Each new year for the Rapha Continental has been a little bit different. When the Continental started it was simply a bunch of friends doing rides out of their collective hometown of Portland, Oregon. The project evolved and grew a bit to incorporate the East Coast where another crew was added to document beautiful rides on the other side of the country. Then, last summer, in what Greg Johnson has dubbed the ultimate “Collective,” everyone came together to visit the middle of the country and a few of the States not yet visited. Each year a new plan, new rides and new people to help tackle them.
To see something evolving, changing, throws people off a bit. The thing that they have been a part of developing has taken a life of its own and they feel that they are no longer in complete control of its own destiny. And this is the point where people, and, dare I say, Cyclists, start to get a little cranky. It is not a bad thing and maybe adds to the overall growth and development of the project. Everyone has a voice and gets to use it, that sort of thing. And do not get me wrong, I am not exempt from this line of thinking either. The aching reminders of how things once were, the nostalgia for something come and gone is at best an attempt to pay tribute to what we have accomplished thus far. And that this is simply because we honestly do not know what to expect. To fall back onto what we know works sounds much easier than trying something new.
There is something else that happens, however, that is worth noting. Because, it happens every time. Just as soon as we are all astride our bicycles whirring in a group down the road, nothing else matters. Over and over I watch my peers complain right up until the moment where the clap of the cleat into the pedal resonates through their body. And then it is all gone. The complaints and problems that previously occupied the mind have winked out into nonexistence, and in their stead, the foolish grins of people enjoying themselves.
As we spent the past weekend in California, riding on new roads, ogling girls at ice cream shops and reconvening over bicycles that we love I was reminded of this restorative process. The act of convening to celebrate what brought us together in the first place is a powerful force. It will not be the same every time you go out on the bicycle, but the route that got you there will never change.