"Mind if I ride your wheel?"
"No, not at all!"
He didn't realize it's the best--or, at least my favorite--question anyone has asked me in a while. It's as good as "How old are you? Forty?"
We'd been playing "tag" along Cross Bay Boulevard, the road that runs the length of an island in Jamaica Bay between Howard Beach and Rockaway Beach. It's a long (about 4km) flat stretch, which makes almost anyone on a bike feel like a sprinter, at least for a few minutes. The day was sunny, though chilly, and we were buffeted by the winds one expects at this time of year. Still, I think both he and I felt about ten years younger.
Actually, I felt even younger than that. A man--a trim one, who looked like he'd been riding more than I'd been--wanting to draft my wheel. Hey, if he'd asked me, I probably would have pulled him with one hand!
Somehow he looked familiar. He was maybe a centimeter, if that, taller than me and, as I mentioned, trimmer. His dark beard was flecked with gray, and his fair black skin had a few small wrinkles. I'd've guessed him to be close to my own age. That guess would turn out to be correct.
As we talked, I couldn't help but to think we'd met--actually, ridden--together. When I was living in Park Slope, he was living on the other side of Prospect Park, in Crown Heights. Now he lives in Bedford-Stuyvesant. So, naturally, we talked about riding in Prospect Park, and how we both had the "ten lap" rule: Once we could ride that much in the park without much effort--something that would happen around this time of year, maybe a bit earlier--we'd "graduate" to longer rides outside the park,and even outside of Brooklyn or New York City. I had a feeling I'd ridden with him on at least one of those longer rides; he had the same feeling.
He also mentioned that he'd road-raced, around the same time I did. Like me, he quit racing (and I also stopped riding off-road) after turning 40: Although, ironically, I had more strength and endurance than I did 15 years earlier, my wounds weren't healing as quickly as they once did. He also gave that as a reason for not chasing trophies, and other riders.
I rode with him for a couple of hours and, actually, off the route I'd planned to ride. But I didn't mind: Just as I was wondering whether I'd ever get myself into any kind of shape, ever again, he wanted to ride my wheel. And he thought I'd been riding more than he'd been. To be fair, I have to give at least some of the credit to Arielle:
To answer a question you might be asking: He gave me his name (which was familiar) and told me where he works.