I tap my hand on The Gate, my ring connects, and the sound travels up the hillside.
Drinking from my bottle, I think about slowing down my heart, and look down the canyon, toward the city.
Cyclists find challenge in riding uphill. Sounds a little silly, but the tough work of riding up a steep hill is the goal for many in the quest to get better.
The Gate is at the end of a short route I’ve ridden over a hundred times. My friends and I call it Tour de Steve, in honor of our friend and coach, who loves to take people up it. Others know it as Paso Alto to Glen Oaks Dead End.
The route is about 2.5 miles at an average grade of ~5%. In cycling terms, it’s challenging, but not insane. “A good training climb” is how most people view it. The different parts have names in my mind that only I know. In my mind there’s the “veteran straight”, the “quick down”, the “hot bend”, and “not quite corner”.
I’ve ridden up in group, dragging new riders along, encouraging them upwards. I’ve ridden up when feeling full of energy and when my muscles are cramping. I’ve ridden up in the pouring rain, the blazing summer heat, enveloped in fog, and in the fading light of dusk. I’ve ridden up with my heart heavy from one of the inevitable gut punches that life can bring. I’ve ridden up after surgeries and broken bones.
Climbing up to the The Gate is part of many of my rides. It’s how I measure myself. With all the technology someone can use, nothing is more revealing than how you actually feel while testing yourself.
I rarely ride up with others. It’s a ride I do when alone. Sometimes for speed, sometimes as a warm-up to the rest of my day, sometimes simply to see if I’m healed enough make it. Sometimes it’s simple to see if I can will myself to do something hard instead of taking the easy road home.
The point is to ride it, regardless how I’m feeling. To push myself, even though no one else cares or is even watching. The climb is just about me, no one else.
Everyone needs a Gate to reach. A way to see how you are doing, without comparing yourself to others, or caring what others think. In today’s connected world, many are obsessed with sharing and comparing everything publicly. Looking at the relentless oversharing that make up much of our personal interactions, it seem to me that rarely do people have a private test. A truly personal way to check themselves.
In the end, it’s about how you feel about yourself, and not about anyone else and what they do or think. Getting to this is perhaps the toughest climb of all.