Wednesday, July 3, 2013

In Which 110 Miles End on a Mighty Steed

The new pump.
I think I’ll call her “Jackie,” after Jackie Joyner-Kersee.

Because she seems pretty fast: Jon’s bike that is—but more about her later.

The biking has been good recently, blog friends. In the six days since I have returned from Paraguay, I’ve ridden about 115 miles on three different bikes.

On some short rides to the Bowman Wood’s School playground, I have towed grandchildren behind Audrey’s bike, which has a trailer that can be attached to it. The bulk of the biking has been on Francis. I’ve put in a lot of miles on my bike with my sister Cate, who is also preparing for RAGBRAI.

It has been a fun few days. I owe Cate yet another meal, since she paid for our break at a new coffee shop in Ely Tuesday.

During our return ride, we were stopped by a train in downtown Cedar Rapids. I shot some pictures of graffiti on the boxcars, and a young man who had pulled up beside us on his bike asked “do you like graffiti?” Sure, I said. “I do too,” he said. Then, as the train slowed, he tossed his bike on a flatbed rail car, jumped on and then clambered to the other side. Well, I may like graffiti, but Cate and I are not quite ready to hop the trails. We just waited until the train was gone.

Which bring me back to today, and Jackie.

In May of last year, Jon and Nalena joined the Peace Corps. While they took off for Paraguay, Jon left his bike with me. The idea is that I would use it, just a bit now and then because it would not do a bike good to sit still for two years—a bike is a machine that should move a bit to keep everything functioning.

But, there was a problem. Jon’s swanky bike has Presta valves—narrower valves built for higher-pressure tires and smaller valve stems than the Schrader valves I am used to. My bike pump has a Presta adaptor, and Jon has been able to use it to pump up his tires.

But, I have not been able to do that. Every now and then, I would drag Jon’s bike out of the garage and attempt to pump up its tires, only to give up in disgust, hating the idea of Presta valves—effete French things that pretentious little bikes wear on their silly, narrow rims.

Today, we had some shopping to do, and while at the store, Audrey asked if there was anything I needed to pick up for RAGBRAI. We bought me a new bladder for my water carrier, and Audrey asked if we should pick up a bike pump that would work with Jon’s bike.

Well, we could try. I selected a pump that has two holes, instead of an adapter, and brought it home.
The pump holes even have pictures of the valves they are for.

And when I went to use it on the Presta valves that I love to hate, it was easy. Just unscrew the right part of the valve, stick on the pump and pump. The tires said to inflate to at least 100 psi, which seemed like a really high number to me, but there was a pressure gauge on the new pump so I complied, in maybe 20 pumps or so.

And there were no pedals on Jon’s bike, so I put on the ones saved from the junk bike. (Jon owns pedals that require special shoes—I still have his pedals, I just can’t use them.)

Anyway, I rode up and down Devonshire for a few minutes to acquaint myself with his brakes and shift levers. I know that in the past I had trouble figuring those controls out, but there was odd karma in the air. Once I fed her air, Jackie was happy to let me learn to shift.

I had planned to ask Ben, who came home this afternoon for a weekend visit, to go for a bike ride since I now had two functioning men’s bikes—but he had fallen asleep, so I was on my own with Jackie.

After a chain lube, tire inflation and new pedals, the mighty steed is ready to go for a ride.
Off I went to the Cedar Valley Nature Trail. The computer on Jon’s bike was displaying numbers that I had trouble believing. On the way up a little rise, I was tooling along at 14 mph—faster than I usually go down a small slope on Francis.  When I got to the trail, on straight stretches I was easily going 18 to 20 mph. If feels fast to go 15 on Francis.

The bike felt airy. When I had to change directions at C Avenue and Blair’s Ferry Road, like when I turned from going south to heading west, Jackie felt like a little baby bike, insubstantial.

But she was fast. And I was using old pedals from a junk bike—I don’t know what it would be like to ride with actual bike shoes that would allow a full range of power from both up and down leg strokes.

Don’t worry, Francis. You’re the bike that will be going on RAGBRAI. But, I won’t feel bad at all on that long ride when all the gazelles sprint by me. I’ve ridden a gazelle, too.

Of course, there were still some road bikes passing me on the trail. I can’t say I was running Jackie at anything near her maximum speed—or as fast as Jon would ride her.

But, Jon, good news. Your bike is capable of motion again. Oh boooooy!

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