Thursday, May 29, 2014

In Which A Journey On Borrowed Bikes Begins

The Beast in my driveway before the afternoon ride Wednesday.

Francis is in the shop. I dropped him off there Tuesday afternoon, and walked home. Sadly, it looks like the bike shop will take about three weeks to get the repairs done—a tune up, new chain and new seat post.

This isn’t the worst time to lose the use of my bike—there are still two months left to get my RAGBRAI training miles in. And it’s not even all that big of a crisis, because I do have 3 other bicycles available for my use:
  • My wife’s 15-speed Schwinn. Yes, it’s a girl’s bike. Yes, I took ridiculous on it. I honestly don’t plan to use it much or at all, I’m only listing it because it’s in the garage and I could, technically, ride it.
  • My son’s 15-speed Schwinn. I rode it 20 miles Thursday. My butt has not forgiven me, but it is a bike I can ride. And yes, due to its style and size, I look almost as ridiculous on it as on the wife’s bike.
  • My other son’s gabagillion-speed Fancy Bike. It’s a road bike, brand not familiar to me (but then again, I don’t know what kind of bike Francis is, other than a hybrid). Indeed the Fancy Bike is by far the sexiest bike available, bar none. I am not even sure how many speeds it is—3 in front, 8 in back? That would make it a 24-speed. Anyway, I rode it today and will probably describe today’s journey in a later blog post, but it’s a bike with plenty of va-va-voom. I feel a bit guilty on it, like a 16-year-old borrowing Dad’s sports car. Strike that. A 16-year-old has no guilt. Like a 16-year-old should feel borrowing Dad’s sports car, but probably doesn’t.
Anyway, Wednesday morning started with a shakedown cruise, a 3-mile ride to and from the gym. I then spent part of the day, which was cloudy and threatening rain, working inside. By mid-afternoon, with the sun starting to shine, I gave up all thoughts of work and headed out on The Beast.

My regular bike is named “Francis.” Perhaps it says something about my attitude about this bicycle that it already has a name—“The Beast.”

It was, on some levels, a beastly Wednesday ride. The Beast’s seat is narrower than my very wide, eligible-for-restaurant-senior-discounts, butt likes. And unlike Francis, the seat doesn’t rest on a shock absorber, so any bump in the road is transmitted quickly and painfully to said sad butt.

And, I’m not used to this type of bike, with its wide knobby tires, tiny frame and different gearing. On Francis, my start up gear is 3-3—largest gear in front, third smallest in back. I ended up using 3-4 on The Beast, because it appears to be geared more to climb mountains and less to ride trails. I don’t often get Francis into 3-7, the “fastest” gear, but I often put the pedal to the highest push on The Beast.

I don’t have a speedometer on The Beast, and so I’m unsure of speed. It felt “slower” than Francis, but that’s just a feeling.

Anyway, for all its drawbacks, The Beast has a huge advantage: It’s a usable bike that is not in the shop right now. So Thursday afternoon, I took off towards Hiawatha, pumping away on The Beast.

The ride might have been a bit beastly, but smelled nice, thanks to both Honey Locust trees (one shown on Boyson Trail) and Honeysuckle bushes being in bloom.
My plan was to head north. Not for any particular reason, just because I have not gone beyond Lafayette yet this summer, and feel as if I ought to. But when I got to Robbins, the trail was marked “closed for repairs.” Other bikers and riders were ignoring the signs and using the clearly just-paved trail, but I was willing to follow any “turn back” signs that the universe gave me, so I turned back.

I rode down to the Noelridge Park area to head towards home. The cloud cover was intermittent, but consistent enough that I felt obligated to run with lights on after I paused at the park to give my backside a brief reprise.

As I neared home, I didn’t feel like I had ridden enough, so I made up for some of the “lost” miles by heading down the Lindale Trail to the Boyson Trail, and riding that whole trail complex (out to Menards, back to Hanna Park and then back to the north end of the trail).

I had climbed Mount Brentwood during my morning gym ride, and my sore butt was sending urgent pain memos, so I instead took the easiest route home—going to Kent and then Sussex and then Devonshire rather than ascending the mountain again.

How do I rate The Beast? Well, my son seems to have abandoned it, and is planning to buy a “nice” bike. I can’t say that I blame him. The Beast is definitely best as a second bicycle. But as a second bicycle? It’s a bit of a beast, but The Beast can be used, and that makes it OK.

I had ridden it for around 20 miles Wednesday. Saturday or so, I hope to use it on the Sac and Fox Trail, which I have not been on yet this season. Cate, are you in? No flood, so, I hope, less mud.

Today, I used the other son’s bike, Fancy Bike. I’ll blog about it later. And I’m sure if Francis ends up being in the shop for three weeks as planned, I’ll ride that sexy bike again.

But never on any day when it might rain. And never on the Sac and Fox trail. I’m too scared to use Fancy Bike much, but then again, I suspect that the commute home this afternoon may meander on the Cedar River Trail a bit.

I don’t often get to fly on this fast bike. And, while The Beast may be best for a dirt trail like Sac and Fox, on the road, a road bike is king.

When I’m on The Beast, I miss Francis. But if it weren’t for The Beast, I’d miss a lot of biking. So bottom line, no matter the pain to my bottom, I’m grateful you’re around, The Beast.

Near ride's end. Sun does it's spotlight thing through clouds over Bowman Woods School. There was some sun but also lots of clouds, but despite a few sprinkles, it never did rain.

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