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Senators Find Fellowship and Relief From Politics on the Bike Trail

Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call

“It’s always good to be in a relaxed atmosphere where you can joke and talk about stuff. They’re all good riders. Scott Brown’s a serious rider. He does triathlons. Mark Warner’s a good rider,” Portman said. “I think it is valuable. You tend not to have much time.”

Portman, who has a kayak mounted on a wall in his Russell Senate Office Building suite, said the last time he went for a ride was last Thursday night. The Senator said he often rides at night after work, noting that it was a “big mistake” last Thursday when he went out at night with only “a little flashing light on the back.”

With the bike caucus, it’s always safety first, with serious national issues taking a back seat.

“We just talk about whatever comes up. Just trying to stay safe, first of all,” Brown said. “Hopefully we’ll have some time at some point. I’ve been pretty busy.”

With Brown’s re-election bid, and both national parties funneling serious cash into this cycle’s prize of Massachusetts, the Republican’s interaction with Kerry is even more interesting. Both Kerry and Brown have invested a serious amount of time developing a working relationship, beyond just on two wheels.

Kerry has said he won’t endorse a candidate until after September’s Democratic primary.

It’s a move that, on the surface, respects other Democrats challenging Warren, the frontrunner by far. But from a practical perspective, aides say, it keeps him from fraying ties with Brown, both in the time leading up to the general election and perhaps after if the Republican maintains his seat.

Brown has shown some independence from Republican leaders, breaking with his party on unemployment benefits, on jobs bills and, most notably, on Wall Street reform.

On the May 2010 morning that the sweeping legislation passed, Brown met Kerry at his home at 6 a.m. for a 40-mile bike ride. The two men talked about the bill extensively. Biking was one way the Senators first got to know each other.

“Absolutely,” Kerry said when asked whether the time on the bike trails has helped the two Bay State lawmakers get closer. “I think it’s important to build a relationship with anybody.”

But one real question remains: In a group of lawmakers, uber-competitive by nature, who would win in a good old-fashioned bike race? We may never know.

“I can’t reveal those secrets,” Portman said.

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