Reality Bites is a 1994 film about the tough transition from the idyllic and unreal world of college to the harsh world of everyday life. The film is set in Houston. Coincidentally the city where I had my own “Reality Bites” moments as a cyclist.
After a few months of riding around downtown Houston I decided I needed some padded biking shorts. After all I was putting in the miles; a hefty ten at a time mind you. I was starting to feel the inadequacies of cycling in gym shorts. A Google search gave me a link to West End Bicycles. I liked what I read and saw on the website so one Saturday I rode to the shop.
As soon as I walked in Blaine G. asked if I needed any help. Blaine is second from the right in the photo above. He must have seen “Neophyte” in capital letters across my forehead. After a lengthy chat and some recommendation from Blaine I came away with two pairs of Endura Singletrack shorts and liners. The Lycra aesthetic was not for me. Not then anyway.
More importantly I met Daniel M. who is the owner and is a very nice man. He is standing on the far left above. As we chatted Daniel gave me the once over and then looked at my bike. “Your bike is too small for you” he said. I blinked bemusedly a few times in response. I hadn’t given the size of my bike a single thought since I bought it. So while my new shorts played a part in making my riding more comfortable, the major improvement came from having the saddle raised by a good twenty centimetres and from adding bar ends to my handle bars.
My ride home from the bike shop marked transition number one. It was my first ride on a bike that fit me reasonably well. Transition number two was to come in a few days. While adjusting my bike Daniel told me about the Tuesday and Thursday evening rides that start outside the shop. He suggested that I send an email to Alisa K, a regular on the rides who could give me some more information. Which I duly did. Alicia quickly replied with information as promised.
So it was that I rolled up to the shop on the following Tuesday evening on my hybrid bike, resplendent in my new baggy shorts. To be greeted by thirty or so people, each astride a road bike and many sporting matching custom jerseys. I divined who Alisa was and introduced myself. Right away she made me feel welcome and made introductions. It was many moons later when she revealed that she had taken one look at me in my t-shirt, shorts and tennis shoes, and at my bike that evening and thought to herself “This is not going to go well.” She is a perceptive one, that Alisa.
“Two minutes!” Juan R. barked out the signal that our departure was imminent. Immediately the clicking of cleats into pedals arose all around me. I positioned myself toward the back of the group and silently placed one foot on a platform pedal. The group started to roll down Blossom Street and across Durham Drive and Shepherd Drive. The pace picked up as we approached the left turn onto Jackson Hill Street. I was pleased that I was able to stay with the group. Famous last words.
Everyone seemed to bolt down Washington Avenue. I caught up to the group at the red light at Heights Boulevard. The group surged away from me as soon as the light turned green. And they did it so effortlessly too. The gap between us closed again at the next red light at Studemont Street. I could see this was going to be the recurring theme of the evening.
An evening which didn’t last much longer. A few minutes later everyone else was so far ahead of me that I didn’t see them make the right turn onto Fannin Street. I found myself at a dead end and facing Minute Maid Park. I didn’t know the route so the only option was to ride home. Wondering to myself if I would ever be able to ride at the pace I had just witnessed.