Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Tweed Ride, A Personal View

The major and minor media having reported in, now it’s my turn. Sunday morning I was up very early to make sure the Roadster was ready. I adjusted the brakes, replaced the broken wire from the dynamo to the headlamp, and went for a test ride. A cacophony of noises rent the air. Roadsters are noisy anyway, but this was worse than before. The crank rubbed against the gear case. The gear case acted as a resonator to amplify every creak and chain rattle. I did what I could with the gear case and figured I would have to live with it. It would be like having loud pipes on a motorcycle. Most important, I found I could ride it with an acceptable level of elbow pain. This would be my first ride on an upright bicycle since the bike accident in June in which I had broken my elbow, and I was concerned about it. Given the condition of the bike and my arm, I chose to minimize the amount of riding to the event itself. I put the bike in my Volvo 240 wagon and drove it to a parking spot near a Metro station. That way, if the bike broke down or my arm started to hurt excessively, I could count on getting home. I have rarely taken bikes on Metro and finding the right elevators took some additional time. What with making sure the bike was ready and taking Metro on a Sunday, it was 12:30 when I reached the starting point for an event which had been scheduled to start at 11. Fortunately, I had seen a message from the organizer Eric that due to the large turnout, it would be run in groups over several hours. I arrived just as a group was leaving, registered, talked with people, took some pictures and had my picture taken, and was in what turned out to be the last group to go. Eric asked for leaders and I ended up as one of them, but I let my co-leader, who had done this sort of thing before, do most of the navigating. I found that the Roadster, which is not exactly a thing of blinding speed, was nevertheless so high-geared that even pedaling very slowly and coasting a lot, I kept getting out in front. At one point, not being used to riding in a group, I failed to notice I was crowding a lady behind me toward the curb, but did manage not to run her into it. Eventually I dropped back into the pack for a while. The ride was fun. The roadster’s loud bell received many compliments. The weather was really a bit warm for tweed, the best day we’d had in some time. We got a lot of attention and even some cheers from people along the way. At one point, a lady riding behind me commented on the noises my bike made. “When you changed gears, it sounded like your chain was falling off!” she said. I told her that the noises are what holds the bike together. I’ve gotten used to the many distinctive sounds that roadsters make. Actually I was pleased that the noise level was a lot less than it had been during my morning test ride. Inexplicably, the crank arm wasn’t rubbing on the gear case any more. I was having a great time and it was the perfect bike for the occasion. Roadsters are a hoot and a half. I can’t help grinning while I ride it. On arrival at Marvin, the venue for the post-ride party, we found that several hundred people had preceded us. The bike racks provided by WABA for the occasion were already full. Three of us locked our bikes together instead. I was so intrigued by the bikes parked outside that I did not get indoors where the party was for some time. The main party was on the upstairs deck. It was jam-packed. At the far end was some free food, if you could get there. Eventually I did. It was English muffins, eggs, grits, and English-style (meaning not cooked to a crisp) bacon—just the way I prefer it. The remainder of the day was spent in conversations, meeting new people, sampling Belgian ale and generally enjoying myself. I stayed longer than I thought I would have, and was glad I had made sure I had working lights for the return trip. I had also found that while my recumbent trike riding had maintained my stamina, I was no longer acclimated to a saddle after five months not riding an upright bike. This, however, did not become noticeable until the ride home. I enjoyed riding with a group (nearly all of my decades of cycling has been solo). I liked seeing the variety of bicycles and costumes. I especially enjoyed the feeling of camaraderie, that we were all in on something remarkable. I made some new friends and saw a few people I knew. Earlier in the day, one of the participants had been hit by a bus while riding to the start—fortunately she was not seriously injured and able to continue. At the end of the day, as I was getting ready to leave, I found out that a bike had been stolen from one of the participants. Because the racks were full, she had parked it separately from the main group, locked to a fence around the corner, where it was out of sight and easier to steal. It was perhaps inevitable that so large a food supply would attract predators and scavengers. Still, it was one of those things that takes a bit of the bloom off an otherwise perfect day. It’s a reminder that cyclists can never relax their vigilance for traffic hazards or theft. Those are the thorns on the rose. For some people, they are reasons not to ride. For others, they are occupational hazards that will not prevent them from enjoying the benefits. The rose smells sweet and looks pretty even with its thorns. Congratulations to Eric and his cohorts for a successful event, and I look forward to more great things from the Dandies and Quaintrelles.

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