Sunday, November 14, 2010

Fear of death can do wonders for your RPMs

I had a bear on my ass and was frantically spinning the one gear of my single speed bike.

First a little background info on the bear-ride. 1) A couple of nights ago I went for the first night ride (the aforementioned bear ride) I've done this season. I got out all my gear for night riding and then realized that my headlamp wouldn't fit on the helmet that I use for riding in the summer. Since it was unseasonably warm I went with the summer helmet and a handlebar mounted light that runs off a battery pack. The handlebar light is vintage and from the pre-LED era and – while plenty bright – has a burn time of only about 2 hours even though the battery pack takes eight hours to charge and weighs about a pound. I thought it was pretty cool when I bought it back in '03. 2) I was wearing a Camelbak that I made myself (specially insulated for winter riding) and that makes just a hair of noise when you rock back and forth as you pedal – not enough that you can even hear it when you're facing straight ahead but is barely perceptible when you turn your head.

So anyway I was out on this night ride riding along out on a Forest Road in the Chequamegon National Forest. I turned my head to blow a snot rocket (this is an art which I have almost perfected since my nose runs virtually constantly from September to April and I have much opportunity to practice my Over-The-Shoulder-Snot-Rocket-While-Riding-A-Bike technique) and heard a rhythmic scritch/scratch sound – that could have been some hunger crazed bear putting on a winter fat layer by eating every crazed biker that came by - coming from very near me. I like to think of myself as a rather cool headed person – one that wouldn't run when a bear is after them...and one that would realize that the sound of the bear chasing them was really being made by a piece of fabric rubbing against another piece of fabric. But I started whirring the pedals in such a way that would have put the Roadrunner to shame. In my defense I was already moving away from the “bear” and I've never heard anything about what to do if you're already moving away from the bear and you need to stop and turn the bike around – because you have a handlebar-mounted light - in order to see said bear. And I only pedaled egg-beater style for a second or two when I realized that a bear could most certainly run me down if it wanted to since – even at 500 rpm – I was doing maybe 15 mph. I slowed my whirring and – once my adrenal glands had returned to normal – had an uneventful rest of my ride.

Today was the first snow of the year and naturally I was psyched to get out and ride. I snarfed down some leftover lasagna and was out riding at the crack of 8:45. Into the teeth of the sleet (it was a wet snow and it had some distinct rain-like properties but I'll call it “snow” because I'm looking forward to real snow and tend to be positive – sometimes to my chagrin) I went and congratulated myself on being tough enough get out of a nice warm bed and onto my bike in conditions such as these. It occurs to me fairly regularly – usually when I'm out in the middle of a ride that is miserable - how fine a line it is between tough and stupid. When I started the ride I remember seeing people in cars and feeling a bit A of pity for the poor saps trapped in the cars and strapped to schedules. By the end of the ride the only pity I was feeling was directed toward myself and my poor, poor hands which were just this side of numb and hurt like hell.

Remember what I said in a previous post? “It's kind of like fun...only different.” And by that measure it was a good ride.

So I got done with the ride this morning and laid in bed until I felt vaguely human again, ate some pancakes then poked around a bit. It was really snowing now (I can almost feel the English majors cringing at this improper use of tenses). With actual flakes not quasi-frozen pellets. “Just for fun,” I thought, “I'll get my bike ready for riding in the snow so I can ride later when I want to.” So I did and then became excited about riding in the snow and decided to go out again to ride some more.
I must say that it took a rather forgetful mind to come up with this idea - I guess that this forgetfulness and willingness to suffer shouldn't surprise me given the track record of my past snow-bike races. '04 Susitna 100: melting trails forced me to push many of the 100 miles. DDD '09: almost a foot of snow the night before made this not a bike race but a push-your-bike-until-you-quit “race,” Arrowhead '09: 4” of snow the night before the start softened up the course enough so that it took me almost 40 hours to finish, DDD '10: a snowmobile trail groomer came by and chewed up the trail and made it soft for almost the whole 63 mile race. We'll see what happens in the '11 Arrowhead. I've got my fingers crossed, am saying Hail Mary's, praying to Mecca daily, and have been saving all my cut toenails so I can mix them with the tears of virgins and then make a concoction with which to gargle on race morning in a plea to Zeus to let the trail be good - so I should have my bases covered. So now here I was fresh off a ride that was in just about the worst biking conditions conceivable and I was going to do it some more. This is how you can tell the truly hardcore lunatics from your run of the mill lunatics. I guess I thought that with a few tweaks to my clothing I could have a relatively warm ride. Several words and phrases come to mind. One is “hope springs eternal.” Another is “idiot.” Well to get my bike ready for winter riding all I had to do was take off the bar ends so I could get poagies on (poagies are kind of like mittens that stay attached to the handlebars even when your hands are pulled out) and take off my clipless pedals and put on regular flat pedals (so I can wear warm boots). With these modifications I stayed warm (although I didn't stay dry: the falling snow was still wet) and made it back and was happy that I had been out riding.

The view of what the conditions were like when I was out riding. Woe is me because my camera had a "lens error" for most of the rest of the ride and I hardly got any pictures

One of the few times my camera was not throwing fits I managed to get this picture. I'm not a bike evangelist and I don't think that the only way to have a good time is on a bike, but however you choose to get outside, get outside and look around.

No comments:

Post a Comment