Tuesday, December 29, 2009

A Ride

On this expedition to visit immediate family and in-lawage extended down the Eastern Seaboard, we stay in Maryland with the proud owner of two Surlies. The Cross Check I helped him with during a visit to New Hampshire. He put together the Pacer on his own in Maryland. He extended the hospitality of the Pacer to me.

I did not expect to ride or exercise in any way on this expedition, so I brought no specific clothing or other equipment. I didn't even have a helmet. But just as humans started as naked, scraggly hominids on ancient savannas, so do cyclists start as sneaker-and-jean-wearing kids. I rode for years as a racer in training wearing my woollies and only a knitted wool hat on my noggin in cold weather and a cotton cap (if that) in summer. Sometimes you just have to say "f*** it. I'm going for a ride."

With a temperature in the mid 30s and a blustery wind, I didn't feel like going far. The bike also had only flat pedals. I always pull my foot off the back at the bottom of the stroke until I adjust for the lack of a secure connection.

It wasn't much of a ride, but it reminded me of riding. Earlier, walking with a young nephew around the field and playground behind the neighborhood school, a couple of pullups on the monkey bars suggested I might try to find time in my schedule for some of that again as well when I get home.

The bike was as much fun as I expected. I had not ridden a Pacer yet. No surprise that it was a sporty but smooth road bike. I even took it off the road a little, where it fared acceptably well. My brother-in-law, our host, had heeded my advice on both his Surlies, using barcon shifters and plain old brake levers rather than brifters. He's a tiny tad shorter in the leg and definitely longer in the torso than I am, so I was reaching just a smidge. Also, I had to deal with ice patches and lumps left over from the big snowstorm that pounded this area just before Christmas. Warm weather and rain had taken away nearly all of it in open areas. Some plow piles remain. Some north slopes and shaded ravines have quite a bit of cover. Not quite enough to ski, sadly. I saw a lot I could have shredded up on my beater skis.

With all the sprawl that has obliterated the town and environs I knew, large tracts remain unbuilt around some preserved watersheds and on acreage that has not yet come under the developer's blade. Economics and energy supply will determine whether it all disappears under pavement and retail space.

The wind is stronger today. The air is colder. Soon we begin the trek north to resume our lives, interrupted at a time when we really could have stayed to tend to them. Family ties with their own time sensitive needs superseded our scheduled events. We must drive carefully back to them.

Annapolis has a lot of bike shops and, apparently, a number of cyclists. Share the Road signs abound. It's still not what I would call a big bike town. It has become an intimidating place to ride. If I lived here I would still do it. I know that traffic looks less hairy when you're in it than when you're looking at it from the sidelines or from inside a car. You fall into the technique automatically. Claim the lane. Join the flow. Step aside momentarily to get the big vehicles past you. Signal some turns. Just make others, quickly and cleanly. On most roads, the motor traffic isn't moving much faster than a cyclist, if at all. When the jam breaks and the big vehicles can haul ass, fade over so they can go ahead and create their next jam. The cyclist's flow changes much less than the motorist's. But these are observations of an experienced cyclist. I gained that experience at the cost of some blood and a lot of determination. More and more people want to ride, even as more an more take up driving because it's the norm.

For the moment I have gotten more time to write than I expected to get, and it is seconds away from running out.

Ciao fer now.


Steve A said...

Loved the post. I would have commented on it earlier, but instead I thought "f*** it. I'm going for a ride." Mid 30s and raining here in North Texas but it may turn to snow later.

rednaxela said...

And I thought I was the only one who still rode cane creek wheels. Must be a Maryland thing.

Always enjoy your writing. Not sure why it took a obsolete wheelset to get me to drop a line, but there it is.

cafiend said...

rednaxela, thanks for the nic comment. The bike is definitely a creature of Maryland.

Steve A, the weather is thoroughly weird. The whole country is turning into New England. Alistair Cooke said of New England that if the country had been settled from west to east New England would still be undeveloped. Blame the terrain, but also the schizo weather.