Last evening, a friend of mine related a story about his recent bike ride. He’s pretty serious about riding as a form of exercise and mental health maintenance. (By serious, I mean he wears the shorts and rides “locked in” to the bike. He’s planning a century ride in a few weeks. For the uninitiated, that’s a 100 mile ride.) He allowed himself to be distracted, hit an obstruction on the road, and blew both tires. Fortunately he landed in the grass and was uninjured.
For some odd reason, that was the catalyst (after literally dozens of other nudges) for me to climb back in the saddle again. I resolved to pull out the bike I had loaned to my daughter for college, and take to the trail. It made for an interesting morning.
The bike was in worse shape than I thought. My daughter had left it outside (although sheltered) for the better part of at least 2 years (maybe 3). Cables had rust on them, as did some of the other parts. Brakes seemed fine, gears shifted smoothly. As far as I could tell, the rust was surface rust and I figured after this morning’s ride, I’d take care of some of those maintenance issues. The tires were low, I filled them with a hand pump to just under the 90 lbs indicated on the sidewalls. Helmet on, I pushed off, and it glided smoothly across the road.
To get to the local bike trail, I must cross a 4 lane divided highway (speed limit 50). I knew this would be a good morning, because there was a break in the traffic both directions, and I crossed without hesitation or incident. The bike was operating perfectly, as I coasted down the hill into the neighborhood with an access onto the trail. A sweeping left hand turn at about 20 mph, everything feeling fine, when BAM! The rear end started to fishtail and drag. Pulling the brakes hard, I stopped before falling, and looked down to a blown rear tire. That’ll teach me!
I hoisted the bike onto my shoulder, hiked back to the 4 lane road, crossed (this time having to wait for traffic both ways) and then argued with myself whether this was a “sign” to stop for the day. I decided it was more a test than a roadblock. I went to my backup. My wife has a 40-45 year old Raleigh I’ve kept in relatively good shape. I topped off the tires as best I could. 100 lbs of pressure with a hand pump isn’t the easiest in the world! Jumping the the saddle again, I repeated my trip to the trail without incident.
My mind while exercising is a scary thing. The smallest things trigger a cascade of thought.
Ground squirrels were playing “Frogger” in pairs all morning. I missed a handful of them by inches. Eventually, I learned to ignore them. They were better at “Frogger” than the cardinal that tried the same thing. Not even close. I could have measured missing him by a foot or more.
It stings a little when a big insect plays kamikaze with your face.
I missed a turn I thought about taking. I was half a mile past it when I thought of it. It took me another quarter mile to figure out I was past it.
People were pleasant on the trail. Most issued a greeting. The oddest exchange went something like this:
Me – “Passing”
One of two young women walking – “Why?”
Me (in my mind) – “What is that about? Was that a seductive why? Why indeed? A why has power! See this chain of thoughts generated by one word? Look out! Ground squirrel!”
Eventually, the fatigue set in, and all I could think of was, “Are we there, yet?”
I rode more than the entire solar system and back at a demanding pace, but then, with the weight I’m carrying and being out of shape, what is a demanding pace for me …
It was a good morning.