Thursday, April 23, 2009

What a Ride.

Where do I even begin?

As you know I'm short on mileage this week and really needed to squeeze in a ride tonight. It just so happens that my company's first softball team practice was tonight. Being the captain that I am, I couldn't miss it and it turned out to be a great time, (we're going to have a blast this season) but it meant that I didn't get home from work until 6:40ish. On my way home Becky called and upon hearing that I was still a half hour away, said that she was going to eat. Perfect, I can get home, change, head out for a ride in no time, and warm up my dinner later.

I get home however, to her just pulling dinner out of the broiler. Yes, she's a sweetheart and waited for me. Yes, it was a double edged sword 'cause I wanted to get out on the road ASAP. Yes, my common sense could be called into question; the whole signing up for a bike race without owning a bike thing, but I'm wise enough to know that when the wife waits to have dinner with you, you sit and enjoy dinner. Dinner was great, ahi tuna burgers, and I didn't even rush it (too much). Although, as I was chowing, I was contemplating how this would effect my ride. More on that later.

With dinner over, I hurry up and change and get out on the road. The only thing worth mentioning here is that this change included some new biking attire. My father-in-law Larry, besides being kind enough to loan me his bike, also saw to it, to outfit me with some new gear. Awesome. He got me a high vis Pearl Izumi biking vest. When I say High Vis, I mean shield your eyes, HIGH VIS. Exhibit A. (and this picture doesn't even do it justice)Basically the perfect garment for this ride, as it would soon be dusk. So my new vest and I roll out of the garage and get pedaling. For the most part, while still light years away from being a real cyclist, I'm feeling pretty confident these days. I can get in and out of my pedals, I'm getting my cadence and speed up, and I can even wipe my nose while riding without swerving around. Everything about this particular ride so far was falling right in line with this new found confidence, but oh how quickly things can change.

Here I must admit that I am breaking the cardinal rule of any good cyclist or boy scout; always be prepared. I'm sure it doesn't really surprise you that I don't yet carry around a tube and pump, but I bet it's a little disappointing. So around the halfway point is where this ride started to derail a bit. I was forced to the side of the road a little further than I would've liked by a passing motorist and found myself riding over some sand, rocks and glass. The last one being the most concerning, especially when you hear it crunch under a tire and then ping out from underneath it like it was coming out of a sling shot. After hearing that, I'm now on high alert for a flat tire. It would sure be a nuisance, but I had my cell phone so it wasn't panic mode, but it was like my senses were in overdrive. Every little bump, hum, wobble, or new noise made me look down to see what was going on. No flat yet, but it was the beginning of the dominoes falling.

When it rains it pours. I now have my first real encounter with an automobile. I'm riding along, still semi worried about the tires, when up ahead on the left, I see a car about to pull onto the street that I'm riding on. This young woman saw me, how could she not, and proceeded to pull out. OK, no problem yet, we're both going the same direction, plenty of room, my parents taught me how to share, so it's fine at this point. By the time she makes the turn onto "my" street, I am right on her bumper. Now, if she had just accelerated away, this wouldn't be much of a run in, but she didn't. She's didn't really accelerate much at all, and I had about 3.7 milli seconds to think this is a little weird, until it all made sense. I wouldn't accelerate much either if I was going to make another immediate turn. Yup, not only did she pull out in front of me, now she is taking the next immediate right hand turn, crossing right in front of me. Blinker you ask? Ha... why would she use a blinker, that would tip people off to her next move and that wouldn't be much fun at all. Let's just say, that I can now somewhat control my bike when the brakes lock up, and I managed to not rear end her. I'm sure these stories are a dime a dozen amongst seasoned cyclists, so let's keep moving. This is getting long winded.

That was right around the halfway point, and I made it to about a mile and a half away from my house until the next incident. I thought I was home free; no flat tire, I didn't hit that lady, but no, it was just getting interesting.

So I'm rolling along at a pretty good clip, when I see some fellow bike riders. I'm heading down my street and there are heading up a street that will soon meet the one I'm on. There happens to be a big clearing on this corner, and no building close to the road, so you could see us converging on the same corner for quite a bit. No joke, you couldn't have timed this better if you tried. Right as they were turning onto the street I was on, I was coming through the intersection. At this point, my mind is racing a bit and trying to figure out my options. When I first saw them, I thought maybe they won't be heading my way, but now clearly they were. Another problem was that I was rolling along at about 20 or so miles an hour on a flat road and they had just turned onto that road having come up a slight incline, and having just made a turn.

Option A: Squeeze the brakes, and fall in behind them.

Option B: Continue my original heading and speed, and pass them.

I don't know if there is any cycling etiquette for a situation such as this, so I had to make a quick decision. Option A seemed a little weird to me. I was thinking I would feel a little like the uninvited dork who shows up to the jocks party after prom. They didn't ask to go for a ride with me, they don't know me, so I chose Option B.

I didn't know any proper protocol, but I managed to say "On your left" and one of the guys, also decked out in some high vis gear, said go ahead buddy and waved me by as I passed. I think I heard the other one say something too, like "take us home" or something like that, I don't know and at the time I didn't care as I had other things now on my mind. As soon as I was passed them, I regretted my option selection. I suddenly realized that now I'm in front. What did he say? Are they gonna speed up? They were just coming off a little uphill and a turn, maybe they normally fly along at 25 mph. So now what? Well, I decide to do the same thing I always do during this part of the ride. It a nice, gradual downhill for about 3/4 mile and normally I like to get up some speed. Also, I didn't want to seem like the punk who just passed them and is now slowing them down, so speed seemed like a good choice. So now I'm turning it on, cruising along at about 26-28 mph and wondering if they're back there. I felt like turning and looking back would give a weird vibe, like I'm trying to hold onto the lead until the finish line or something, so I didn't look back.

I did however, need to spit. Yes, I'm still crazy snot filled, and I needed to halk a loogie. (I must've said that 10,000 times in my life, but that's the first time I've ever written it...humm, wierd and a little gross, and that can't be spelled right, oh well) Anyway, you can see where this is going. I go to spit said loogie, and out of the corner of my eye, as it's leaving my mouth, I see him. He's right on my wheel. Probably normal in cycle land, but I've never had anyone that close, especially going almost 30 mph. Not only am I a bit startled, not only am I trying to go as fast as I can, but now I'm also spitting towards a total stranger. Like I said, it was already out of the barrel, no stopping it now, so I immediately get out a "Sorry man" to which he replied "No problem". Really? No problem? Cause I'm pretty sure I just spit in your general direction. Granted, I put some muscle behind it, so the really gross part shouldn't have made direct contact with my cycling stranger, but surely he got some residual mist action. Again gross, I should've put a parental warning on this post, although kids love gross.

Anyway, now I'm a little embarrassed, still a little nervous being in the lead of this unplanned, make shift paceline and not to mention winded, snotty, and my legs were about to go on strike. About a half mile later there was a fairly major intersection, so I used it as my excuse to slow down. I figured if they were still back there, they could take the lead and hopefully not spit on me. I got past the intersection, slowed down, but no one passed me. I gave it a minute, but then did look back, and they were gone. The craziest couple minutes I've spent on a bike so far.

Fellas, if you're out there, you have my apology. Now you know, that guy who passed you wasn't some inconsiderate cycling jerk, but rather a nervous newbie, not really knowing what he was doing, making questionable decisions. I owe you a beer or something and would love to actually go on a ride with you all, especially since you gotta know better routes than I do. If you live in CT and know 2 guys that ride together in Meriden, forward this to them for me would ya, thanks.

Anyway, there you have it, the most eventful/interesting/confidence shattering ride to date, and certainly the longest blog to date. If you made it this far, good for you, you're a champ.

Thanks for reading.


  1. Very Nice.... but you omitted one key piece of evidence - how many miles?

  2. If you can believe it, all that craziness happened in only about 12 miles. It was late so I couldn't squeeze in the whole 16 mile loop.


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