...were my first purchase while riding my reborn beater bike to the grocery store (along with picking-up a bunch of stuff from the LBS on the way since the beater needs her own tubes, seat bag, frame pump, tools....). Back in 1993 she helped begin my second life as a cyclist. We rode down the Oregon coastline and through the Canadian Rockies before I realized.
There are better-suited bicycles for riding distances on the roads.
Since my old beater also had clearance for skinny knobbies, she was the first to take me along the river bottom trails, before the river bottoms were a place. We headed east off of Bloomington Ferry Bridge Road through the trees and skirted a cornfield before popping back into the woods that border the Minnesota River. There were a couple other off-road excursions before I realized.
There are better-suited bicycles for riding singletrack.
I got those two better-suited bicycles... and another better-suited for racing and another better-suited for the track and another better-suited for childhood memories. The ’93 Giant Prodigy spent ten years hanging upside down from the garage rafters; her only job to preserve what was once. She went to Oregon and Calgary. She was the only.
Until there were others.
This past September she came down for a dusting and degreasing, and for a replacement saddle. Last week she got her own tool bag, a frame pump is on its way from a store across town, and panniers are in the mail. It took three years after moving into my new old house before I realized.
This is the perfectly-suited bicycle for my new old-neighborhood life.
She’s a bitch. In a screeching swipe of her scrawny arms the temperature drops and the clouds roll. An upcurl of her dribbly, pock-marked nose drains legs and attitudes. Brakes squack. She shows up unpredictably and unwanted. Hated. Last weekend in the coulees of Wisconsin there she was, in a spectacular tunnel of orange, creeping behind the trees.
Tip this road up just a bit’ll make the burn a little more intense. What...she expects her legs to have snap when she’s been pilfering away these short fall days back at WORK?! We’ll see how long those skinny old sticks of hers can take it without a granny ring....
She lured me, lulled me with a couple rollers and a screaming downhill on a low-traffic road. I bit. I let my guard down, let loose, tucked and flew. She knows descents are my weakness. Such a sucker. At the bottom around the sweeping curve the upgrind began -- a twisting, nasty climb with short inclines that leveled just before each turn and afterward rose up like a wall. Over and over, on the most scenic section of road that day.
A month ago I’d have danced past her, hollered back about the stunning show of colors and the nice little bump in the road, wondered aloud if we’d eventually hit real hills. This time I gritted my teeth in acceptance of my obvious inadequacies. She beat me.
Where the hell are my legs?!? Criiiminy. Ride the roads all spring and summer, hit the massive hills of Maine for a week, my legs are hydraulic pistons!PISTONS, I tell you. Until today, a little mountain bike spin at an urban trail system near home, and all I had was damned Creamette noodles!!
A true Minnesotan, she said, "Could be worse.” She’s happy to be alive and is glad to be able to join us for the weekend, even if she’s not on the bike. These days she's marathoning…at least that's what her body thinks each day by 2:00.
Her lung capacity is down to 30% due to scarring from Scleroderma…at its most basic, sclero=hard and derma=skin. It's a chronic connective tissue disease that falls under the same category of autoimmune diseases as lupus and rheumatoid arthritis. Due to the scarring on her lungs, oxygen just doesn't get transferred from her lungs to her red blood cells.
I was amazed by her cheerful weekend attitude. She laughs heartily and has dancing eyes. She misses riding terribly, but with her husband's support is able to do other things to still enjoy life. She works at the Courage Center helping others find ways to live with their abilities.
For over a week I put-off heading to the vet's to pick up Barney's ashes. I figured I'd be walking out sobbing over a cat-sized, cat-weighted box in my hands. Wasn't ready for that. I'd almost wished I hadn't opted for his ashes back -- maybe it would have been easier if he was just gone. But dammit, I paid a ton for it and the cheapskate that I am I wasn't going to let good money sit on the back shelf in some office. I needed a ride after work anyway so I threw on the backpack and headed to the vet's on the way out. If I was a wreck I'd just pick him/it/them up and head home.
That's IT? She handed me a small white box about 3" wide, 3" deep and an inch and a half tall. Big enough to fit a superball, but lighter in weight. Huh. I hadn't expected a curiosity.
So, we went for a ride, Barney and I. He finally got to see the urban greenway and lakes near home from the back of my shoulders.
We dribbled in to Lake Owen Resort throughout the day last Friday. It’s a great place for a crowd -- log rooms that can fit four, a couple apartments, rooms with kitchenettes - rustic…all rustic. The doors open onto a boardwalk which leads in one direction to Lake Owen (an awesome sight in the early morning) and in the other direction to a common building with a screened-in porch, a hot tub and a gathering room with fireplace, pool table, dining tables, couches, fridge, and fish mounted on the walls. We watered and beered that evening, then sang to the fish in preparation for a 50-mile weekend.
We rode Rock Lake and headed over to Patsy Lake trails, both off the Namakagon Town Hall Trail Head. Sunday we hit the Ojibwe Trail outside Telemark Resort. The Cable, Wisconsin, area is known for epic cross-country skiing in the winter, but I had no idea the mountain biking was this good. Our timing was perfect: fall colors were at their peak. Temps were in the high 50s. It was exhilarating. Sensory overload.
The leaves on the ground hid the trail, but if you looked closely enough, you could see the depression where others had ridden and could find your way. And the rocks? I hate rocks! But, rocks covered by leaves are a piece of cake. Can’t see ‘em, don’t know they’re there. I rocked. Damn, I was good.
Except on big rocks. Damn I sucked.
We rode through stands of mature red maples and screaming yellow oaks, transitioned into pines with brown needles as groundcover, then into a crowd of young saplings -- white trunks 2” in diameter. The trails were serpentine and technical. I almost get what a testosterone rush is.
And in the midst of the beauty was the trash talk, the occasional breakdown, and 5 guys doing the “statue” pee 20 feet off in the woods every damned time we stopped (what’s up with men and their bladders?). That doesn’t happen in a road cycling crowd.
The road is different. There’s a flow and a oneness, a common purpose, a quiet determination, a smooth balance. Riding the trails is like being on a barrel pony. There’s focus and jaw-clenching and control on the edge of control while every part of bike and rider grabs onto the next challenge.
Oh you're the one! You're the one who's fast. I've heard about you. I want to learn from you. Teach me how to be fast. Help me be fast.
I joke. I CAN help you be fast.
We're all clipping along and she, like the majority of others, swirls around in the chaos of bicycles going down the road. Obviously she's a strong rider. She's just not a smart rider yet. Truthfully, I'd be toast if I were hanging out in the wind like she is. Now and again she shows up beside me.
So you're in the small chainring are you always in the small chainring this time of year after a season of getting into shape how come you're in the small chainring insteadofthebigchainring?
She's observing the observable. She's looking but not seeing. She's grabbing on to something familiar. The subtlety escapes.
First rule. Learn to draft and do it well. Find a good draft and stick. It saves your legs for those times you need it.
Yeah well, I hear you raced what types how long what cat howlonghave youbeenout???
I answered. She swirled off to somewhere else.
At the rest stop I caught her and gave her the old bank account analogy ending with save it for when you need it.
Oh, I always draft.
No, you don't.
She looked at me.
Oh, I just have a bigger fun quotient than you do I'm not going to get allserious over it I love talkingtopeople it's notworthitifIdon't.
You asked, I'm telling. Use what you've got when you need it, and don't use it when you don't need to. Shoot the shit with people, but do it while you're drafting someone. You asked, and I'm just tellin' you.
You're right. I asked.
She told me about her cycling background and how she chooses drafts -- there are few people she'll ride behind. Smart. She stays away from the woman in the yellow. Double smart. She can see some things.
She put her thumb and forefinger about an inch apart.
And, I like to make men feel this big every now and again while on the bike.
My eyes narrowed. We're on common ground here.
She turned to my friend Dave. I like her she's not afraid to put me inmyplace wegotta rideagainsoon!
...our moves mirrored each other's, increasing in intensity and slowing now and again, but always steady. He knew his lines and how to find the sweet spot, and we cut through the chaos easily. It was effortless.
A girl appreciates a guy who can give her a great draft.
It's the thing I miss most about road racing and training: riding with someone (anyone!) who knows how to be part of a whole, have a common purpose, be better together than we are alone.
I haven't quite adjusted to the haphazard way of recreational cyclists. I have learned to have no expectations, however, and have discovered that instead of sticking to a wheel for the sake of sticking, it's best to maintain my line and pace regardless of what's going on around -- the fred ahead will create a gap because he'll decide to jump out front for no discernable reason, and always there will be another fred to unknowingly slide right in. Fred doesn't get that he's doing a helluvalot of work and is saving MY legs for the hills meaning he gets toasted by a girl. Neither does fred understand connection and common purpose. It's chaos. Riders surging and slowing. Bicycles zagging side to side.
Some sort of zen brought the two of us together...yah, that or plain observation. He was fluid, sure, aware. I tucked into the pocket behind him and knew his moves. And I stuck.