Brooks Dirty Kanza Ride

I’m incredibly pleased to say that I’ll be riding Dirty Kanza as a part of a 6 person team, sponsored by Brooks.  I’ve been putting in a lot of time on a Brooks Cambium lately, and it has proven to be the perfect saddle for the long-haul, as I expect DK to be.

Our team will include two gents I’ve not yet had the good fortune to meet, along with Brendan, Paul  and Aaron.  And we’ll be flying the Axletree colors.

I’m incredibly excited about the ride because of the challenge it poses, and because of the gents I’ll be riding with (not necessarily in that order).  It was only two years ago that I rode Almanzo, and found it to be the hardest ‘recreational’ physical undertaking I’d ever done.  I have trained harder, and prepared better, for DK–and I think I’m ready for it.

Brooks will be shooting a video of our ride, documenting the suffering great fortune that we have as friends, successful business people, fathers, husbands, etc., to share a day on the bike, and to share an accomplishment as a team.  We are greatly indebted to them, as one of the primary sponsors of Dirty Kanza overall, for the opportunity to ride on their behalf.  We won’t be the fastest team, but we will have an amazing experience, and will work hard to continue our normal traditions of being ambassadors for awesome cycling through Axletree, along with being brand ambassadors for Brooks.  I anticipate that the video will be amazing, and I am currently developing a list of classy sounding one-liners to throw out every time I pass a video camera.  (Not to mention polishing my “I’m really not working hard” smile).

I’m going to take a minute here and tell you about the guys I’m riding with.

Brendan is one of the most generous people I know.  I’m fortunate enough to live close to him, and my life has greatly benefitted from his friendship, his counsel, and his humor.  He and I share many rides in the area, and I have seen him at his very best and his very worst.  At his best, he is a fierce competitor, loving father and doting husband–and loyal to a fault.  At his worst, he is a broken man, trudging through a foot of slushy snow, carrying a Krampus and muttering to himself out loud about how much Illinois sucks.  In both instances, he is a great friend, and a trusted compatriot.  I’m using this picture of him, because he looks good in every picture, other than this one.

What’s funny about writing this post is that as I start to type comments describing my friends, I want to use the same words.  The same adjectives apply to all of them–so many common, amazingly good traits–that as I write, I am concerned that I will inadvertently insult one of them by omitting one of their best attributes.  Paul is one of the first people that I started cycling with in DeKalb.  I saw him at my very first Gravel Metric, years ago.  Paul has an amazing family–both his wife and son, and beyond.  He is one of the kindest people I have ever met.  He is grounded in a way that is uncommon, and he has a faith that I am deeply jealous of.  Paul has reserves of everything–reserves of faith, reserves of power, reserves of patience, of humility.  He is one of those people who appears to be effortlessly talented at everything.  I was with Paul at Almanzo, and around mile __(70?), he started to feel the pain.  This is Paul in suffering mode:

What’s amazing about that moment is not that he was suffering, but that he hung.  And around mile 95, when I started to fall apart, Paul pulled in front of me and took a pull–a long pull (we’re talking miles)–that saved me from failing.

Last but certainly not least there’s Aaron.  Aaron is one of the smartest people I know, whether you measure intelligence by the breadth of one’s knowledge and intellect, or by the number of words that they have to describe one’s crotchal region.  (Seriously–it’s impressive.)  Aaron possesses a unique calm, where he never really looks like he’s working hard.  I once saw Aaron ride 80 miles with a stomach bug that was effectively dysentery, smiling and laughing the whole way.  He has an infectious sense of humor, and perhaps the best comedic timing of anyone I know.  He has a steely exterior, but is amazing kind and insightful.

I was fortunate enough to spend quite a bit of time with Aaron in Steamboat last fall, and we were never at a loss for conversation.  He is knowledgeable about an amazing myriad of topics, and has a way of charmingly disarming just about anyone he meets–and he is skillful in a way that is uncommon these days.  I mean that literally; he has a great many useful skills that he graciously shares with his friends.

To those that know me, it comes as no great surprise that I am socially awkward.  In a professional context, I can be dispassionate and perform my responsibilities with aplomb, but I am often baffled by simple social situations that others find rudimentary.  I may be committing some faux pas by exhorting the characteristics of the friends that I’ll be riding with, but that’s ok.  Each of these 3 guys is someone who I would describe as a best friend, and each of them has repeatedly demonstrated the grace and kindness to accept my strengths and weaknesses.  Each of them has an amazing wife and a truly perfect child.  Each of them is someone I can relate to, and someone I trust expressly and implicitly.

I’ve come to realize that there are a great many opportunities that I have to ride my bike.  I can ride by myself just about any day I want.  What makes for a great bike ride is more than just riding your bike.  You certainly have to have a bike–the foundation for any great ride is a bike that fits, with quality parts (like the Brooks saddles that we’ll be using)…and a misfitting or uncomfortable bike can ruin just about any ride.  But a great ride comes from the experience, not the equipment or the route.  Some of the most miserable routes and most awful weather I’ve ridden in have been some of the most memorable rides I’ve had, because of the people I’ve been with.  I’m going into Kanza with three of my brothers, and regardless of the outcome of the day, we will create a lifelong memory.

At some point, true friendship is this delicate balance between two conflicting points.  On one hand, I know that any of these guys would do anything I asked them to do.  On the other hand, I would never ask them to do anything that they shouldn’t do.  These aren’t friends that would help me bury a body, as the cliche goes.  These are friends that would talk me out of the bad situation that would lead to a burial being necessary.  These are people that make my life better every week–nearly every day–and whom I’ve come to rely upon to take pulls on the bike, and to take pulls in my life.  To offer wisdom, solace, humor, and friendship, and to be there for me when I have a need.  And in return, I offer that same benefit to them, and find that it is equally fulfilling to be of service as it is to receive someone else’s service.

I am hopeful that the video captures some of this essence, this spirit and this camaraderie.   Kanza will be an experience, and I am thankful to Brooks for offering the opportunity, and a fantastic saddle to experience it from.

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