Guest post by Ted King: What part of being on your bike pegs your endorphins the highest and makes your emotions euphoric; where you find yourself punch drunk happy to be on two wheels? Take a minute and think of what is your absolute peak of riding.
Stepping into retirement, each day offers the chance to reflect on my life spent on the bike and especially my past ten year professional career. There are the everyday cues like the smell of coffee which marked the ritualistic manner to start each training day. There are the daily habitual events, for example, hopping on a computer which was a reminder to upload training for my coach’s analysis. There’s also simply the passing of days on a calendar and recognizing what these precious offseason hours, days, and weeks mean to a professional cyclist.
In a previous life, the fall was spent hustling around the country, seeing family and friends whom I’ve missed because I’d be stationed in Europe and racing throughout the globe. In these months ending -ber, I’d host events like the King Challenge or attend others like the Hincapie Fondo, the 36 Hours of Andrew Talansky to benefit the Napa Bicycle Coalition, or attend a camp in Chianti by inGamba for World Bicycle Relief — all things that make the world a better place courtesy of the bicycle. Also in these chilly offseason months, I’d call up friends and go mountain biking.
While some retired professionals end their career and park their bikes in a garage corner to indefinitely collect dust, I still love riding a bike.
I love the freedom, the challenge, the escape; I love how if I’m ever in a funk, a hard climb and a ripping descent will always bring me back to a good place. As compared to fall of years past, these past few months in large part are still operating business-as-usual for me.
Big bike trips are always talked about, but rarely attended by the globe-trotting Euro-pro because the logistics are tough and timing is tight. At the sharp end of the sport, training is meticulous and the offseason is cherished, so I would often live the trip through friends’ pictures. The New England based super elite Lagunitas cycling team, whose elite status is primarily found in having a great time, is led by friends of mine, so when they lobbed the idea of a west coast adventure to pay a visit to their generous Lagunitas Brewing Co. supporters — and of course ride some of the most sought after Californian roads — with the newfound freedom of retirement and an invitation extended my way, I was in like a duck to water.
Originally titled Beer, Bikes, and Bros, after I visited the Strava office for a quick Q’n’A, it was creatively re-dubbed Beer and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. Very apt. Six guys all from around where I grew up worked a full day Wednesday, then hopped aboard the plane to fly west. Like a collegiate cycling weekend, they arrived late in San Francisco, piled themselves and too much luggage into a 12-passenger van, scooped me up since I was already in the area, and we shuttled north to Bodega Bay, CA. Supported by our friends at Lagunitas, our extended weekend vacation beachfront home came stockpiled with a generous array of Lagunitas beers in the fridge. With heavy, jet-lagged eyes but ear-to-ear smiles, this crew was up for four days of awesome.
2006 marked my first year in the domestic professional ranks. My brother, teammate, and trusted compatriot Robbie and I set off west in search of warm weather training grounds and early season racing. We arrived in the cycling hotbed of Santa Rosa, CA which has been like a magnet over the years continually drawing me back. In addition to extensive training there, the Tour of California crisscrosses this region so I’ve also competed on these roads at length after they were introduced to me during that first trip a decade ago.
Let me be the first to point out that Californian geography is nothing like that of New England. Also, most of this New England based unit of six had never visited California. I recognize that I’m very lucky to have spent a career chasing good weather and amazing roads throughout the world, but now and again I take those things for granted. That is, right up until something precisely like this, where I happily adopt hosting duties.
Suddenly I see these roads with brand new eyes. I see them as if I’m pedaling them for the first time. I take in the snaking roads that hang above the rocky Pacific coast, the lengthy descents, and the enormous horizon like I’m that wide-eyed, 23-year-old neo-pro in 2006. I introduce the guys to the local bakeries and show them my favorite climbs and dirt road detours. We chat about life, about bikes, about nothing at all; we laugh, we joke, and pedal for the love of riding. We also drink some tasty beer (…post ride).
We’re smoked after nearly five hours in the saddle day after day after day, but in the evening we make our way to the Lagunitas Brewery in Petaluma. I look around the room and catch myself with the same enormous grin as each of my friends have plastered on their faces.
At this moment, I recognize this is my euphoric peak of riding: it’s being with good friends — some old, some new — sharing an adventure on two wheels.
It’s a mix of big climbs, fast descents, an ample smattering of dirt, plus a beer or three at the finish. When you’re depleted and raise a glass to toast, that beer in your hand will never taste better. That is my utmost euphoria.