Silence is Golden

main street RoS

The Ride of Silence was one that I didn’t want to miss. I’ve made it the last several years and feel it’s among the most important events in our local community, and many other communities across the country. The last few years the challenge has been that it comes a couple days after Mitchell. This year it came a couple days after a setback. Things have a way of working out and I was able to attend. Believe it or not, it was my first ride with the local community since September of last year.

While even five slow miles are important for my recovery, this ride wasn’t about me. It was about coming together as a community to pay respect to those who we’ve lost or have been injured. Because we ride around the downtown streets with a police escort, we get media attention, and that raises awareness. Each time we passed the busiest street in the city, I could sense the aggravation of the drivers who were held up, but some will probably see a news report and make the connection. Bikes are around, accidents happen, and people’s lives are at stake.

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We thought about the mother of three who was recently killed while commuting downtown. The reports suggest that she was riding the wrong way, against traffic. And while that means it may have been a mistake on her end, it’s also about us educating the cycling community, regardless whether they are riding for transport or sport. People shouldn’t pay such a price for their mistakes.

While it was great to see and reconnect with a lot of friends, it was really special to meet Doug. The last time I saw him was in July. We were casually talking as we climbed up a hill. As we began the descent, I was about three riders ahead of him. I heard some noises behind me and figured it was a flat or something. No big deal. We powered on, and aggressively descended down a hill. When we got to the bottom, we waited and waited, and nobody showed up. We knew something had happened. We climbed back up and found Doug on the side of the road, with most of the riders baffled, trying to help however they could.

A small dog had come out of nowhere, clipped him, and he hit the pavement. It’s amazing that I was 10-15 feet in front of him, but I didn’t sense or see the dog. Things can happen fast.

The Ride of Silence was his first ride since his injury. I joked that we were the injured reserved, trying to make the team again. As we talked, I was startled to learn that he still has complications from the injury, and that it will be a continual struggle to keep on riding. When a doctor suggested he change his hobby, he asked the doctor about his favorite hobby, playing golf. How would that doctor feel if someone told him he could never play golf again? Good point. Good analogy. It’s difficult to sacrifice what we love, and perfectly understandable that we will fight passionately to get back at it. I can certainly relate to that.

I hope Doug can keep riding. He may need to make some accommodations, but the passion is still there.

Even though this ride wasn’t about me, it was actually a big deal for me to get out and ride five miles in a group. I was nervous, hesitant to jump back on after a scary setback, but also enthused to be among the pack. Some things took getting used to. I don’t have the same balance that I used to have. But it all came back to me quickly. This was a good training ride, a primer for my return, and the first of many group rides that should be coming this summer.

What I was most concerned with was pain. The recent therapy sessions were excruciating. Cycling is a different story. It was not painful. Not in the slightest. It actually felt good, as I got those muscles warm that were lying dormant for so long. I passed the test, and the next one came this morning. Would that pain come back? It didn’t. There was a little soreness, as to be expected, but nothing that my light pain relievers couldn’t resolve.

I’m back, and I’m part of an even stronger community than I could have imagined. We had 160 riders, a new record for the event. Hopefully we’ll get even more next year.

Big crowd, good friends.

Big crowd, good friends.


2 responses to “Silence is Golden

  • bgddyjim

    Though post man. Glad you’re back but not on such a somber event.

    I stopped riding by passively when I see someone on the wrong side of the road. If I’m flying solo I actually ride to them and explain how wrong they are to be on the wrong side of the road. A simple recitation of the accident statistics usually gets them over to the right. I would love to see police hand out tickets for that ignorant practice.

    Either way, great post my friend.

    • aaronwest

      Thanks, Jim. It is a somber event, but it’s also productive and it strengthens our community.

      I have only seen one cyclist riding against traffic, but he was also riding in the rain with an umbrella. It was a bit odd. I was driving so I didn’t have a chance to say anything. The difficult part is that a lot of commuters do so because they have low incomes and cannot afford cars or gas. They are also the hardest people to reach to teach the rules of the road.

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