Reading

A waaay back in high school the coach of the tennis team (there was just one for both JV and Varsity) would chide me for wearing a headband. It was the era of Borg and Gerulaitis, Vilas and Nastasi; and though drawing to a close, it was also an era of long hair, making the headband required kit for many including yours truly. It wasn't the headband itself that Coach McKenna found interesting, they were common - it was the fact that mine was, apparently, perfectly straight and level at all times. It was an earthquake predictor, he said. I never would have known, and certainly didn't put any effort into aligning it perfectly with the court but, if I had thought of it I would like to have worn it all a-kilter one day just to see what happened. Would the shift have been earth shaking? Would it have even been noticeable.

I know, you were hoping for a photo of my own head and band. There are some, but I can't seem to dig them up right now. The yearbook from varsity year also seems to have gone missing. Vilas (after whom I modeled my own backhand) was more photogenic anyway, and his headband was nearly as level across.

Anyway, and maybe it goes back that far, but it seems I have long had a certain penchant for predicting. That is a tricky word - predicting - move too far to one side and it becomes assuming, and assuming is one thing you don't want to do when you ride a bike. For instance, just because a driver is looking right at you does not mean that driver sees you. Seems strange to say, but history is rife with similar assumptions and their catastrophic results.

What you do want to do on a bike is learn to predict or, better yet maybe, read. People who have ridden the road for some time have probably become good, maybe even expert, at reading - they read the pavement like a surfer reads a wave, they read the flow of traffic, all the myriad comings and goings in and out of their field of vision, they read environmental factors, such as sun and wind, and incorporate all these various factors into helping them safely navigate from one point to another. They continuously make snap judgements, incremental adjustments, as they react to all they see and hear. Of course they do this, not with the aid of a headband, but by paying attention, by listening, by looking ahead and side to side. Practice makes perfect, and the more you do it (ride), the more you learn, the better you read and, ultimately, the better you ride.

I don't know how well Guillermo could / can read the road, but at the level he played I am sure he could read a ball coming off his opponents racquet better than most. He certainly did not gain that ability through the mysterious powers of a headband, but by practice. Want to ride with confidence, get on the bike as often as you can.

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