Midway through my ride yesterday, I turned right from Burr Road onto Silver Glen Road heading east toward a bridge across the Fox River. It was a mellow ride thus far, a bit of recovery two days after the Sprint Triathlon in Naperville.
As I turned right at the T intersection, another cyclist on the bike trail across the road came whipping past. He wore a plain white tee shirt, black shorts and wore sneakers on his pedals. The bike he rode was a hybrid. He sat upright and pedaled like a madman.
Proceeding east, I slowly caught and passed him. He was doing 18 on the flat, by my estimate, and 20+ on the downhills. His loose tee flapped in the wind and he was enormously focused on what he was doing.
On the uphill I passed him and then cut into the middle of the road to make a left turn at the big road ahead, then changed my mind and decided to go straight.
At that point, the light changed and the tee shirt guy came ripping past again. He was still on the bike trail across the way. I clipped in and started pedaling at my normal rate.
Ahead on the trail, he was now hunched slightly over and pedaling even harder. I was focused on a high cadence ride yesterday, so I kept it near 100 rpms and pedaled past him on the Venge.
The guy was clearly having a good workout. Doing what he likes to do. And as I stopped to wait at the next intersection where the road was under construction, and traffic was tied up in impatient knots, the hybrid dude swung past on the left and began pedaling against traffic on the newly laid tarmac headed north. He vanished around the long arc of Route 25 at Stearns Road before I could get across the street.
I figured that was the last I’d see of him. Yet two miles later, when I angled through the forest preserve to grab the bike trail heading south toward St. Charles, I heard the banging of bike tires crossing the trail bridge with its wooden boards. Sure enough, as I turned onto the trail, the hybrid guy was at the base of the long climb up Tekakwitha Woods. It’s a Strava segment. Yesterday I dialed in an rode my best time which measured 288th all time. At 2:18 I’m about one minute behind the fastest of riders. So I make no claims to be a stellar cyclist at any level. At the top, I nearly caught hybrid guy. But purposely did not pass him.
These days I remain something of a hybrid guy myself. The Venge I ride is technically a road racing bike. Yet I hump it through triathlons while riding in the drops. I’ve rather decided not to put aero bars on it. Specialized warns against that with the particular carbon bars that came with the bike. It would require replacing the factory bars($300) recabling the bike ($300) and sticking aero bars on it (another $300). I’m not all that sure all that work will make me any faster on the ride segments of triathlon. My riding improvement this year has come about through smarter pedaling, smarter training and some strength work. If I can average 24 on the bike, I’ll be doing just fine. I averaged 22 in the last two triathlons I did. Aero bars aren’t going to do that. Riding harder will.
Last weekend I passed tons of people riding aero. I only got passed by a few people during the race, all of them pushing big gears and bearing down in aero. Triathletes love that big gear stuff. No high cadence for them, as a rule. Not that I’ve seen anyway.
I admire their strength. And purpose. But something in me still likes the snap of climbing on my road bike, and cornering, and having fun on the bike as a rule.
So I remain a hybrid triathlete of sorts. I’m sure there are those who view me and my road bike with the same curious (judgmental?) eye that I apply to the guy in the white tee shirt humping along the bike trail at 20 mph. But we’re all hybrids of some sort. Triathlon is a hybrid sport. Its entire premise is based on trying to become adept at three very different sports.
Part of me is curious about what it would have been like to race triathlons when I was supremely young and fit. At that stage of life, it would not have been hard for me to run 16:00 in the 5K even coming off the bike at that point. I ran those times in my sleep, and 17:00 was a training run. That’s elite-level stuff in triathlon.
Whether I could have gotten equally good on the bike is another consideration. My two best buddies did triathlons back then, with some success.
The swim would have been tough for me. My arms were skinny. But I was a damn determined kid all through my 20s. I won the college Superstars competition doing seven different events from a choice of ten. But the only thing at which I sucked in that event was, admittedly, the swimming. That 50-yard freestyle damn near killed me.
So it would have taken some work on my part even back then to become a decent swimmer. That’s still very much a work in progress. I’m a hybrid animal in the pool, with just enough fat on my body to float a little yet skinny enough in my frame to sink at the hips like runners do in the pool.
I guess it’s time to take pride in being a hybrid. As both a writer and artist, my days bounce back and forth between the two, with some marketing and sales thrown in. The triathlon of my work world.
And if you’re curious whether I caught and passed that hybrid guy a third time? No, I did not.. I held back and let him cruise on ahead. What was the point? My ego is not that hungry that I had to make some sort of point by catching and passing him after the hill. Instead, I veered off to ride some new roads, because that was what my ride was all about yesterday. Tee shirt guy headed south on the bike trail along the river. No doubt he was getting in a good 20-miler or so. And good on him. His hybrid seems like it loves a good workout, and he gives it a go. Godspeed, Hybrid Guy. We all have our hybrid dreams.