A few nights ago I went ahead and dug, well dug and climbed my way through my garage and pulled out my old Raleigh road bike. It is an old Raleigh racing bike, no braze ons for a rack or fenders, moderately light weight, but not too light weight due to the old not old school components. This frame is actually not that old, well maybe over a decade old, seeing that it was a warranty off a broken frame of a yet even older Raleigh Racing USA frame, but old just the same. I took the bike into the basement for a refreshing tune up. There is a great reward in working on bikes, something organic about the simplicity of it all; even if it is just patching some tubes. I trued the wheels and cleaned the chain, adjusted the brakes and the gears, sure I neglected to repacks any bearings, but felt that the bike was road worthy and the couch was calling. The next morning, before even leaving my alley on my way to work I was reminded of this bike's handlebar issue. The road bike drop bars are too narrow in bar diameter for the stem to clamp down tightly enough to keep the bars from tilting up and or down. This is beyond aggravating, it is down right dangerous. I adapted and dealt with it, keeping a mental note to get new bars and trying not to put myself into a situation where this tilting bar issue would put me at risk. In no time at all I was reminded all of the things I love about a road bike, then just as quickly I was reminded of all the things that I hate. On the plus side, the road bike is quick, nimble, and light; the acceleration is near effortless. The wheels roll with what seems to be zero resistance, so different than the fat and slow knobbies of the mountainbike. The downside, the wheels are narrow; so cracks, crevices, and definitely pot holes must be avoided. For those that know the DC streets....potholes are everywhere, some are deep and wide enough to park a car in....some roads are worse than others....the lesser maintained roads are more like the crater covered surface of the moon rather than the capitol city of the most powerful nation in the world. Other factors on the downside of the road bike include the surface contact is decreased so turning on loose gravel or rocks is more risky and the braking power is significantly less effective with the sidepull brakes than with the cantis-v-brakes-or disc brakes of the mountainbike. So essentially I have to alter my riding style through the city. Fewer risks are taken as reaction time is slower. The drop bar position decreases visibility and decreases stability, the wider mountain bars may be an issue for going between rows of cars with various side view mirrors, but the upright position with shoulder width bars still offers a more stable position. In case it is not clear....the mountainbike is the preferred machine for the city, while the road bike is grand for long spins on country roads. At some points in my life I have tried to keep a rule, no road bikes unless I am going out for more than 30 miles. ( last night may have hit that on the mark)
My ride to work was short. Riding that day was pending on my boss and his willingness to let me leave work early. To my delight he abilged my request. I was on my bike and headed to Great Falls, Maryland on my way home, debating with doing the turn around climb that feeds into the great Falls parking lot several times if I had the energy and the time. As I pedaled north on the Capital Crescent Trail I noticed my bike was a tad squirrelly as I politely passed another cyclist. the summer rain was not going to keep me from riding, but the condition of my bike may be a variable to consider. I glanced at my rear wheel and could see that it was sorely out of whack, so bad that it was rubbing my frame as well as my brakes, that was only effecting my speed. The loss of air in my front tire was causing my lack of control. As I slowed to a stop the air in my front tire rapidly exited the tire and tube; leaving the tire completely flat by the time I was off the bike. With the front tire flat I checked the rear wheel. It was bad, real bad. The wheel would not spin one rotation, I had noticed the rear wheel was slightly out of true a few miles prior and had flipped the quick release lever on the brakes to back the pads off the twisted rim, but I had not realized the extent of the damage. A broken spoke on the drive side had caused this wheel to go seriously out of whack! The paint was starting to wear on the frame from where the wheel was rubbing. I started to walk back without changing the tube, I felt that the wheel was so out of whack that riding on it any longer may cause greater damage. Then after a mile or two of walking I decided that this wheel was past its prime and I might as well ride on it. So I fixed the front flat and rode gently back the way I came. I pedaled into Georgetown and headed right for Big Wheel Bikes. This shop is closer than home and has a greater likelihood of having a replacement spoke of the right size, but only a slightly greater chance, after all this is Big Wheel. Upon arrival, Lance the Aussie accented shop manager/wrench offered me what spokes he had and use of his tools. In minutes the spoke was replaced, the wheel was true, and I was putting air in the tires. With a quick thank you and good bye I rolled out and rolled home to get on the deck project with my dad.
I got home, my dad was doing his solo thing. I mixed some concrete, we poured it, Lisa and the dogs ended up walking through it later that night. For the most part my dad did not need my assistance. The deck was fairly unproductive and the boys had gone off to sleep so I thought to myself that my time would be best spent riding. With the wheel fixed and the Shenandoah Mountain 100 just a month away I figured I needed to get some miles in on the bike. Permission from Lisa was granted and I was off on the bike at dusk. With my red lights blinking I conserved my headlamp. As I headed out Beach Drive in Rock Creek Park I could see the roadies headed in from the Goon Ride. As I rode the down the winding road various riders gave me a nod, more friendly than the usual roadie, I attributted this to the fact that they must have figured I was doing a post Goon Ride cool down.
On some freshly paved section of road I really got feel the pleasure of the road bike. At certain sections I glanced at my watch to check my progress. It was clear that the road bike is significantly faster with a lesser output. This brought smiles to my face. The road bike cruised silently; no sound of the chain and no hum from the the tires on the pavement, it is really quite Zen...in the darkness it is even more soothing. There were times where I spun along with a feeling of floating as I went around the curves and the bends. There were a limited number of assholes on the road, shockingly the biggest asshole was some guy on a Beamer motorcycle (BMW) who passed me by inches while holding down his horn. I raced after him and fantasied his demise, he drifted away into the distance and so did my fantasy. For the most part I do not wish any ill will upon anyone, but there are short instances where I wish that I had the powers of Carrie on prom night, but those feelings are fleeting. It is not healthy for me to let this anger brew. There are far too many incidents to let my heart rate change over.
For the most part this ride was alone in the darkness. As mentioned the cars were few and far between, leaving the asshole count to a minimum, yet for as few cars I encountered the percentage of cocksuckers was high. The soothing experience of rolling around at high speed with the wind in my hair...well I am shaved bald and wearing a helmet, but I know the feeling from younger days, was able to help me to shed all anger, hatred and frustration. The Mormon Temple was aglow with its stark white marble walls and its golden angle with trumpet in hand. In the woods along side the road were a wide variety of glowing eyes; stray cats, many deer, a few foxes, and other nocturnal creatures that I was not able to identify. These animals were as curious of me and my Cyclops like helmet light. I watched their eyes pan as I passed by their field of view. After making a U-turn at the end of Beach Drive right past Garret Park I decided that I had plenty of fuel in the tank and picked up the pace a bit. Again enjoying the pleasure of the road bike and its advantages on such a road verses the bulkier mountianbike with all of its drag. The miles sped behind me, back past the Mormon Temple, over East West Highway, and then just as I passed Candy Cane City..at this point I felt a pop and felt a snap on the back wheel. It is a feeling of either a rock bouncing off a spoke or a spoke breaking, knowing this wheel and its history I assumed the later. I cranked it home keeping up pace, not letting the drag of the rear wheel slow me down. Turning onto Park Road I left a few tailgating motorists behind me.....another cocksucker on a cell phone passed me too fast and too close only to be passed at the light at the top of the hill (just 30 yards from my own house on Park Road.) As I motored up the hill with the cars behind me I heard the oh so familiar sound of a car horn. Looked back, slowed my pace, stopped at the light at the top of the hill turned around and headed for home. Being the dumb ass that I am I slowed to a near stop and spoke to the same cocksucker on the cell phone, his window was up and he did not hear what I had said. Nothing obnoxious, nothing of value, just venting a little steam.
A great evening ride that left me too energized to fall asleep before midnight, which made for a tough morning with the boys. Luckily for me my wife was there to pick up the slack, she is plenty use to my sluggish mornings by now. Maybe we should move the coffee machine into the bedroom.