Have you ever wondered what happened to a Spoker you knew that dropped out of sight? A lot of folks have come through Different Spokes since 1982 and that means we have a lot of former members. What happens to them? I’ve been thinking about this because part of building the new website has been porting over the enormous photo gallery from the old website. We have digital images going back into the early ‘90s but most of them have been since 2004, and I’ve been going through the pictures one by one from 2004 through 2006. Unfortunately the pics on our site gallery had no narrative or names. At the time it hardly seemed necessary since members knew each other, mostly. But years later it’s sometimes a mystery who these people are. I’ve been trying to annotate the images as best I can and that’s gotten me thinking about people who used to be so active in Different Spokes but are no longer members and don’t bother to come on rides. Why is that?
In the early days of the club members disappearing often meant one thing: they were sick with HIV. Like many gay institutions of the ‘70s and ‘80s the club was hit very hard. But that is much less the case now. Obviously people move away and leave the club. The most notable example of that is Bob Krumm, our first president and one of the original members who was instrumental in the club coming into existence. After he helped form the club and get on solid footing he moved away to New York and continues to live there today. But most lapsed members leave the club for other reasons. Some people come to the club looking for a relationship and if they find it, then the club becomes less important to them and they leave; others (probably most!) don’t find a boy/girlfriend and move on to another social venue.
I wonder how many leave for other disparate reasons. Whatever need the club met it no longer was important. A long time ago we had a very active member, Abel, who rode all the time. But then he got into—of all things—Scottish dancing and Highland games that became his first love! He would occasionally ride his red DeRosa but he just found another outlet for his physical expression. Did he “outgrow” the club? Maybe. It was a “stepping” stone for him.
Some move on because the kind of cycling they like changes. If you’ve become enamored with really long rides—brevets and randonneuring—there aren’t many other Spokers who love to ride all day (and night) nor do they offer to lead that kind of ride. You’re most likely to gravitate to SF Randonneurs for that activity. If you’re into fixies and alley cats, you won’t find that in Different Spokes and no racing of any sort either. So maybe you start looking for a racing club.
The former Spokers I wonder about are those who were really avid cyclists and came on so many rides, and then stopped attending. Did they leave cycling? Or, did Different Spokes just lose its appeal and if so, why? Is it that cycling ceased to be important or did Difference Spokes no longer fill the cycling heart they had? In some ways it’s like breaking up with your lover: you move on and other than occasionally passing each other on the street you no longer occupy each other’s attention. Maybe there is some bitterness there and probably many fond memories. Perhaps the “drama” just got tiring and for your sanity you had to break up.
But affections are not abstract—if someone spends a lot of time with us it must be because they enjoy the company and have formed friendships. Sometimes those friendships end up moving outside of Different Spokes—you’ve found your riding buddies, those with whom you ‘click’ (clique?), and you start riding with each other outside of Different Spokes. Soon you realize you don’t need the club anymore. Perhaps it’s partly the transitory nature of Bay Area life: rootlessness and a certain measured disconnection from relationships due to constant job change and moving are more the norm?