Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Random Encounters

My Lovely Lovely and our daughter and I were out shopping for back to school supplies (I can still hear my daughter screaming at the thought that school is once again immanent) when, in the parking lot, I noticed a car with a “share the road” bumper sticker. It also said, “Same road. Same rules. Same rights.” I liked it. To top it off, the car had a bike rack on the roof. (I should probably apologize for that one, but I won't.) “Ah…” I thought, “A fellow cyclist.”

Well, no. Actually what I thought was, “That’s a cool bumper sticker. I want it.”

At that moment the car’s owner, an older gentleman, walked up. “I like your bumper sticker,” I told him. I’m not normally one to strike up conversations with strangers, but I really liked that bumper sticker. I’ve seen several versions of it here and there, but none qute as snazzy as that one.

Yes, I did just use the word snazzy.

Alas. I have bumper sticker envy.

He nodded at me. “Are you a cyclist?”

“Yes.” (Hey, even though I haven’t been on the bike in a while, I finally managed to go for a ride the other day, so I’m a cyclist. I can still say that.)

“I just moved here. Is there a club in town?”

“Why, yes there is.”

I got his e-mail address and then e-mailed him a link to the club’s website and sent an e-mail to President Dave to get him put on the club’s e-mail list. We pride ourselves on snappy service.

Later that evening, I was talking to the guy who lives across the street from me, and, apropos of nothing, he said, “You’re a brave man.”

I blinked at him. I couldn’t really think of anything to say in response to that. I mean, what do you say to that, especially when you have absolutely no idea what the other person is talking about?

“Because,” he explained, “You ride on that road out there. I’ve driven past you and thought, uh-uh. I wouldn’t do that.

Well, it’s either ride that road or don’t ride, since that’s the only way out of the subdivision I live in, and I’m not going to toss my bike into the belly of the two thousand pound beast and drive somewhere in order to ride. Also, contrary to the opinion of my neighbor (and my Lovely Lovely and my mother and several random friends…hmm…I’m a bit outnumbered here, but that doesn’t make me wrong) the road isn’t that bad. Well, most of the time. Just stay away from it during the morning drive to work and the evening drive home (unless of course you’re bike commuting, in which case you just have to be visible and predictable and careful, right?).

He then proceeded to tell me some random stories of crazy drivers, apparently in order to show me just how brave I am. I did not enjoy this. I don’t really want to hear stories of crazy drivers on the road. I know they’re out there. I just don’t want to dwell on it.

The fact is, Sir Isaac Newton has explained to us in detail how bad things can happen to us out on the roads. (That wasn’t precisely his focus while he was formulating the laws of motion, but it works out to be the same thing.) Physics is not your friend when you are on a bicycle and have an encounter with someone in a car. We all know that, but how many of us really think about it?

I don’t.

I don’t intend to stop riding, so I think about the risks enough to wear my helmet and my RoadID and carry a cell phone and be conscious of what’s going on around me, but I don't obsess about it.

My Lovely Lovely, who doesn’t ride (yet) gives it a bit more thought where I am concerned, and we sometimes have to discuss it. She comes up with all kinds of reasons about why I’m not to commute on any given day – it’s too hot, it’s too cold, it’s too dark, it might rain, it’s too windy…but the last one is always it’s too dangerous. If I deflect all of the other objections, that's the one she brings up in the end.

The fact it, I’m a better, healthier, happier and probably nicer person when I get a chance to ride. Riding is my anti-depressant, and all the side effects are good.

All the non-car related ones, anyway.

So I still ride.

See you on the road.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Time is Time is Time

If you have read this blog with any sort of regularity (a task which would either show great dedication or great intestinal fortitude) you may have noticed that I haven’t posted much lately. (Then again, you may have found this something of a relief.) A combination of circumstances beyond my control have kept me off of the bike. Finally, I had a chance to get in a ride, and I went about it in the unwisest way possible. (I don’t know that unwise is a word, but, then again, I don’t know that it isn’t a word.)

On my first ride back after a couple of weeks I did a time trial. (In case you don’t know, a time trial is a race against the clock. Well, not in some literal Alice in Wonderland crazy kind of way. You go out all by your lonesome self and ride the route as hard and fast as you can.)

Now, a pro cyclist who is going to do a time trial prepares for it. He wakes up on time, she eats a nourishing breakfast prepared by a professional chef, he gets kitted out, she climbs onto a trainer and rides hard until the sweat runs and her body is loose and ready to ride. (Do we need a new pronoun here?) Then climbs into the saddle while his bike is held in place and, when the timer goes off, she takes off down the ramp and rides.

This is not quite how I did it.

First of all, I got up a bit early after a sleepless night. I didn’t because my dog insisted that she had to go outdoors right now. Then I went back to bed for an hour or two. Eventually, I dragged myself upright, had a bowl of cold cereal, got kitted out and hit the road. I’m not sure that this is the way to win. Fortunately, I wasn't racing anyone but the aforementioned clock.

I was not feeling ambitious. I had a route mapped out in my head and had set myself a minimum time I would allow myself to ride it in. It would make me set a pace that would take some effort but wouldn’t cause me to rupture anything.

I don’t know why I decided to ignore it.

On the leg out, I was pushing into the wind, but I was keeping up a pace that would let me meet my goal, and I was content. At least, I thought I was. Then my legs, which had started the ride as if they had never been astride a bicycle before, began to wake up.

“Oh,” they said. “You’re serious about doing this. We thought you were kidding.”

The pace began to pick up. So did my heart rate. I hit my turnaround point going well and then started back. The wind was helping me out now, but, for some peculiar reason, I wasn’t content with that, and I decided to ride the route back as hard as I could go.

And I did.

It was actually a lot of fun. When I got back home, I found that I had cut over ten percent off of my anticipated time.

I got back into the house panting like a bellows. My Lovely Lovely took one look and asked, “Are you okay?” Not quite able to talk, I nodded and may possibly have grunted something at her in passing. After I got showered and changed, I knew it was going to be a better day.

Life is good on the bike, don’t you think?

See you on the road.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

The Family Y Triathlon

Let me correct your first possible misapprehension.

I did not participate in the triathlon. That is not to say that I have anything against triathlons in general. I just hate running unless I’m being chased by a bear. My job was directing traffic.

I was originally going to call this event The Y Tri, but then I realized that sounded a bit negative. After all, why not try, right?

My usual post is at an intersection where the riders have to make a left turn. A short distance down the road is the turn-around point, then they come back through the intersection again.

I got there a bit early, parked and pulled out a book to read. (In case you’re wondering, it was Pride and Prejudice and Zombies – the Jane Austen classic updated to include zombies and martial arts mayhem. I recommend it, if you like that sort of thing.)

Suddenly, an unmarked police car driven by a highway patrol officer pulls up. Okay. Then, suddenly, three highway patrol cars rush in and pull up, all of them pointing at me. It was like a scene from a movie, except that it wasn’t followed by the officers leaping out, pointing their weapons at me and arresting me. It was still a little unnerving, though.

It turns out that, unlike previous years, we were to have a fairly heavy police presence on the bike route of the triathlon. I was, of course, wondering why. Had something unusual and violent happened the previous year? Well, no. When asked directly, one of the officers explained: “They asked for help and it was a slow day.”

My partner at the intersection was Jörg, and he is ideal company for an event like this. His running commentary ranged from the ribald to the profane but was uniformly entertaining. There was a case of mistaken identity that was nearly hysterical but probably not suitable for this particular page.

The riders ranged from the intensely competitive (aerobars, disk rear wheel, aero helmet)
to those who were just hoping to survive to the end (mountain bike, no shirt, tattoos, beer belly). They were young and old, focused and not so focused at all. There were several Seyboros in the bunch, too. Jorg seemed to know most of the competitors. He called out to one rider that she should be able to catch the guy ahead of her because he was so slow, and she came out of the saddle and had a go. She didn’t catch him.

We saw a truck from the volunteer fire department, lights going, edging down the street toward us, following that last rider. Now, I don’t know about you, but an emergency vehicle with lights flashing and riding my rear wheel wouldn’t make me particularly comfortable. We watched them make the turn and waited for them to come back, ready to pack up and leave. Then a highway patrol officer pulled up and told us that there was, in fact, another rider still out on the course. When the volunteer fire fighters came back, he told them, too.

We all waited, and there she came, pushing gamely along. She made the turn and came back, and everyone followed her out. First her, then the fire fighters, then a string of cars from each location on the course where someone had been directing traffic, then the highway patrol. It was quite a parade, really.

Jörg had ridden in, and I watched him make his way through the caravan of cars. As he rode past, I asked him if he wanted to take my traffic cone and vest for me, but, surprisingly, he didn’t. He rode up to the last rider and stayed beside her, keeping her company and giving her encouragement. Eventually, they turned off. I dropped off my gear and headed home with my pay beside me – a snazzy new T-shirt.

I have never competed in a triathlon, and, to be honest, I never expect to – it involves running, after all – but congratulations to all the competitors.

See you on the road.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I’ll be honest with you, I wasn’t looking forward to the ride very much. I know that’s practically sacrilegious, but there it is nonetheless.

It was my day off, but I was at work. This is a bad start to any day, isn’t it? My Lovely Lovely had dropped me off, bike in hand, and headed off to work herself. At noon, they had turned off the air conditioning in the building. Now, at nearly 1:30, the building was hot and stuffy and humid. Outdoors was hot and windy and humid. I just wasn’t in the mood.

Still, there’s no such thing as a bad ride. Today I was going to cling to that thought, climb in the saddle, and head out. As a plus, I had access to an ice machine, so the water in my bottle was nice and cold. My office is on the second floor, and I don’t like trying to carry my bike downstairs (urban cyclocross) so I took the elevator down and hit the road.

Well, actually, I hit the sidewalk. Then I hit the road. I can now sum up my ride in two words.

Tailwind! Woohoo!

(Of course this assumed that “Whoohoo” actually counts as a word.)

The computer on my hybrid isn’t working right now, so I don’t actually know how fast I was going (which makes a change from my usual thought of “how slow I am going”) but I do know what gear I was in, and I was moving well.

You know, after a long day at work, with your legs not feeling good, trapped in an office, a ride with a tailwind is a lovely thing. Not a lot happened on this ride – just the sun and the air and wind and the sheer pleasure of feeling your muscles working and your blood moving.

Actually, I guess quite a lot did actually happen.


See you on the road.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Well, it was a busy week, but next week is looking better. New posts will start on Monday.