April 16, 2011 Ride

Well, April, while I’m still miffed at you over last weekend, I suppose I can extend an olive branch of sorts, after this morning. It’s only a tiny olive branch, and there are hardly any buds on it — no way do we have leaves yet, April. No. Way. While my ride was lovely in the 70 degree weather with partly sunny skies (I sound like a weather report), you had to roll out the rain and see-your-breath chill for The Boy’s forty-six hour Little League game, didn’t you?

I see how it is, April. You’re taunting me. An hour of sunshine here… fifteen minutes there… you know I have next week off for spring break. You know I want to ride my bike every day. Let me just say this clearly: you better be prepared, April, because if you spend the whole week dumping icy rain on my head, I’m comin’ after you. And you won’t like me when I’m angry, April.

The Raleigh and I packed a seven mile ride into the 45 minutes we had this morning before the Little League Day extravaganza of mud, rain and butt-chilling bleachers. The Cedar River Trail is leafing out in a lovely shade of chartruese.

Along the way, a nice lady saw me taking photos and offered to take one of me and my bike. It resulted in this photo, which I dislike. Like most women, I’m very picky about my photographs. I wish I’d pulled my shirt down in this one, since I’d just hopped off the bike. I wish I’d stood differently. I wish I wasn’t smiling so maniacally… on and on. The Beloved says it’s a lovely picture, and that I’m giving a genuinely happy smile. I should accept his kind assessment, but I still think it looks like I’m about to start twitching and muttering about My Precious.

Does this bike make me look fat?

The Raleigh’s brakes are still unreliable, but I think I’ve got a fix for that: a brand new pair of shiny Sun CR-18 aluminum rims, freshly arrived and sitting in a large box in my family room. They’re going to be laced to my existing hubs, replacing my battered original steel rims. Along with new rims, The Raleigh is going to get a new cog in the back, lowering the three-speed gear ratio so it will be easier to pedal the bike up hills. Since I want to ride this bike during my week off, I’m going to wait until next weekend to drop it off at The Dutch Bicycle Co. to get the work done. Also, that will mean I’ve been paid, which I find is helpful in these situations.

Once The Raleigh has new rims, it will make going down the 360 degree turn easier, as well, as I will no longer have to worry about losing control and riding right into the river. Notice how nervous The Raleigh looks in the photo above. The Raleigh is actually an inanimate object (shhh), so just imagine how I feel, riding 40 lbs of slippery British Steel down that curve! But The Raleigh comes from a long tradition of bravery in the face of unspeakable odds, much like these guys…

 

My mom loved that movie.

At any rate, The Raleigh, for all its faults, is a sturdy, stable performer. About five years ago, after a twenty-year hiatus from cycling, I used my Bush tax refund to personally refuel the sagging economy and buy myself a bike. I knew nothing about bicycles, but this one looked a bit like the beach cruiser I fancied myself riding around on (with the ubiquitous loaf of French bread in a basket, of course, wearing the sort of flowy summer dress I don’t own). But as my then-husband pointed out, it had gears. The best of both worlds, right?

The bike was from K2, who no longer make bicycles, probably for all the reasons why this one was such a miserable piece of equipment. The bike never fit me properly, and I was quite uncomfortable riding it. Not really upright, nor really… not upright, it was slow and cumbersome. I realize now that it was also dangerous.

At the bottom of the 360 degree turn, the trail runs under the highway and reemerges in a tight curve. Three years ago, I was coming back from a ride on the K2, and took that curve rather quickly. I lost control of the bike, which was not particularly stable or easy to handle in the first place. The bike hit the big rocks beside the trail, and stopped. I went over the handlebars, and hit the small rocks. First with both hands, then with my head.

The Raleigh is posing about where I went down. It was 9:30am on a Tuesday summer morning. No other riders were on the trail. Though I didn’t lose consciousness, I was pretty dazed when I sat up. My palms were a disgusting bloody pulp. My knees were badly torn up as well. Everything hurt. I climbed back on my K2, and rode the mile home. I cleaned up my hands and my knees, and counted myself pretty lucky.

By the next day, I wasn’t feeling as lucky. The pain from the road rash on my hands had masked my other injuries. I had two cracked or broken ribs.  They took the entire summer to heal. A month later, during an x-ray to check for arthritis in my hands, the doctor noticed a freshly-healed break in a bone in my left hand. The foam on my helmet, which had initially appeared nearly unscathed in front, was actually rippled in the back from the force of the frontal impact of my head with the cement and gravel.

Looking at this accident today, I’m back to considering myself lucky. I honestly believe that had I not been wearing my helmet, I would have sustained, at best, a serious concussion. At worst? I think I could have died. I was alone on the trail at a time of day where few others were out riding. I was under a bridge, and not visible to anyone passing. What would a skull fracture have meant under those circumstances? I’m very glad I don’t know.

I didn’t ride again for a year. The following summer, when on my first ride, I put on the brakes and the rear brake lever on the K2 collapsed in my hand. The front brake worked perfectly, and I went right over the bars again. Fortunately, I was nearly stopped anyway, and sustained only a bit of road rash. The rear brake had been damaged in the accident the previous year.

I had the bike fixed, but it wasn’t the same. The magic was definitely gone. I made up my mind at that point to get a bike I liked better. One that fit me, and that was more upright. I found LovelyBicycle! in the course of my research, and soon had a Raleigh of my own. I sold the K2, and the rest is history.

Perhaps I should thank K2 for making such a crappy bicycle. Had it been just a bit better, I wouldn’t have been so turned-off by it. I wouldn’t have purchased The Raleigh on eBay for way too much money, and I wouldn’t be writing about it now. I certainly wouldn’t have taken any photos of the K2 sitting in a patch of little blue flowers on a somewhat sunny April day.

To finish out this blog entry, here is a photo I took on a short after-work ride last week. The Raleigh and I enjoyed a bit of sunshine, and a drifting river of cherry blossoms. Ah, April… sometimes, you’re all right.

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11 Responses to April 16, 2011 Ride

  1. monk says:

    April has been a real “teaser” here too and the forecast doesn’t look good for this week. Hopefully it’s better there and you can ride every day while I’m hiking instead of biking (which I don’t mind). Thanks for the reminder of how important it is to wear a helmet. As a former rider of the “steel wheels”, I share your distrust of their braking ability, especially in wet weather. You should be thrilled with the new aluminum wheels. BTW, I vote with “The Beloved” re: your picture. Happy trails!

  2. Auchen says:

    You’re too tolerant of April.
    So far, its been perpetually overcast-damp-dank-cold with driving wind and rain, and April has some sort of natural AWACS system tracing my every turn, so that it blows unerringly from whichever direction I’m headed into.

    Hey!

    I just looked out the window, and it’s a beautiful morning! Robins singing, daffodils blooming, ladies with their Easter bonnets are out strolling in long pastel-colored dresses, pushing Silver Cross baby carriages past rows of pink flowers with white swans floating gracefully by on a tranquil pond, alongside their reflections, with puffy white clouds reflecting back in its mirror-like surface all framed in blue!

    Aaack! Just kidding. It’s another rainy miserable April morning.

    PS – You’ll be glad you did go with those Sun aluminum rims – especially when you want to slow down in wet weather. Get some Kool Stop brake pads to go with them.

  3. adventure! says:

    I always have to be tolerant of April, mostly because I live with her. Wait, you’re not talking about my girlfriend?

    As for the Raleigh, first it’s the Brooks saddle, next it’s aluminum rims, and finally it’ll be dyno lighting. It’s the inevitable path. (Have you thought about building a dynohub wheel?)

    It’s sunny out right now. Here’s to May!

  4. w1gfh says:

    Re the K2, it is funny how the heavy old Raleighs feel somehow nimbler and more stable riding than modern alloy cruisers.

    Also AFAIK, the Inevitable Path of Vintage Raleigh goes something like this:

    Saddle
    Saddlebag
    Rims
    Dyno
    Gearing

  5. rideblog says:

    Adventure and w1gfh… Here’s my progression:

    Saddlebag (had the saddle, remember?)
    Saddle
    Rims and Gearing

    The Dyno hub sounds cool, but I don’t have another $150 for hub and light. So after this, I think I’m done for a while. For a while. :)

  6. adventure! says:

    True, doing the whole dyno/lighting in one shot is a chunk of change. But maybe just get the dyno wheel built and wait for later to get the lights? On one hand, building a dyno wheel sort of forces your hand into buying the lights. On the other hand, building a wheel is a perfect opportunity to do this, and if you build a non-dyno wheel, it’s a pain to redo/rebuild into a dynohub later.

  7. w1gfh says:

    I forgot to mention, Stage 6 of the progression is a Tweed Ride in full tweed regalia.

  8. rideblog says:

    w1gfh: Ah ha! I’m allergic to wool. No Tweed Rides in full tweed regalia for me :).

  9. rideblog says:

    This has all occured to me, adventure!. I just don’t need the lighting, so I can’t justify the cost. I don’t ride in the dark, and cool as the lights are, I don’t have to have them.

  10. adventure! says:

    w1gfh–Stage 7: You start wearing tweed even when there’s no tweed ride.

    rideblog–Sure, you don’t think you need lights or wool now. But you haven’t reached Stage 8 yet. And if you have to ask what Stage 8 is, we’ll, you’ll just find out soon enough! ;-)

  11. Pingback: On Journalism, Science, Empirical Evidence, Bee Poop and Bike Helmets | rideblog

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