – I’ll always be grateful.


juancho said...

I'm digging this. That movie really stands alone. I love Dave's dad's transformation.

BIGWORM said...

I did enjoy watching the Dad yank at the steering wheel, while listening to the race on the radio. It seems like so many Dads of that era had a hard time showing any kind of "sissy" feelings.

As an aside, the Little 500 still runs. I had a half dozen kids come into Joe's Bike Shop in early spring, one year. They had decided to use their spring break as a training camp for that race, and they chose Tallahassee as their training grounds. It was cool feeding off of their earnestness and excitement. It made me go ride my bike that afternoon.

Velosopher said...

So glad to get your comments, gents. I agree -- the movie is one of a kind, and works on so many levels.

Suitcase of Courage said...

Always enjoy your blog - but especially these last two posts on one of my favorite movies. The link back to your Joy of Cycling post was great dessert - I enjoyed reading it again!

Velosopher said...

So kind, SOC; thank you much!

It can't be a coincidence that the posts I most enjoy writing are the ones readers most enjoy, too.