An interesting novelty about cycling with other people for me has been the talking. And I mean hours and hours of non-stop talking. Now, I am not an introvert per se. I can talk. I can even sit next to a stranger at a dinner party and have a perfectly pleasant chat.
But while it's one thing to chat over dinner, it's quite another to spend 5 hours talking non-stop while pedaling and watching each other sweat and scowl. It brings out a different kind of conversation. A sense of bonding can take place with what in retrospect seems like alarming speed.
In adulthood, we do not typically make friends as easily as we do in our younger, more innocent days. With the years we grow more protective of our private lives and more jaded in our views of human nature. At least to some extent, cycling seems to dismantle those defenses and encourage an openness that - in my experience at least - is outside the norm of casual social interactions. Maybe this comes from the physical exertion. Exhausted from pedaling, we have no energy left to remain guarded and aloof. Maybe it comes from the sense of sharing a unique, beautiful and painful experience that no one else is there to witness and to understand as we understand it.
Whatever the reason, conversations flow. Bonds form. The cyclist becomes a keeper of other cyclists' stories, lots and lots of stories.
I still think of myself as predominantly a solitary cyclist. But now something funny is happening: When I ride alone, I find myself retrieving memories of my riding partners, remembering different snippets of conversations. It's unexpectedly difficult to go from non-stop talking on a bike for hours, to riding on my own in silence.