Sunday, May 30, 2010

sour grapes.

today was a gorgeous day to ride.

it was pretty hot, and a little windy, but it's the kind of day that we in toronto have waited for for the past 8 months, and it was the kind of day that one could get a sunburn, a windburn, and a hangover, all at once, and love it.

my frame is cracked.

i spent the day walking around with the girls, sweating, buying juice and laundry detergent, doing chores, and cheering on the riders at the toronto criterium. it would be a fine way to pout.

i learned last weekend that one of the unfortunate sides to cleaning one's things is that one may discover the last thing one wants to discover underneath all of the grime: an imperfection. the imperfection i discovered last weekend went far beyond a mere scratch or ugly weld bead. it was a crack. a long crack, starting in the weld and finishing on the other side of the seat tube. i guess that explains all the clicking noise while i climb.

at first, i didn't believe it.

then i yelled an expletive, tossed the rag, and went inside to tell someone, anyone, that something really bad had just happened. and all the while, i couldn't really believe it, but i kind of wanted to, because i knew something was up with that clicking sound while i climbed, and i always wondered about an excuse to buy a real racing bike and...


the frame's cracked. the foundation of my entire venture into bikes and road bikes and racing and training and everything else has been compromised. building that bike brought me to bike shops across the city, baby in chest carrier, in search of rare and specific parts or tools. it made me learn all about campagnolo and 8 speed and then 10 speed. i had to re-learn how to build wheels. i built relationships with quirky mechanics down the street, living the dream and charging way too little to solve my hardest problems with ease. that bike brought me closer to my dad. he found the frame on ebay when i asked him to help me snipe another, much cheaper, much less fancy frame. he paid for half of it. he rode more when i brought it up to his house and we rode together. that frame got me through two centuries. that frame got me back into climbing, and road bikes altogether. riding that bike made me eat better and train harder and shave my legs again. i had a lot to live up to, riding a bike like that. that frame weighs about as much as the brooks b17 i put on it when i first built it. that frame has class, is a conversation starter, got me onto the serotta forum, made me learn about generosity and the finer points usually reserved for true bike snobs. that bike got me into and through my first bike race.

and now it's cracked.

it's okay. i called serotta and they can fix it for about twice as much as i paid for the frame. and it'll take a couple months. and i'll have to pay for shipping. and it won't be the same. and that pissed me off. i knew i wasn't getting serotta guarantee or warranty when i bought a used frame off of ebay, but it never occurred to me that serotta could mean breakable, certainly not in titanium! it wouldn't really be that big of a deal if i had the cash lying around to just get the thing fixed, or just ride another bike, or just buy another bike, or just buy another frame. but i don't. ITTET, i'm dirt poor, living paycheck to paycheck and hoping for a summer job. groceries aren't getting any cheaper, and the girls aren't eating any less. 

thankfully, i came to my senses and asked around and got some advice and now the frame looks like it'll be repaired within 10 days. i'll build it up again next weekend. it will be glorious. i will learn more. i will ride it harder. it will be truly custom. i will know it so much better. i can't wait. thank goodness for tragedy; here comes fortune!

Saturday, May 15, 2010


i read something once about a man asked of his recent result in a bike race. his reply (something like): 'i think i did pretty well. i came in first in my category. my category being: the successful [insert job here], wood-working, happily-married father-of-two 49-year-old category.'

this is wonderfully encompassing, and correct.

even desiderata mentions it - do not compare yourself with others, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.


and i will take it one step further, and mention that these comparisons can and will often happen at inopportune times, and sometimes it will feel like most of the persons you are with are 'greater than yourself', but then we'd have to move on to that all-important stanza: 'whether or not it is clear to doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.'

thank goodness for that manifesto. like bicycles, i don't believe i would have survived adolescence without it.

take, for example, my small hill ride yesterday. 

i like to hit up bayview because it's longer than most of the hills i get to ride, and although full of traffic, it offers a two-section gradient and plenty of shoulder room, and is conveniently at the end of my requisite 13-minute warm-up routine. i huffed and puffed my way up bayview, fancying catching the brightly-colored jersey ahead of me, but settled for a rhythmic ('he's got to ride at his own pace now, digging deep into the suitcase of courage...') spin that took full advantage of spring weather and a 3/4 zip on my shirt. following bayview, i spun easily and quickly over the top and along the ridge to the other loblaws, the one with the hill, and i prepared to bomb down the descent and begin climbing/clawing back up.

then those guys were in the way.

i know, with spring, there are a million times more riders on the road. it was friday. it was absolutely gorgeous. it was normal spring weather after a week of absolute shite. the road is open to all. the universe is unfolding as it should.

but that guy's wearing a backpack. 

and i'm not talking a camelbak or other riding-based design of hydration-enhancing intent; i'm talking a chemistry text book, homework-porting pack sack that probably has his lunch baggies at the bottom.

and that guy doesn't even have a helmet on.

you can say what you like and steer yourself over to bikesnob's recent post about the helmet argument and all of that, but wearing helmets is the right thing to do, and i have instant prejudice/disdain for those who elect not to while riding bikes that make obvious one's intent to be fast and awesome on paved surfaces. not so fast or awesome when you're dead, dumb-ass.

so, where was i?

oh right. stuck behind pack-sack and his compadre dumb-ass, slowly, sssssssllllloooooooooowlyyyyyyyyyyy making their ways down the hill. 

the last time i subjected myself to this hill, i flew down it every time. 42mph without a hilltop push, and i could finally carve the turns because all the construction debris and gravel and sand had been cleaned off the road surface. it was glorious. it was probably the reason i did as many repetitions as i did - i couldn't get enough of the descent, and climbing back out is the only way to get home.

yesterday, there was no flying down the hill. there was gentle swooning, meandering even, and so much meandering that there was certainly no safe way to pass. so i gritted my teeth, squeezed the brakes, and let the universe unfold.

nearing the bottom, dumb-ass made the move i predicted and began a full-road swerve toward my (straight and acceptable right-hand side of the road) direction to start his own climb back out. his buddy, pack-sack, saw this and promptly told him, 'heads up'. 

disaster was averted.

i thought: maybe you should get a helmet if you're going to ride like that.

do not compare yourself with others...

i rode to the far end of the run-out, checked my blind spot, turned around, and looked up the hill. they had already begun climbing, and it looked feasible that i might catch them. i wondered if i should wait. i coasted to the base of the climb, debating all the while, whether i would catch them, if i should run that risk, what would be so bad if i did, and what makes one an asshole anyway, what they look like or their intent?

i shifted and started pedaling.

as the hill goes up, it doesn't seem so bad. there's a breeze in the trees and the pavement is smooth. the gradient isn't horrible yet, and victory seems to be within reach. 

then you look up.

nothing wrong with looking up, except that you can't see the top. and if any part of your brain is still working, you realize that it's crazy if you can't see the top because the hill isn't really all that long. so, it must be that steep. that's STEEP. thankfully, before you can calculate any implications to this realization, the steepness has slapped some good ol' survival-based instincts into your legs and you are forced to run on fight or flight, no calculating or implicating allowed. unfortunately, flight requires one to fight in this instance, so choice is further reduced to basic obligation: breathe, push, breathe, push, breathe, try not to die right now, breathe, is that god at the next curve?, breathe, it hurts to breathe, ...

i passed them somewhere after the first maintenance hole cover. i wasn't dying like i usually do, but i wasn't feeling schlecktastic either, so i tried a little 'we're all in this together' greeting: 'almost there...'.

pack-sack returned, 'yep...'

dumb-ass remained dumb.

i pushed on and summited, quickly spinning out of the parking lot, and headed home.

and then i thought about categorization and stereotyping and bad high school poetry (i wrote LOTS) and shaving my legs and upgrading my bike and it dawned on me: i'm the best rider i know, in my category.

i cannot compare myself with others, entirely, because, in a scientific method sense, my whole existence happens in the 'Discussion' section, in the margin of error, in the 'yeah, but'. this girl rides faster than i. and i change diapers faster than she. and that guy's waaaay slower than i, and he does real work that changes the world for the better. i can race cat 4 elite, the old man's category for guys who've never raced but want to give it a go, and i will be in the same start as punk asses from st. catharine's and the editor of canadian bike magazines, but none of them will get in the smallest car of the parking lot after having buckled in the world's most beautiful 5- and 2-year-olds, to drive home while sitting next to the world's most wonderful and beautiful and perfect-for-me partner, and have a beer while stretching on the most rickety back deck on the street. i win. 

i am still, without contest, the luckiest guy on the planet.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

so tired.

i am tired.

i have stress-zits all over my face, and i'm only getting uglier. probably more hair fell out. if only i could transfer the growth on my legs to that (dwindling) on my scalp. it's one of those stressed/worn-out tirednesses that sounds like the inevitable lead-out of 'my ass is getting bigger' to the christmas list diatribe of all the things wrong and fat and no longer new or fantastic. i'm the old wheels with the stripped nipple. i'm the dirt on the inner chainring, right by the crank arm bumper. i'm that nagging thread on the rear tire, indicating wear much deeper than hoped for.

it's been a long weekend.

no, we did not get friday off. friday was spent riding all the bad roads of toronto, heading to and from volleyball tournaments with and against rush hour traffic, in and out of the pissing rain. saturday was hammering and pulling and hammering and pulling and then..gloriously sailing in the 80 km/h winds of this undecided spring. tailwinds are beautiful; headwinds require some religion. today was more pulling and hammering, though not on two wheels. there were toddler head injuries to tend to, invalids to nurse, and mothers day to top it all off. wtf. no rest for the old ugly guys. it's been long.

and the serotta is dirty. and it's staying that way till i take it out again and hammer myself good and hard for good measure. i don't know that i'm meant to ride with people. i always find myself outmatched or underwhelmed and there's rarely a satisfying co-existence of given'r. whatever. solo it shall be. as long as the post-ride beer doesn't have to be.

i had a revelation, by the way, and thought i'd share it:

yesterday, back from the epic ride that rapha would have enjoyed, if only it had been in more picturesque and mullet-inducing scenery, i climbed out of the shower and looked down at the bath mat on the floor. there, side by side, were his and her piles of identical contents. a pair of well-loved riding bibs, riding socks still inside indoor birkenstock slippers, and a jersey on top, all hastily peeled off in anticipation of the steam-filled wonder of the post-ride shower. you know you've made the right choice, somehow, somewhere, when your piles look like that, side by side, without even trying. either that, or i'm excessively boring and making mountains out of molehill lycra...

time for bed. here's to optimism in spite of absolutely every damn thing. here's to going to sleep knowing that none of it was easy, and all of it was worth it, or will be some day.