By Mitch Flynn
“Remind me again: Why are we doing this?”
“This” was a 200-mile, one-day bike ride across the length and width of Erie and Niagara counties. “We” were a trio of two-wheel warriors from planet spandex (helmets, wraparound sunglasses, serious expressions, funny shoes – you get the not-pretty picture). But “why” – the only one of the “5 Ws” with more than one dimension – is where it starts to get interesting.
A little background. Century rides are the classic goal for the aspiring cyclist. Biking 100 miles is nothing to sneeze at, even if you have allergies and it takes all day.
But once you’ve knocked off more centuries than have come and gone since 1 AD, it’s human nature to look for the next big thing, ideas for which have been known to bubble up over post-ride adult beverages. Maybe it was the fact that our big boy drinks were double IPAs, but the next thing you know, we were planning a double century.
All systems were go until the typo. In composing the email rallying the cycling tribe to our cause, the author of our undertaking hit the “b” instead of the “d” key when typing “double century,” thus creating the world’s first “bouble century.” Heh, heh, heh.
An ironic recipient “replied all” with an almost-instant and witty dis. Our fearless leader volleyed back with a brilliant piece of reverse etymology.
To wit: “Bouble”: <boo-blay’>, adj., from the French – an accomplishment of dubious value, difficult to perform but ultimately of no purpose or value; meaningful to those that do it but mystifying to everybody else. As in, “I can’t believe anyone would spend 14 hours on a bicycle – that’s such a bouble thing to do.”
So what’s it like to spend all day on a bike? Answer: You hurt in all the obvious places and feel great in ways you couldn’t predict.
Part of the “great” was getting to see Western New York’s big backyard on back roads while moving at a perfect pace. For instance: the pleasure of measuring your progress by watching the Somerset power plant’s 50-story stack enlarge like a time-lapse video; dropping from Upper to Lower Mountain Road in Cambria at 40 mph; cresting Folsomdale Road and being treated to a dramatic reveal of the High Sheldon Wind Farm; riding through eye-high cornfields while crossing the Erie Canal in Medina; and speed-reading historical markers like the one in Alabama that locates a Neuter Indian settlement, circa 1350.
You get to appreciate your companions and all your collective strengths and weaknesses. At times we were a team; at others, just three solo proprietors. We told bad jokes, bickered and bonded on one of the shaggiest dog days of the summer – 95 degrees at 3 p.m.
Our friends and families met us at the finish and someone took a picture. Looking at it afterward, I have to say we looked amazingly happy, although that may just have been our relief at having finished in one piece bolstered by the buzz of 204 miles-worth of endorphins.
Reactions to our “accomplishment of dubious value” included one characterization as “a ride for idiots” and another with a Yiddishism that made me laugh out loud. On the plus side were kudos that included the words “inspirational” and “epic.”
So remind me again: Why did we do this?
One friend observed, “Nothing defines oneself more than testing and exceeding your limits.”
Maybe that’s what we were trying to do – define ourselves – reverse etymology all over again. Or maybe in the end it’s like being on “Jeopardy” – your answer has to be in the form of a question.