October 6, 2023

If I was good (note my use of good versus perfect!) at anything during my sabbatical, it was sticking to a cycling routine. At first, it was a tool – a return to the routine I needed. Post-pandemic, it was also an easy way to ease back into the broader community, and stay fit. But, as sabbatical wore on and I was faced with no productive writing, it also became a way to manage my mental health. 

Around the same time (and as my previous blog mentioned), my cycling partner retired. Timing, in many ways, is everything – good and bad. I began to lean into my local spin studio as an alternative to my road bike. It was safe. There was a set schedule. I could do it in all sorts of weather. They played music! And there were videos! I didn’t have to map out a course, mileage, and terrain, because after all, the spin bike is the bike that goes . . . nowhere.

The studio quickly became a place to land, a place to work out energy, maintain my fitness, and continue to do something I loved doing. And interestingly, the more I went, the more routines intersected, and lives criss-crossed. I started to realize my presence was expected to some degree. I began to chat with my neighbors, linger post-ride to grab a tidbit about someone’s vacation, knee surgery, or simply say I liked the musical theme. If I was gone for a bit, people wanted to know where I was, if I was ok, and welcomed me back with a hearty cheer (and maybe a song from The Killers).

If anchors are our strong ties, binding us to our very selves, then weak ties are those people and places that weave us into a community. And those matter more than we think. 

Weak ties are the people who are familiar with us, but not necessarily our friends. Think of your barista, or those who worship at the same service with you. They are your postal worker, your work colleague, the student who sits behind you in your class, or your fellow spin class students. Sure, some of these over time might become your friends. But they started out as a weak tie. That is, they know your routine. They have glimpses into your life, and you into theirs. They share a smile, and don’t ask anything of you. You notice they are missing some days, the ring on their finger that appears, the brace on their leg. They, and you, create a fascinating and necessary social web.

Weak ties are often overlooked as part of our essential social network. But the truth is that a tapestry is both the warp and the weft, both the up and down framework, as well as the back and forth threads. And that warp? Those up and down framework ties? Well, they aren’t weak at all. They are the foundation of the tapestry. Just as “weak ties” are a foundation to community.

As I said, if I was good at one thing during sabbatical, it was cycling. And if I learned to appreciate something I’d never appreciated before, that cycling studio opened my eyes to the strength, the structure, the core of community. Thank you, Love Cycling Studio, for my place in your community, and for the community you’ve cultivated. Nothing weak about it.