This was a big day for me — one of those that didn’t seem to be much, or much beyond just one more story, anyway, but that now I can see ended up marking one of those turns in who I am as a cyclist. I just go out and ride around a lot more now, a lot more than I ever did.

The other day when I got back to the office someone asked if I’d ridden at lunch and I said, “Nah. Sucks.”

I was lying, though I didn’t mean to.

I had ridden at lunch—in fact, I’d ridden to lunch. I’d pedaled a Specialized Globe home and warmed up some enchiladas we’d had for dinner the night before or so. The trip was about a mile, and most of that gains elevation from the office. I was carrying a couple books in the front basket, to drop off at home. When I was done eating, I hopped back on the Globe and did a ridiculous aero tuck and hit 35 or so down the hill. The day was so nice, so windless and sunny, that instead of turning on Broad directly back toward work, I crossed that street and rode along beside the railroad tracks for a couple extra blocks, went over the tracks and behind the convenience store into the alley-like street that, unknown to most Emmaus residents, traverses just about the length of town so you don’t have to get on the busiest road. When I got back to my work, my cheeks were, in that invigorating way, stinging from a chill that’d surprised me. It had been a great ride.

Then I went upstairs and told my colleague that, nope, I hadn’t ridden.

What I meant, of course, was that I hadn’t done the Lunch Ride—I hadn’t gone out with the group and done 18 or 20 or 23 miles with some spirited climbs or hard-won sprints. I hadn’t, you know, ridden. All I’d done was ride my bike to get someplace, instead of riding it for the purpose of riding it.

What an idiot I’ve become. Somehow, my reference for a ride has let itself become framed in a way I don’t even agree with. I know that my pedal up the hill and back was an actual ride, but my automatic response when questioned shows that, at some level, I don’t consider it to be worthy of the term. I go through this every so often.

There have been times in the past when I couldn’t even deign to consider one of those fitness-oriented Lunch Rides a ride. “It’s only 20 miles,” I’d say in some of my most intense seasons, when I was devoting more of my life than not to the bike, when the first hour of a ride felt like nothing but a warmup, and anything less than two didn’t even seem to count.

Some winters I have gone out for three hours in 20-degree temps intermittently on snowy, icy or sometimes impassable roads. At the coffee shop or at a friend’s later, I’d run into Bobby Lea, who I’d know had been out for eight or ten hours that day. He’d ask if I’d ridden, and I’d say something like, “Not like you.”

This categorization of certain rides as non-rides is entirely self-imposed, and I can’t even figure out where the behavior comes from. The fact is, I had on those horrid winter days done a ride like Bobby: We had both gotten out of our houses and pedaled our bikes. And he was probably more likely to see that corollary, and appreciate it, than I was. He’s one of those pros who, in a way that is surprising to regular cyclists like me, is happy to see just about anyone on just about any bike on just about any kind of ride.

Maybe that explains a lot. Maybe not. I’ll tell you this, though: Today I got out for a good ride.

Originally published in The Selection, November 3, 2011