I have to write this now. Before I go on the trip, before I’ve met anyone that I will be traveling with because I don’t want anyone to think that this is about them.
I’m talking about the kinds of people who ride on bike tours. On the bike trips I’ve been on there are a few types of people that show up every time. Different people but the same types. And so this is some of what I expect.
The first and most obvious bike trip person is the picky food eater. Not the typical Vegetarian, Vegan, Celiac or person with a food allergy. Not even the person who eats a lot or doesn’t eat much. I get all those. I’m even woke to unique diets for unique people. But on the trips I’ve been there is at least one person who makes a fuss at most every meal. They might say, “I don’t like the texture of cheese.” They stand and stare and stare at the serving dishes as if they stare long enough- something will change. One time, there was a woman who insisted that she didn’t eat anything with eyes, it only got weird when she swore that included chocolate bunnies. Seriously. These food folk make meals interesting.
Then there are the extreme goal driven cyclists. They have to climb every hill first, they race to the front to prove that they are the strongest, fastest. They have to be the best (and not just the best rider). They have to be better at packing light, better at ordering wine. And they let you know. On one trip, one of these extremers tried to explain it to me by sharing, “Did I mention I was an Olympic alternate for canoeing in 19xx.” Maybe it was snowshoeing? As if, as if, that acceptably explained his oneupmanship.
Then there are those cyclists for whom riding every fine inch (EFI) is a requisite badge of honor and to not do it is a complete failure. I, and others, call those the EFI folks (and sometimes we substitute fine with a different F word). And I’m all right with those folks, if that is your raison d’être. We all have unique reasons for why we are biking 3100 miles across the country in 50 riding days.
The EFI folks who stress me out, ok, stress everyone out, are the ones who feel the need to keep score for everyone else on the trip too. They have a mental calculator going, checking your progress as you go along. I biked across Italy in 2011. I wanted to start with a smaller country, you know. It only took 11 days and the food was great.
There was an EFI ‘keep score for everyone’ woman on that trip. Day two of that trip I had a mechanical, the derailleur on my rental bike cracked while I was cresting a climb. Luckily I was at the top of a six mile descent. I pulled over, called the guide, asked for help at the bottom of the mountain. I mean, no reason for me not to enjoy the downhill right? I live for tailwinds and downhills. The guide cheerfully drove me to the bike shop, conveniently next to the cafe where we were having lunch, five or six miles up the road. No big deal. But I heard about no longer being EFI eligible at lunch and dinner, and lunch and dinner, for the rest of the trip.
Now, I don’t want you to be confused but sometimes the extremers and the EFI are the same people. And one of those folks might be the bunny lady too. It gets confusing I know.
And you’re probably wondering, so why even go?
Friends. Because every trip I have been on there are fabulous people who are rich in spirit. Cyclists who fill the days with laughter. There are people who I am destined to be connected to. Like the friend on the first day of the Italy trip who sat in a pile of burrs, and I pulled them out, one by one, though I barely knew her, because it could have been me. What other options are there?
We are all here to help each other get down the road.