Sunday, October 31, 2010


last night was a perfect makeout night.

the wind, electric and unseasonably warm, breathed the possibility of rain but promised nothing. there was an eery glow to everything from blades of grass to gravel to light-stained night sky, and all of it was moving in the periphery. the wind gusted. there was the hum of cross tires on pavement, the crunch of gravel under wheels at an unknown speed, the thud of my heart from the work or the possibility of what i might meet at the lighthouse roundabout.

i love night rides.

night rides, particularly ones like last night, are all about pseudo-danger. i can't really see anything, like where i'm going or what's about to jump in front of me, or where the holes in the road might be. i won't be found by anyone if i go down hard. i have to ride according to all the other senses besides sight. and i'm riding faster than i should because i'm so damn excited. in all reality, nothing would happen. nothing did happen. but i felt like it was about to the entire time i was out there. and it was awesome.

i went for the ride because i needed to get out of the house. being cooped up on house arrest after so many lonely lame nights and without any motivation can really get to a guy, and i was that guy. i had no real focus. i was dissatisfied with the internet and all its shiny things that i can't afford. i was scared to read any further in the tragic beauty that is The Grapes of Wrath. i was tired from long days of parenting and cleaning and trying to be a good person in a city run by an asshole. i was warm and cozy and it was cold outside and it might even rain. i was whining. it was definitely time for a ride.

i rode down to the spit, taking full advantage of the warm tailwind and the luck with the lights. no one else was out on two wheels. i churned out the few miles to the gates, let myself through, and hammered into the eery glow. it looked like i was pedaling straight into The Road. amazing. i went out hard, gave it everything into the wind, and had phil liggett narrate the whole thing. i made it around the lighthouse without even slowing down, and headed back, straight into the wind.

as i spun easily down side streets back to the house, it occurred to me that i didn't need to buy anything. looking down in the darkness, i couldn't tell that i wasn't on my serotta. i couldn't tell that i needed a new chain or a tuned derailleur or those new fancy shifter hoods. i whipped around the lighthouse in the dark at full speed on gravel, the same gravel that dealt me my last flat, and i didn't need better tires. i braked lightly and pulled up in front of the house and chuckled, knowing i'd go right in and eat some ice cream and stretch and look on ebay for fancy things for bikes. but right then, for those beautiful minutes in the dark, i didn't need a damn thing.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

thank you, gabi.

we don't quit.

sitting on the uncomfortable perch atop our kitchen cubbies, my feet freezing, my knee pulsing in pain under the bungee cord that secured the ice pack, and my cannibalized road frame in the basement, i thought hard about giving it all up.

i thought about many things, almost everything, except the important things.

i thought about how expensive it is to love bikes. i thought about how bad i am at it, in a racing/competition sense. i thought about how much money i could save in not upgrading parts or drivetrains or engaging in humorous saddle preference experiments. i thought about all the times i've raced, and lost hopelessly (every time). i thought about how i couldn't bend my knee without searing pain shooting out from underneath the mysteriously non-swollen patella. i thought about how cheap and easy it is to fly places with a pair of running shoes and some shorts. i thought about how much better i am at racing on two feet. (then i thought about my knee and tried to think of something else.) i thought about my toolbox. i thought about how little money i could get for the painstaking builds i have in the basement, in the shed, under the tarp on the porch. i thought about the bikes on the storage pole in the dining room, and how mine is heavy and in the way. i thought about all of the things i could be obsessing about and training for and doing and reading about and getting dirty over OTHER than bikes, and i didn't feel freed by that thought process at all. it felt dishonest. it felt queasy. it felt like giving up.

i am terrible at racing bikes.

never in my life have i gone faster than a collected group of people and outshone some other person in my category or out, in pursuit of a finish line. never. i've been last plenty of times. i've been end of pack many times. i've been slower than average in all top-finishers of every duathlon and triathlon. i've been lapped by the pro women who started 3 minutes after i did. i am terrible at racing bikes. and it's this terribleness that keeps me, sometimes, from wanting to progress. i can't get motivated to work harder or train more or smarter because it seems like i've been around the machines long enough that some kind of advantage must have seeped into my body from sheer exposure. i should be faster because i've loved bikes longer than anyone else! but no. and sitting there in the cold kitchen, site of so many late-night forays into the mysteries of italian componentry and quiet hacksawing of steerer tubes, i thought it might all be pointless. why love something so expensive, consuming, and ultimately devoid of concrete yield?

perusing the serotta forum today, i got an answer.

after watching this video, i realized i was thinking about the wrong things when i thought about giving it all up. i should have been thinking about my own daughter (gabi in the video is someone else's daughter). i should have been remembering my own first time on two wheels, and how i still get excited after 20 years of getting on two wheels. i should have remembered imparting that same excitement to my daughter, my dream come true. i should have remembered all those stolen hours in the park, her leading me, both of us with ridiculous grins, enjoying the simple action of spinning wheels and self-propelled, perfect motion. i should have remembered that my knee hurt because i ran a half marathon on sunday and my family cheered me on when i needed it the most. i should have remembered that active parents usually yield active kids. i should have remembered so many fall leaves, crunching under 16-inch tires as the wide-eyed five-year-old got her first taste of riding on dirt. i should have remembered laps in the alleyway before dinner. i should have remembered my own joy as i took off the girl's training wheels.

i should have remembered that my daughter will remember this, and the future will be better for it.