All relationships need nurturing. Like a flower needs water and sunlight. Or some shit like that. Obviously, I don’t know what I’m talking about because I have not been nurturing my relationship with my road bike. I pulled that thing out of the garage for the first time in a couple of months the other day and it was “reluctant to perform.” Like all of the dead flowers around my house. Because I don’t water them. The brakes were soft to the point of being nonexistent and a persistent clicking noise was emanating from the rear derailleur. I had maybe six gears that worked, total, and every time I tried to shift to the big chain ring, the chain fell off. It was not the high performance machine many of us expect our road bikes to be, and I have nobody to blame but myself.

I spent so much time on my mountain bike this summer, I completely forgot about the skinny tired steed in the corner of the garage. I just didn’t have the desire to ride roads. But now it’s fall, and I wanted to get up to the Blue Ridge Parkway to see some of the early color change, so I pulled the old girl out and limped a thousand feet of vertical up to the “Mother Road” and instantly remembered how much I like road biking, especially around Asheville where narrow, sinuous back roads climb steep peaks.

The Blue Ridge Parkway sits at the top of those same mountains, like a crown grabbing all of the attention, but I think the real gems are those less ridden access roads and quiet neighborhood streets, where you can pedal for an hour without seeing a car. Where the switchbacks are tight and some of the pitches take everything your legs can give. And yeah, I saw some fall color, the yellow leaves gathering on the edges of the road. I even saw a white squirrel, looking like a ghost haunting the hardwoods beside the road. And my road bike delivered. Even though I’ve neglected it for months, the bike got me through a hell of a ride, like it always does. Good relationships are a give and take, but if I’m being honest, this particular relationship is all me taking and never giving anything back.

I pulled into the garage promising I’d clean it, take a crack at that derailleur, throw some new brake pads on. I probably won’t because I’m too lazy to even water the dead flowers sitting next to my garage, but it’s nice to throw out empty promises like that every once in a while. Relationships need those too. Right?