Essay: The ride that hooked me for life

By Jeffrey Stern

I remember the day well, boarding the number four bus in Mill Valley destined for San Francisco and there were actual seats available. It’s common to find yourself standing for 90-minutes during this commute. Luckily, I grabbed a window on the east side of the bus for a guaranteed picturesque view of the City during the Bridge crossing. Now if only I could stay awake long enough through the rush hour traffic to enjoy the view. Within minutes I was snoozing, using the glass as my pillow. I likely day dreamt about not being on the bus and doing something else. I’m sure I hated my job and I was scheming of a way out, but I don’t remember the details. The gentle hum of hundreds of engines slowly creeping forward lulling me to sleep is the prevailing memory today.

As I half-woke from the feeling of the sleep-drool starting to pool in the left corner of my mouth and drip onto my khakis, pulling my cheek off the frigid window pane to wipe my mess away and hit the proverbial snooze button for another 30-minutes, a different type of sound came whizzing by – that of a small peloton of cyclists commuting to work, hooting and hollering. The image of them grinning from ear to ear and shouting in excitement as they blew by the hoards of traffic on the Golden Gate Bridge at Mach speed is seared into my memory. Growing up mountain biking, I never gave the skinny tired sibling much of a chance. That day my perception of the road bike, and how exciting it could be, changed forever.

A few weeks later I sold my rusty ‘89 Jeep Cherokee and bought my first road bike–a used, jet black, ‘76 Raleigh Competition with downtube shifters built in Nottingham, England and still adorning the head badge to prove it. It was older than my Jeep and over a decade older than me. That made me smile. I pocketed a couple thousand in cash, that made me smile too.

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