I got an email today from the League (the League of American Bicyclists). First of all, let’s talk about how awesome it is that they go by “the League.” It sounds like some sort of group of cycling superheroes that rides around town painting bike lanes, handing out bike lights and using force to keep cars out of the bike lane.
Ok, but this post wasn’t about an idea for a crappy bicycle centric comic book, it was about being thankful for cycling. The League, in the email mentioned above, asked me why I’m thankful for cycling? So, I’m going to spend a couple of posts attempting to address that question.
1. The wind in my hair and all that jazz.
Seriously. I spend 9 to 10 hours a day in a cubicle farm. Under fluorescent lighting. Surrounded by people who may or may not have washed their hands the last time they used the restroom. Lately, I’ve been riding “the short way” to work. That’s about 15 minutes. 15 minutes in the morning, 15 minutes in the evening. And sure, it’s cold, it tends to be dark going both ways this time of year, and road grime is only slightly more appealing than touching the door handle of the men’s restroom, but I’m outside.
That’s right, for at least 30 minutes a day, I’m outside. On my bike. It’s fantastic. So, I’m thankful for that.
Robert Marchand sets cycling record for the fastest 100 year old to cover 100 km at the outdoor Tete-d’Or Velodrome track in Lyon, France. With a goal of finishing in less than five hours Marchand beat achieved his goal at 4 hours 17 minutes and 27 seconds with an average speed of 23.31 km per hour.
I hope to be able to just ride when I hit that age.
There was this fear, in the back of my head, that purchasing a single speed bicycle marketed for “urban” riding would slowly turn me into a hipster. I didn’t think it would happen suddenly, I’m not crazy, but I could see the slippery slope there:
1. Put a fixed cog on the flip-flop hub.
2. Buy a flannel shirt
3. Buy a knit-cap
And we all know that going from a knit-cap to drinking a tallboy of PBR in the middle of the day is pretty much instantaneous.
How surprised do you think I was when I realized that, instead of a hipster, I’d become that old guy with panniers riding to work?
Being the old guy isn’t that bad. I’m not complaining. Even on my single speed I can keep up with a lot of the kids on their fancy carbon fiber bikes, at least for a little bit. Cars don’t seem to be as aggressive toward me (perhaps it’s because they feel sorry for me?).
I feel like I’ve entered a new stage of my development as a bike commuter. Instead of getting on my sleek, light, fragile carbon bike armed with nothing but a Chrome Citizen, I drop a bag or 2 onto my rear rack, grab hold of my mustache handlebars and spin into work.
Most mornings, I’ll even take the short route (mostly because I’m running late). And, when I see that hipster kid in the flannel shirt, I want to tell him to put on a helmet and make sure he stays off my lawn.
Keeping the fan side down…
So, we were pedaling along just fine. Some might even say we were just coming into form. We had readers and followers and twitters (there’s a chance we still have a few of those things) and posts. There were even a few of us that could be expected to post something a couple of times a week, at the very least, then something happened. There was a slight touch of wheels in the group and, it seems, most of us hit the tarmac, hard.
It’s true. Crashes are a part of the sport. Even if you’re not competing you can expect that, at least once, you’ll topple to the ground. It doesn’t have to be anything dramatic and, in many cases, it’s more embarrassing than painful. Maybe you went into a slick turn too fast, touched wheels with the guy in front of you, forgot to clip-out at the stoplight, hit a rock at slow speeds and pitched over the handlebars, or one of the things that happened to people other than me…after the crash the first thing we do is take stock. Broken bones? No. Excessive bleeding? No. Is the bike operable? Yes. Can I still ride it? Yes. Should I still ride it? Probably not. Will I still ride it? Yes.
Then we limp home hoping that no one we know saw the crash and that those who didn’t will think us tough and manly instead of clumsy and foolish.
It’s just slightly different if you leave your brand new bike on the roof of your car as you pull into the garage. The difference is in the shame and anger and feeling of stupidity that comes with crunching noise of house on bike violence.
When that happens, you don’t want to take stock. Opening the door and getting out to find that the force of the accident as used your carbon fork as a lever to rip the roof mounted rack from the top of the car and left it hanging, impotent, from the 2 remaining mounts is the last thing you want to do. When it happened to me I wasn’t even able to pretend to assess the damage before I dropped the mangled bike in the grass and tried to put my fist through the rear window of the car (a task I was, luckily, unsuccessful at).
Even now, a few weeks, a new fork, and a new brake caliper later, I’m angry at myself for letting something so dumb happen. Despite my wife’s claim that the whole incident was her fault (because we were shopping for a new bike for her and she was talking to me when it happened) there’s no one to blame but the man behind the wheel.
So, maybe it wasn’t a touch of wheels that derailed this site. Maybe it was something more controllable. Maybe someone left the damn thing on top of the car and drove it into the garage. Maybe it was me.