For the past five years, I have ridden my bicycle in the Beth Isreal Deaconess A Reason to Ride—a charity bike ride that raises money for cancer research—in support of my best friend’s wife who is living with, and fighting, brain cancer. In the wake of such an inspiring event, you might think I would feel moved to write about how the minor suffering we endure on the bike is nothing compared to what the people we ride for go through every day in their battle against cancer—in fact, I have here—or how uplifting it is to see people from all different backgrounds and fitness levels come together to support their loved ones. Sadly, the truth is that the ride brings all of my worst instincts to the surface.
Seemingly every year, in the weeks leading up to the ride, I find myself saying things such as this is a charity ride, not a race and it would be fun if we all rode together this year. While I generally believe in these sentiments, the truth is that I am incapable of following through on them. Almost every year, without fail, I ride off leaving most of the group behind. The only year that I didn’t, was because a flat tire slowed me down.
I would love to say that I have a good excuse for riding away from my team, but the truth is that it’s always something silly that prompts me to ride ahead. One year it was a sore back and a desire to just get off the bike as soon as possible; another year it was because someone had the audacity to ride a little too far in front of me. And one year, I made a point to ride fast because the prior year—the year I flatted—someone made a big deal about how much faster they finished than me.
I can’t help but think of the quote from the Will Ferrell movie Talladega Nights—“if you’re not first, you’re last”—whenever A Reason to Ride comes up in conversation. No matter how good my intentions are at the beginning of the ride, somewhere in the back of my mind is Ricky Bobby’s dad is yelling at me to ride to the front.
On a positive note, despite A Reason to Ride bringing out some of my less-appealing qualities, it does a lot of good. For one, it raises money to fight cancer, a disease that touches every one of us in some way. It also brings together a group of us—many of whom have known each other since pre-school—in support of one another. And, even if we don’t ride together the entire time, we do get to catch up with one another before the ride takes off and at the post-ride barbeque.
If you’d like to support an incredible cause, are looking for a fun and challenging bike ride, or simply want to prove to me how slow I really am on a road bike, consider riding in next year’s A Reason to Ride. (By the way, the real reason I try to finish fast is the barbeque provided by Fuddruckers—if I get in line early, I like to think they won’t recognize me when I go through again for seconds.)
Words by Tim Peck