Friday, November 1, 2013

In Which I Ride Twice As Fast Uphill

I parked Jon's bike inside by my office this morning. There was a slight chance of rain this afternoon, and it did sprinkle, so I'm glad I did. The bike ride to work and to home were both dry.
I got a call from the bike shop this afternoon. Francis is fixed, and I’ll pick my bike back up on Saturday.

In the meantime, I rode another bike. There was a chance of light afternoon rain today, but it was dry in the morning, and I wanted to ride. Jon left his bike with us while he is stationed in Paraguay in the Peace Corps, and I think it’s a good idea to ride his bike out about once a month or so. Sitting for two years could hurt it more than using it a bit—and since Francis was in the shop and it was dry this morning, I decided to ride New Blue, Jon’s swanky road bike.

Well, what a cloud of a bike. It felt like lifting a little baby after being around a toddler for a while. Parents will understand what I mean—your firstborn is a little bitty cute thing until your second child is born, and then the older kid is suddenly Godzilla compared to the newbie.

Such is Jon’s bike. It’s the baby, not Godzilla. But it is also one fast baby. I’m not used to it and didn't want to push it—I’m supposed to use it, not break it—so I didn't try to peddle very fast. But it’s a fast bike. I noticed heading up the hill to Mount Mercy this morning that I was traveling about 9 mph. On Francis, traveling up the same hill, I pedal about 5 mph.

In the afternoon, I took the slightly longer trial route home, and coasted down a slight incline near Garfield School. I glanced down at the speedometer on Jon’s bike and realized I was cruising at about 24 mph.

Occasionally, only rarely, I hit 20 mph on my commute on Francis. No way would I go well over 20 without peddling and without realizing it. (On a long country downhill during RAGBRAI, I often travel much faster on Francis, but that's a different kind of biking. I shudder to think how fast Jon's bike would have gone on some of those RAGBRAI hills this year.)

Anyway, Jon, your bike, New Blue, was feeling frisky today. Me, I felt a little weird while riding it, like an elephant on a tricycle because I was so hunched over. It’s the way Jon’s bike is built with its swept down, low handlebars. One does not sit upright, but rather leans way forward. And you have to lean even more to brake. Oddly enough, my back, which pains me most days, felt better than usual today. Maybe I need to do more hunched over biking.

There was only one bad incident while using Jon's bike today. In the morning, I was running with lights, but somehow, I managed to smack my hand into the headlight as I was biking on Eastern near the end of my commute, and the whole front light was snapped off the bike and clattered to the street—just as a car was passing by. Well, I must have been biking under my lucky Hungarian star (I would say luck of the Irish, but given their history I think that’s a ridiculous thing to say). The light clattered to the zone between the wheels of the auto, and the car passed over it without a hit. I was able to retrieve the headlight and put it back on, with no discernible damage done. Whew.

I took it a bit easy (if one can go 25 mph and call it easy). I was attentive to the street. The ride on New Blue is much rougher than Francis—Francis actually has front shock absorbers, and a springier seat. Plus, it’s the difference between 85 psi in the tires and 105. I didn't want to hit any bumps, both to preserve my butt, but also to ensure that the narrow road tires wouldn't get caught or damaged.

Somehow, it felt like a bit of magic that the whole bike didn't just disintegrate under my weight. But the ride was also a lot of fun. Like riding on a cloud.

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