Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Biking with One Eye Open.


I think my bicycle is trying to kill me.

It started out as a simple wipe-out – the amount of time I spend on my bike the law of averages really demanded that eventually I’d have a collision of gravity, inertia, idiots and pain.  In this actual instance I came around a corner after a super-steep hill going about mach 4 to find a pack of wild morons had taken refuge in the mouth of the tunnel into which I was barreling because of 3 minutes of sprinkles.  Not so many sprinkles as to really require the seeking of refuge, no matter how much beer one has apparently soaked one’s clothing in, but just enough to make the ground at the near-end mouth of the tunnel slightly slick.  The kind of slick that, when breaks are applied in a panic, makes your rear wheel swing around to be parallel with the tunnel and then, since the wheels are no longer pointed in the direction of movement, start flipping ass over tea kettle.*

In short, I got surprised, skidded, slid around and then went flying. 

When things stopped going “crash!” and “Oof!” and “Holy…!” and “screech!!!” the bike lay on the ground and I lay on top of it.  On top of the front wheel to be specific.  It was ground, then bike, then my ass.  I took the first few seconds to do that body parts inventory – you know the one.  “Are my body parts all still there?” followed immediately by “Do they all still move?”  Somewhere in there the silence was broken by a voice from the pack of morons at the other end of the tunnel.

“You ok?”

When I told the story later I really wanted to be critical of what seemed like the most stupid of all possible responses, but honestly what else do you say?  You just watched someone come screaming around the corner and then explode.  They’re now just lying there, possibly dead or dying or hoping for death.  You’re kind of worried that if they DON’T die they’re gonna get up and kill you.  It was really the only proper thing to say. 

My response was, at the time and in my judgment, also the only right one.  I said, with growing volume and intensity, “yes, but it’s YOUR FUCKING FAULT THAT I CRASHED!!!!!”  I was actually really pleased with the echo that followed my response down the tunnel – I was rocking the evil villain voice right then.  It would have been much more impressive if I’d been able to get up off my totally prone position, but I did what I could with what I had.

One guy – the big one, and also the stupid one.  The big, stupid one, that guy, got defensive and started in with “oh sure, it’s OUR fault…” and I’m sure he had compelling evidence to back his theory, but he was cut off by the other guy – the cooler one who was much cooler than his social group and his “Coors” cologne gave you reason to expect – who went right into ‘hero’ mode.  He was through the tunnel to my end and helping pick me up off the ground in a flash.  He dusted me off (which was nice but ineffectual) and then gave me a hug (which was nice and… well, weird.  But the nice overwhelmed the weird in the moment) and I kind of teared up. 

Oh, important clarification here:  This was about week 2 or 3 after T.E. left me.  I was still sad and emotionally bare and the dumbest little thing, like accidentally killing a spider in the shower, could set off the water works.  I’d also had a very sucky day that day and was in the process of trying to bike away from that day, but it had very clearly dashed ahead on my bike path and crouched down to leap out and attack me.  So there were tears.  I hated them so much, especially in front of The Big, Stupid guy and the Cooler Than You’d Expect guy, but I knew there wasn’t anything that was gonna stop them.  So.  Tears.

The Cooler Guy checked me over and fixed my bike chain and gave me another hug, all while The Big, Stupid one lectured me on why it was actually my fault due to my biking on the wrong side of the path and this one time somebody gave him a ticket for walking on the wrong side of the path and it was so wrong but what are you going to do, right?...  I was eager to get away from the whole beer-stinking group once the bike was working and my tears were bottled back up and so I hopped on the seat and dashed away. 

About 30 seconds in the saddle and I knew my knee was waiting to have words with me about a paradigm shift that it had experienced when I smashed it into the ground and slid it along.  I explained to the knee that it would have to hold that thought until we got home.  Oh, and here I should also mention that we were exactly as far away from home as was possible on this route.  So home we went…

The days and actually weeks after (up to now in fact) had lots of bruises and one purple, skinless knee approximately 60% larger than it’s neighbor and general pain.  But again, this was a rare event, one that I literally walked away from and I was basically due, so…

Today I was barreling down the path at my normal 15 mph.  The weather was beautiful with sun AND blue skies (a great combination – I highly recommend) and I was almost 2/3 of the way done with the run, so… you know, it was good.  I went to pass this pair also on their bikes and giving definition to the concept of “strolling by bike” especially compared to my speed.  Then they decided that, given the person coming at them from the front (and yeah, I saw her coming, but I had the window to pass) and the voice they’d just heard from behind them calling out “passing on your left!” (that was me), the appropriate course of action was to turn suddenly left, closing up my passing hole. 

I jumped all over the breaks and some stuff happened.  These things are extremely mysterious.  I know that the top of the toes on my right foot scraped the ground in some fashion; that the breaks were so effective that all wheels stopped rolling but did not stop moving; that I did go over the handlebars, but not because I was vaulted into the air but instead because the bike disappeared under me somehow.  Once I was no longer riding the bike I managed to stay on my feet and ended the performance running down the bike path away from my bike who was now dead and lying on the ground behind me. 

You heard me:  I wrecked but somehow ended up on my feet and running down the path.  I went from biking to running in mid-work-out.  I.  Am.  Awesome.

The damage this time, as you could imagine, was far less severe.  Basically the left peddle went all gangsta on my left foot/ankle/shin/calf/make it stop…  But I had the time during the rest of the ride to consider how it was that I’ve had two wreck-like-instances in a month and in the end the answer seemed clear:  my bike, tired of all the work I just keep putting it through and resentful of the shameful lack of washing that it’s had, is finally rising up and seeking appropriate and reasonable revenge. 

What to do about it.  Stop biking?  Oh please.  Wash the bike?  Sure, but I’m tired and that’s hard.  Open up a dialogue with the bike to work out the issues and find a compromise?  Clearly you, my friend, are a communist.  No, I’m going with the only reasonable course of action:  keep doing what I’ve been doing but be generally suspicious of my once-trusty-steed. 

I’ve got my eye on you, Blue Thunder.

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