On Halloween my beloved goddess Durga demanded that we change our COVID fueled Raleigh exercise rut and rather than cycle the same streets we normally haunt go for a hike in a locale we hadn’t yet visited. She located Raven Rock park via the internet and we drove 75 minutes to get there only to discover that we would have to wait 45 minutes to get in. (We blame the wait on fall foliage but we don’t know if this is so.)
Rather than waiting 45 minutes we made the non-reasoned choice of driving another hour plus to visit Williamson Preserve which a friend had told me was a great place for old folks such as us to to go mountain biking. Though primarily a mountain bike preserve we hiked for two hours and covered roughly six miles/10 Km. Williamson Preserve is beautifully laid out and has protocols in place to allow hikers, runners and bikers to peacefully co-exist.
As bikers ourselves we were very courteous of riders and for the most part the cyclists thanked us for keeping our heads up and accommodating their needs by stepping out of the way as they approached. Williamson Preserve looks like a great place to ride for cyclists of our abilities.
The only low spot we had during our two hours was the lone imbecile on a bike who was compelled to shout at us a snarky comment about hikers on “his trails” as we returned to the parking lot and he was heading out, but for the most part we had fun getting out of the way of the oncoming bikes and as I stated previously the riders were appreciative of our efforts to coexist in this lovely little niche. While the thirty-five minute drive from home is longer than I would prefer we plan to hit Williamson again but next time with bikes in tow.
Septembers in Raleigh tend to be hot and September 2020 followed the trend. The pre-sunrise low was seventy-five Fahrenheit but by 8:50 mercury had ascended to 80 as I hopped on my bicycle. It climbed another three degree as I covered my 16 mile scenic route ride from home to work.
Turning left into the bike-shop parking lot I nodded at the guy cutting our grass on the stand-up riding-mower before coasting to the back of the building to let my sweaty self in. My watch read 9:50 as I unlocked the door and as I deactivated our alarm I wondered if the afternoon’s predicted showers would provide me with the cool relief of a storm before I left work or subject me to a ride home accompanied by the sound and fury of donder and blitzen.
Once inside I showered, dried off, -how dry you gonna get when you’re still sweating?- got dressed and finished building the bike I’d started the night before. Slapping a helmet on my head I spun the bike around the lot and then down the street for a quick test-ride before heading back to the bike shop. As I returned I got a closer look at the man cutting our lawn. Sculpted ebony. Dude was hot in both senses of the word and as our eyes met we did that manly index finger pointing wave we guys do.
Back inside the haven of heavenly AC’d air I called the customer who was waiting for the bike, left a voice mail that it was built and she could pick it up after eleven. I grabbed the next bike in the queue and greeted our sales personnel as they trickled in for their 10:30 start time. After perfunctory and socially lubricating greetings and Q & A concerning subjective self assessment vis-à-vis our current states of being I hollered out, “Ladies, did you see the man mowing our lawn?”
“Say what?” Kristin asked. “See who?”
“I asked if you saw the lawn-mower man? He is Adonis reincarnated and you might want to take a peek. If you’re interested in that sort of thing. Can’t say anything about his face, got a mask on, but those arms and shoulders are black marble.”
Three of our youngish females found opportunities to fact-check my opinion of the man on the mower and they all concurred. He was hot in both the calienete y salsa meanings.
Six weeks later a woman walks into the shop fresh off the set of the latest Black Panther movie. She appeared a true Wakanda warrior with eyes, hair and a physique worthy of both a cross-country mountain-bike racer and a movie star. A COVID mask covered her face from chin to tip of nose but I’m confident my jaw dropped perceptibly as I saw her as she was truly a vision in form and luscious poetry in motion.
Heading back to the service department I whisper to my store manager, “Don’t let the boss hear me but their is a simply gorgeous woman at the front register. Gorgeous as in to die for.”
My boss raises an eyebrow, nods and says, “I’ll be sure not to tell him,” as he finishes his task at hand before sauntering to the front of the store to perform a necessary task. A short while later he returns and says, “Dude? Really? I had no idea.”
“Hot is hot regardless of color,” say I, “and she is sizzling.”
As we both returned to our respective duties I wondered why I’d felt completely comfortable sharing news of male eye candy with the women but felt the need to be on the downlow when doing the same with a man in regards to a beautiful woman. I rejected the notion of proximity as the cause for my discomfort, that somehow her nearness might inadvertently allow her to hear me and take offense over my brief exchange with my manager because we had spoken quietly to avoid being overheard.
My words, while objectifying, had been respectful and I had spoken in the same vein concerning both the Wakandan Warrior and Lawn Mower Man. Whether discussing a stranger’s appearance is appropriate or not the observations were equal and I had felt no stab of conscious when telling my female coworkers there was a hottie in proximity as I had when speaking to another man concerning a woman.
My observations may or may not have been inappropriate but they were not sexist. They were, however, heteronormative. Yes, I alerted the women to the attractive man’s proximity but when I did so I’d spoken in a Buster-Poindexter, stereotypical, over-the-top voice. (Did you figure that out before I confessed?) I’m comfortable enough in my sexuality to point out attractive men to others but feel a need to make it a game while my observation concerning a beautiful woman to another heterosexual male required nothing but respect to make our conversation comfortable for the two of us.
Sexist? I don’t think so. A bit homophobic? Yah, I think I have to plead guilty to that one. I’ll keep working on it. (And enjoying looking at the lovelies with whom I come in contact.)
Cogs are an essential element of bicycles. When chains link front chainrings to rear sprockets bicycles allow us to convert muscle power into joy filled motion. Having worked in bike shops for 34 years I am accustomed to people looking at high end bikes and declaring, “How much?! I could buy a car for that!” Though typically hyperbolic, it’s a rare bike that enters five figure land, $8,000 bikes are expensive and yes I have seen bikes that cost more than a 2020 Chevy Spark including one special order bike that ran $24,000.
Price, or COGS, is another element of cycling. As with seemingly every consumer product the COGS, or cost of goods sold, can seem mind bogglingly counterintuitive. How can all the little bits and pieces add up to so much more than the price of a complete bicycle? How can a $500 bicycle require $300 in maintenance?
The COGS of cogs, the after market pricing on all the little bits and pieces that bicycles require, is daunting. Customers can have a real eye opener when they roll a bike that’s in need of new tires and tubes into a shop and discover that the bill for installing a pair of inexpensive kicks on that vintage beater will nick them a hundred bucks.
Repair and maintenance COGS results in a trickle of discarded bikes. It’s tough for folks to pony up an additional $200 to make that “bargain” hundred dollar used bike they just scored on Craigslist or a local garage sale safe and rideable. Perceived value and repair bills that are a large fraction of the original purchase price leads to a lot of folks discarding their broken bikes because they deem it wiser to discard the old and purchase new rather than sinking money into a repair.
Working in a bike shop means I am the occasional beneficiary of folks discarding their broken bikes. A lot of these neglected bicycles need hours of TLC but not a lot of repair parts. With patience I can usually take parts from two or even three discarded old bikes and create a bike that’s a joy to ride.
In my off hours I’ll strip a bike down to the bare frame, honing seat tubes and fork steerers, removing oxidation from seatposts, stems, handlebars and cranks, cleaning and lubing the derailleurs, chains, cogs and brakes, packing new grease into bearings and replacing old gear and brake cables with new. It’s a lot of work and even though I loose a little money on each transaction I make it up in volume.
I gain a great degree of satisfaction from spinning straw into gold or making great bikes from old but no matter how deftly I move the puzzle pieces sometimes I just gotta buy some new cogs for the reconditioning. Tires, tubes, brake pads, rear gears and chains as well as the afore mentioned gear and brake cables are all wear items that sometimes need to be new rather than reconditioned. It was the need to purchase brake pads for some disc brakes that provided the impetus for today’s dissertation on COGS of cogs.
The bike in question has good quality but not expensive disc brakes. The bike’s Avid BB7 Road G2 mechanical disc brakes run around $90 each and the tiny round puck of a pad on otherwise fine brakes were completely worn out. (Fortunately the shop where I work had pads in stock which is a whole nother COVID times discussion.) Pads ran $20 per wheel. A lower quality Avid brake that uses the same pads costs twice that. How can pads cost half as much as a brake?
COGS pricing is definitely counterintuitive.
By the way, once I got the new pads installed she not only goes like a dream she stops well too.
I’ll keep doing my best to keep bikes out of landfills and I hope we’ll all keep riding.
The Wright Brothers had a most awful flight just fifth of minute aerial delight. Wilbur sallied fourth seven times as far their third aeroplane was bird exemplar. Many first attempts best described as “quaint” Thomas Edison’s failures did not taint. “Phoenix from the ash!” not good metaphor when high in the air brothers chose to soar.
Mountain bikes rushed down nineteen-eighty-two Specialized Stump Jump only came in blue. Owner Mike Sinyard was not pioneer brought bike to masses as entrepreneur. Nineteen-eighty-three Trek declares, “Me too!” Model eight-fifty with the sport it grew. Chainstays mile long, angles quite oblique magic carpet ride on the trails so steep.
Sitting in garage my Trek 850 thirty-seven years since it came to be. Time to bid adieu ancient mountain bike chromoly lugged frame with beauty delights. Diacompe cantis, four finger levers, three by five drivetrain? Added one better. Oh how very quaint seem early attempts when we’re looking from progress that preempts.
Lovely little bike hate to see you go but it’s for the best, you and I both know. Anthropo’phism I do eschew but how can I help feeling love for you? Bikes should be ridden not just gather dust, hope hundreds more years fore you crumble rust. Chainstays mile long? Angles quite oblique? Magic. Carpet. Ride. Bikes make life complete.
Funny thing about working in a bike shop is that when owners learn I’m a cycle commuter they’re all ecstatic but then get testy if the bike I’m commuting on isn’t a brand they carry. I began cycling in 1980 and by the time I started working in bike shops six years later I owned four bicycles.
As I worked in shops from ’86 through ’97 my collection grew and only moving to two more states and a lack of storage space kept my collection down to single digits. “My” collection became “ours” when my wife and I added two children to the mix. More riders caused our collection to cross into double digit, though over half the bikes were mine, not “ours.”
All four shops in my first three states sold Trek, but when I moved to Iowa my employer wasn’t a Trek dealer and they made it pretty clear that they’d prefer if I bought -and rode!- a brand they carried. Having a penchant for US made bicycles, I updated my made in the USA, aluminum Trek 7000 hybrid for a made in the USA Canondale cyclocross racer. (I didn’t race cross. They just make great commuters.)
The Cannondale served me well for a score of years but two states later I’m working at a shop that sells Trek but not Cannodale and it’s again time to do the loyalty dance. In 2017 there is no such thing as a modestly priced, made in the USA bicycle so I purchase a flat-bar Trek but keep the drop bar Cannondale. Meanwhile, I’d upgraded my road bike to a 2017 Trek Emonda with the new, wider, way more comfortable for my arthritic hands brake levers, which leads to the old Cannondale mostly sitting unridden.
Fast-forward to 2020 and my, er “our,” collection has groan, (NOTE: Not a typo) and even I cannot justify the plethora of bicycles that reside in “my half” of the garage. I can’t justify them because I’m only riding six of the dozen, while the other half just gathers dust. Furthermore, I promised my beloved six bikes ago that every time a bike “follows me home” I will part with one. “Promises, promises.”
Working in a bike shop I know bikes are scarce right now and that used bikes are selling well and fetching fetching prices. I list a used bicycle and it sells. I do so again, and again, and again. Magic number six is achieved but I’m on a roll! I have four more that I hope to sell, including a quarter-century-old Specialized, S-Works, chromoly, made in the USA hardtail. (I’ve already sold an even older made in the USA, Trek 7000, hardtail mountainbike.)
I decided to keep but alter the old US made Cannondale ‘cross bike. I flat-barred her and put on super-low gearing to get my old fanny up virtually any grade on any terrain I’m likely to attempt. She’s not quite a hardtail ‘niner but with the right tires she’s close.
By the way, my darling has granted me permission to purchase a new drop bar commuter and I have my sights set on a Trek Domane AL5, a bike much like my old Cannondale but with hydraulic disc brakes and the new, wider, way more comfortable for my arthritic paws brake levers. There’s only one catch. What with demand so high and supply so low the projected ETA on my new dream commuter isn’t until April 2021. With any luck I’ll own one before my 60th birthday rolls around the middle of that month.
August 1986 I purchased a made in the USA, cosmetically damaged, double butted, chromoly steel, lugged, red, Schwinn, Super Sport frame for $50. As I outfitted her from frame only to street worthy the Super Sport taught me an important economics lesson. I’d just begun working at Challenge Schwinn Dunwoody, one of three Challenge Schwinns dotted around the Atlanta metro area, and though able to purchase all the components at dealer cost by the time I’d acquired a fork (the frame was just that, a frame with no fork) and all the sundry components I wound up spending slightly more on her than if I’d paid retail for the whole bike. Stupid move, but a good lesson. (Hey. I was a nube. I didn’t know.)
I built the Super Sport up for my darling as a 21 speed fast tourer and she rode it as such for a score of years until 2008 when we upgraded her to a fancy, carbon fiber, Specialized Ruby, 2 by 10 race bike. The Super Sport gathered dust a few years until I repurposed it as a fixed-gear/direct-drive/”fixie,” a bicycle with one gear that does not allow coasting. When a fixie’s wheels are moving the cranks are too.
Fixie purists do not add handbrakes. The weak at heart, strong of mind add a front hand brake and apply back pressure to the pedals to stop or slow- there is no “coaster brake” on a fixie- and those of us with a high IQ and low pain tolerance add front and rear hand brakes to our fixies. Mine had two handbrakes and was a great workout for a near 50-year-old cycling among the gently rolling hills of eastern Iowa and was absolutely perfect for the flat as can be home by the sea of Tampa, Florida to which I moved August 2015. I frolicked upon her for over a dozen years before moving to Raleigh, NC where our not gently rolling hills convinced OAF (old and fat) me to retire my fixie.
She’d been used hard and put away sweaty and the steel showed it. Rust was abundant and as I found thoughts of selling my old made in the USA friend anathema rust in peace she did until “The Swap.” Tim, a young enough to be my son fellow coworker at CSH, heard about my fixie and offered to swap my Super Sport frame and fork for a 2006, made in the USA, lightweight, rugged and comfortable road race frame that melds True Temper OX Platinum Steel and OCLV carbon fiber. It too has sweat damage as the fitting for a brake cable had corroded to uselessness from the saline that drips from our bodies. I wound up swapping my frame, fork, headset, stem and fixie wheels for Tim’s frame, fork, headeset, bar and stem. It was a good swap, but the Lemond Versailles sat in my attic for two years until a COVID fueled bike scarcity got me motivated to build her into a bike.
I. Have. A. Lot. Of. Bike parts. A lot a lot. I outfitted my Versailles with parts scattered around my garage and opted for flat as opposed to drop style bars, included all new cables and outer housing for the brakes and shifters, new tires, tubes, brake-pads, chain and cassette and outfitted my carbon fiber and steel deal with 27 speeds of Shimano drivetrain, but now with a heads up, easy to control flat handlebar and super comfortable Bontrager IsoZone Satellite grips.
In my Craig’s List add I described her as light, (sub 23 lb/10.4 kg with pedals and H2O cage) fast, fun, outfitted with Shimano Deore shifters, Shimano Deore XT Rear derailleur, Shimano Ultegra front derailleur, lightweight double wall wheels, WIDE RANGE GEARING and asked $600.
I also noted that the rear shifter works GREAT but that the gear indicator does not function and declared that bit about the brake housing cable guide closest to the seattube being corroded necessitating the rear brake cable being zip tied to the frame and included two photos of said damage.
I’d already sold four bikes in less than a week when I posted the Lemond Versailles and expected her to go quickly as well but she generated less interest than my previous listings and languished in limbo. I did have this “fascinating” exchange with a Craigslist scammer, er “buyer?”
BUYER: 08/14/2020 i am interested in but moving soon so please reach me here. Ready to take it waareesmujtabbaQWERTY@gmail.com
ME: 08/14/2020 I’m about to take it on one last ride. When would you like to meet?
ME: 08/16/2020 I apologize for my late reply. I thought I had sent my previous message earlier but it was in drafts. The bike is still available. Keith
BUYER’S SPOUSE: 08/16/2020 Thanks for returning my husband message regarding the item and e are ready to purchase it now but i won’t be able to meet with you due to my work frame and we are in the process of moving and also preparing for my daughter’s wedding, But with the details shown on the CL we are satisfied with the price and condition, So My husband will proceed to overnight a Cashier’s Check to you through FedEx and we will arrange for the pick pick up person to get the item from you after the Check fully clear your bank. moreso,we will be adding extra $50 to the asking price so that you reserve it for me. .Kindly email me below information to overnight the check to you ASAP
Full Name to issue the check to.. Address to overnight check… Cell # & the final asking price…….. Acknowledge the receipt of this email if selling to us and email me back with information needed to mail the payment out tomorrow Thanks
ME: 08/16/2020 The bike is listed at $600 I’m afraid I’m limiting my sales to Venmo, Pay Pal or cash. I do not need extra funds for the transaction and will be happy to hold onto the bike once it is paid for. Please make sure that the brake attachment issue that I noted in CL listing is understood. It is safe, but not pretty. Venmo or pay pal take 4 days to clear so it is no problem hanging onto the bike until then. Thank you, Keith
I did not pursue the buyers/scammers but did list the Versailles on FaceBook Marketplace where it received lots of looks but no offers.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I also listed a, “2006 Giant OCR carbon fiber/composite Limited road bike, size XL/60 cm/24. All new cables, housing, handlebar tape, chain and brake pads. A great and versatile road bike made even better with available options. Weight without pedals 18.5 pounds,” that generated hundreds of Facebook Marketplace looks and inquiries as well as Craigslist responses including a Sunday 08/15, 10:34 p.m. inquiry from Wesley.
Wes and I messaged back and forth concerning height and bike size along with his cycling goals and arranged to meet the next day at 7:00, but Monday afternoon he let me know he wouldn’t be able to view the Giant OCR until 8:15 that night. I let Wes know that this wasn’t a problem but that another interested party would be viewing the bike around 7:00 that night. It was here that I mentioned the Lemond Versailles to Wes and let him know that I had half-a-dozen potential buyers vying for the Giant.
At 7:45 my 7:00 o’clock buyer arrived to view the Giant OCR and we discussed options to the bike. Wesley shows up around 8:15 and I go to his car and apologize for not being available and tell him that the Giant is sold but that the Lemond Vertsailles is still an option. He graciously accepts my explanation and apology and waits for over 75 minutes for me to finish altering the now Nathan J.’s XL Giant before I can help him.
Gracious is the single best word to describe Wes’ reaction to having had to wait and I quickly get the Versailles ready for him to ride. He loves it, but he REALLY wants drop style bars to which I say, “No problem. How about if I set it up with racing style handlebars and instead of the $600 listed I sell it to you for four-hundred as a thank you and apology for making you wait?”
Gracious as ever, Wes accepts my offer and leaves me a $100 deposit and we agree that I’ll have the Versailles ready to go Friday. I get her ready early Thursday morning, snap some pictures of the finished product which I send to Wes who responds enthusiastically.
Saturday at 7:45 Wes is at my house and I’m rolling out the now drop-style handlebar Versailles and after adjusting his seat height, swapping the stem to one that allows for a more streamlined body positionsand discussing the fine points of road bike shifters and “trim” the Versailles is now Wes’ and after copious thank yous he drives away with a smile.
P.S. I upgraded my darling wife from her 2008 Specialized Ruby to a Trek Silque late in 2017 and in 2018 we listed the Ruby on Craigslist for $700. No bites at the time except one joker who insulted us with an offer of $70 and when I politely told him no he continued to email me why I should sell it at that price. The Ruby is the only bike out of six that I insisted on getting my full asking price of $700. It sold within three days of listing.
It’s COVID time, bikes are in demand and supply is terrible. ECON one-oh-one.
The time was ripe for sowing the seeds of yesteryear for with Corona’s growing bikes rare all hemispheres. I have a sick collection that mostly collects dust so eight of my selections decided to business. Ranging from high mod carbon down to aluminum, the first one gone was oldest, sold at fair premium.
A Trek of “some” vintage, made in the USA, 7000 the number, a bike I did upgrade. A mountain bike bonita, painted a scarlet red, had replaced the old drivetrain with newer in its stead. Removed the three by seven and cantilever brakes, updated nine gears reward and V-Brakes speed erase. The shift levers, the cassette, the chain and all cables, I lovingly upgraded less than a year ago. The tires were primo, and that bike was quite svelte (which should not be surprising as suspension not dealt.)
That sale led to transfer of jewel in my used crown, a Cannondale, top-liner (back in 2009.) A synapse is an ending that bridges our neurons, it’s also what el padre del 7000 now owns. With Dura Ace components, and quick and lithely wheels, I made it muy macho to increase its dad appeal. Replaced the narrow tires with lightweight twenty-eights, the wider width’s bit slower but rough roads abrogates.
But between vintage mountain bike and Synapse SL 1 I sold a Giant TCX that is this post’s vivre de raison. (Apologies.)
A man who is not knowing a crank from a crankcase responded to my Craig’s List add for bikes sized monstrous. His initial inquiry was for Ruby of a bike, a carbon fiber wonder that belongs to my wife. He asked about the gearing, head spinning with advice as he tried to decipher all the things that are bike.
As Ruby is sized 56 inquired ’bout his height, told him it’s compact double and is a true delight. Went on to hawk another, basic Giant Defy, laden with a triple crank inquirer desired. Back-and-forth we did email discussing three options, finally he said to me that five eight’s (173 cm) his height’s top-end.
“Whoa, whoa!” I did declare, “The bicycle I’m hawking, the one that has a triple crank? It’s too big to begin.” With this declaration his hopes surely sank, “Why don’t you come on over,” I emailed the man, “and I’ll show you one that’s swank. ” He was a little nervous as is a neophyte, said he’d bring his bike guru to decipher false from true. Told him that’s no worry, and to my house arrived, and when I opened my garage the man became bug eyed.
My two stall has tall ceilings and along the back wall hang a dozen bicycles but that’s not half at all. Hanging from the ceiling’s another dozen bikes and more than two-dozen wheels are just above head height. “Oh-my-goodness-gracious!” my buyer did declare, “what are you running a bike shop out of here?”
We chatted a while, assessing his needs, from him kept my distance because of COVID scene. To demonstrate the sizing I had him take a stand over the Giant bike then dismissed it out of hand. A 58 was insane, size 56 too failed, but when he straddled 54 a smile did prevail.
At this point in the story a man that we’ll call Mike pulled up at my curbside to help buyer with bike. Went through my credentials, repeated what I’d said, detailing my offer and drilling through his head that size really matters and a man of Twenty Stones (280 lb/ 127 kg) does not require featherweight but robust he should own.
Around we went in circles inching toward my goal, I included new tires, two lights and old helmet I’d worn. Went down fifty dollars and installed pedals clipless, all these things I’d stockpiled and for loss did not mourn.
The Giant he was eyeing? The tripled out Defy? Sold it the next morning. COVID demand is high.
Still have my wife’s Ruby along with couple more, hope before week is over three more be out the door. If on used bikes you’re sitting that only gather dust the time is ripe for selling as my tale does attest.
P.S. I sold the Specialized Ruby the evening that I wrote this.
Paki stepped off the Trail-A-Bike and carefully turned our two bikes-into-one, hinged contraption around. As we headed back Otta accelerated quickly away from us and expanded the distance between us. “You think he thinks he’s got something to prove?” Paki calls to Lola.
“Maybe he just likes his snazzy new helmet,” Lola responds. “How’s your helmet, Mr. Cutie-Pie?” she asks.
“A much better fit, thank you,” I respond.
“Nice job with the ‘thank you!’” she declares, adding, “You’re welcome!”
Otta’s lead becomes even greater as a group of cyclists zooms by us as we return to the tee-intersection we’d turned at heading out. We waited as the filed past and began to roll forward when a man at the end of the group slows and asks, “You going this way?” indicating the direction the dozen riders had headed.
Paki replies, “Nope. Heading back. Have a good ride!” and waves.
“You too!” says the man in return.
By the time we go through the underpass at Beaver Road and make its near ninety degree turn Otta is no longer in sight. “Well,” Paki says, “He’s a big boy. I’m sure he knows his way home.”
“You’d hope,” Lola says. “Do you think he’s okay?”
“If I were projecting I’d think maybe he feels like he has something to prove. Too many video games and not enough exercise, but I don’t know, you’ll have to ask him.”
“Think we should go back?” Lola asks.
“We don’t even know if he went home or took another turn. Let’s ride down to Motor Vehicle and then head back. That should give us at least ten miles.”
The constantly moving river is right where we left it and again appears but this time on our left. Lola again remarks on its beauty declaring, “Look, Jack! There’s the river again!”
“It is nice, isn’t it?” I respond.
As we approach MLK Drive Paki asks, “What do you think, Jack? Four more miles?”
“Sure!” I say. “I’m not even tired!”
“Sounds like a yes to me,” Lola says.
“I’m gonna take it as a yes, too,” Paki replies as we start down a gentle slope. The slope combined with gravity increases our speed and the Trail-A-Bike again starts to wobble. “Hey! Jack?!” he hollers, “Can we save the shake, rattle and roll for Bill Haley and the comets?”
“Save what for who?!” I holler back.
“We love you too, Jack!” Lola says before the two of them start singing, “‘I said shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll! Shake, rattle and roll, shake, rattle and roll! Well, you won’t do right to save your doggone soul!”
Cycle commuting for forty years has transformed my life, for me it isn’t just a means of transportation, it is a lifestyle. I prefer cycling through neighborhoods as opposed to riding on the busy primary roads. While the likelihood of a crash encounter of the car kind is higher in neighborhoods than on the major roads, Newton’s “Force = Mass times Acceleration” makes surviving a crash on streets whose legal top speed is 25 mph/40 kph a much higher probability than on a street whose posted speed limit is 45/72 kph, especially when factoring in that once we leave residential areas traffic flows at a much higher speed than the legal limit.
I bike to work upwards of 96% of the time, twelve months a year, in most any weather, and the morning of July 21st followed this majority rule. The plan was to leave home at 9:15 and pedal an hour via my “long” route, but procrastination saw me coasting down my driveway at 9:40 which caused me to take a truncated tack through the bicycle-route designated neighborhood streets that begin nearly all my rides.
COVID has ushered in a greatly reduced traffic flow which facilitates my right turn onto Cary, North Carolina’s five lane Kildaire Farm Road as well as my left turn into posh MacGregor Downs neighborhood via Glasgow Road. I’m cruising southwest on Glasgow at 9:42 when I do a quick check in my rearview and see a white SUV approaching from behind. My eyes alternate between watching the driver start to pass me and the road and I’m pleased when the SUV slows and waits due to an approaching oncoming car. Chalk one up for common sense!
At 9:43 I have one eye on the SUV in my rearview, one on the road ahead, and one on the stylishly kitted cyclist clad in an old school TDF yellow jersey approaching Glasgow from my right. The cyclist zips his upscale roadbike through his stop sign as though it doesn’t exist and turns right from Annandale Drive onto Glasgow and we continue in the same downhill direction, TDF leading, me in the middle, SUV trailing in hot pursuit.
Approaching the roadie I see a deep V back denoting strength and fitness along with a mirror on his handlebar trumpeting wisdom. He also has a taillight that is turned off. I, meanwhile, have two blindingly bright, sporadically syncopated tail and a one-thousand lumen headlight flashing a seizure inducing rhythm. (See me, feel me, don’t touch me!)
The downhill’s gravity well allows my just shy of 240 pounds/ 110 kg combined weight to quickly catch my unladen lightweight fellow traveler fairly quickly and as distance is reduced I see that this dude is a BOM. (That’s, “Buff Old Man,” for the uninitiated to the TLA.) I’m debating going around BOM as we two travel downhill at 30 mph (48 kph) but apparently the SUV driver has decided that William Langland’s oft quoted, “Patience is a virtue,” is no longer relevant as he passes us on a fairly tight left sweeping curve.
After passing us the driver immediately slaps on his right turn signal and I declare loudly enough for my now one yard/ one metre distant travelling companion to hear, “You have got to be fathering kidding me!” in response to the driver’s apparent need to go around us at speed on a curve and then immediately turn in front of us. (NOTE: The sixth word I uttered sounded a bit like “fathering” but was instead far coarser though it is usually associated with the process of becoming a father.)
BOM shouts out, “Braking!” just as the SUV’s turn signal shuts off.
I have already responded with, “On it!” as we three continue on our way, the SUV now slowing our 5 mph over the speed limit progress.
BOM and I continue our descent for another minute before SUV’s left turn signal flashes. I preempt my companion’s declaration of alert with, “Got it!” as we slow and wait for the lumbering blanca behemoth to izquierda on Tweed Circle. Another minute of downhill brings MacGregor Downs Lake to our derecho side and BOM’s estimated additional fifteen years beyond my 59 slow him as we climb.
As I go around BOM I say, “Hey, I know it’s none of my business, but we should at least pretend to stop at stop signs,” as I cycle to the top of the hill and its incumbent stop at the tee-intersection. Feeling self righteous I “stop,” (no foot down) look left, look right, look left again and turn left. Right in front of an oncoming cyclist dressed all in black with no lights on.
He waves as he turns right, I wave back and ride off feeling like an absolute idiot.
Dressed all in black or not the fault was entirely mine. Looking implies seeing and I did not. Forty years of lessons learned as a cycle commuter begin with the basic foundations of predictability, survivability and visibility, also known as following the rules of the road, wearing a helmet, and dressing as garishly as possible while simultaneously having multiple, eye searingly intense, sporadically blinking lights on even under the brightest of daylight. (Okay, the blinkies were not a lesson I learned in 1980 because the best I had forty years ago was a nine-volt driven Belt Beacon, but lights always on is a best practice I’ve practiced for years.)
I thought about the stupidity of my actions as I cycled on and about thirty minutes into my ride who do I see traveling northeast on Lake Pine Drive as I travel southwest? BOM of course. As we get close to one another I raise my left hand as high as it can go and deliver a broad, sweeping, left to right wave in greeting. He waves back. I’ll be looking for him as I cruise his hood.