We like women. We want women. But that’s pretty much as far as we’ve thought. That’s why we’re honking car horns, yelling from construction sites, these are the best ideas we’ve had so far. Honking the car horn amazes me! What is she supposed to do, kick off the heels, start running after the car, and grab onto the bumper? The car comes to a stop, ‘It’s a good think you honked! I had no idea how you felt!’”
– Jerry Seinfeld
When a person in a green station wagon with rust spots marring the wheel, undercarriage, and bumper whooshes past you and decides to honk as they pass, what message are they trying to convey? If you are biking, straddling the white line because the road has no shoulder, following the rules of traffic, what is the desired end result of a long drawn out honk? It cannot be to let the rider know that the person is about to pass because they 1. Honk when the passing has already started. 2. The biker knows you are passing because they can hear you and they are on a road where cars exist so even if they didn’t hear you coming, they could probably assume without too much preamble that a car may be passing them at some point. It does not seem likely they are honking to get the rider to move over because the rider has nowhere to go.
Perhaps Station Wagon Driver is honking to let the cyclist know that they don’t like cyclists. But that does not seem like a necessary exchange between strangers utilizing different vehicles and it also raises more questions than it answers. What about the cyclist do they not like? Is it just cyclists in general? Is it the vibrant colors and pumping legs? The utilization of hydration tools? The tight lycra? Regardless the motive, I do not think honking as you pass a cyclist who cannot move anywhere is all that useful, and in fact, could be quite dangerous if that cyclist is jumpy or not used to biking on busy streets They might be jarred by the incessant, obnoxious honk that they swerve weird and wipe out or worse. I guess the whole point I am trying to make is come on already with the pointless honking, people.
What an action packed Saturday ride and not necessarily in a good way. The ride turned out to be one of those where every few miles, a new idea for what a summary post should revolve around pops into your head. Some weekends are seemingly bland with nothing of note happening, making the post writing more of a challenge. Saturday, however, gave enough material for a month’s worth of points. So naturally, I am going to discuss all of those ideas in one post.
- The wind. Enough said. I have complained about the wind before and consistently in other weekend posts. Saturday’s ride was complete with 11-18 mph gusts. It got me thinking about the long ride in July. What if I am stuck in a 16 mph easterly headwind for 150 miles? Such a brutal existence.I began thinking about how one could go about conducting a cost benefit analysis of changing the angle you ride at. For this example, instead of traveling due East, would it be beneficial to veer slightly northeast or southeast? How steep of an angle could you make before the cost outweighed the benefit? That is to say how many miles can you add by increasing the angle you travel at before the benefit of avoiding straight headwind was washed out? One of the many problems with this calculation is you are not biking in Sim City where all the roads are predictable and usually gridded. Then again, the lack of Sim City rules does reduce the chances of a UFO attack during a ride. One other issue of changing the angle is you may be exposing your body to more wind even if the wind isn’t directly head on and what effect does that have? All interesting things to ponder.
- Death. I have a relatively strong infatuation with death. What I mean by that is I am quite comfortable with the notion that we get one shot at life; this is it so you better enjoy what bits of it you can. I understand some hold certain beliefs–perhaps for terror management reasons–that allow them some measure of comfort even in the face of death. I have no such qualms or beliefs. Because of that, I find myself imagining my death in a myriad of ways on any given day. I imagine what will happen if loved ones around me are late coming home because they are dead from some traffic collision.When biking, you are presented with so many scenarios of potential death, or at the very least, serious injury. These range anywhere from narrowly missing that giant pothole that came out of nowhere to a car coming dangerously close to you as they pass (with or without honking). One example of this comes from a ride home while I was living in Philadelphia. I was cruising down this hill at 29 mph and this kid on the side of the road was dribbling a basketball. I remember distinctly thinking, “I hope he does not lose that ball.” Of course he did and I narrowly missed running into it. Other situations are merely hypothetical as they serve as no threat to you at the time. Two of those situations happened on Saturday’s ride.
The first was merely a thought experiment. Two trucks passed as I headed West, each dragging a trailer piled high with huge cylindrical hay bales. My father-in-law was a hay farmer for decades so I have seen a few truck fulls of hay in my life, although he dealt in rectangular bales. As the trucks passed, I had the thought of what would happen if a tidal wave of giant bales fell off the truck. Maybe that would not have spelled death for me, but it could have made things quite interesting.
The second example from the ride was actually quite a scary situation with potentially serious implications. As I moved East into the wind, a van towing a trailer passed me heading West. Just as they passed my field of vision, I heard a horrendous screeching sound. I looked over my shoulder just in time to see the van fishtailing violently, dragging a now slightly detached trailer that was dragging along the road. The driver was able to gain enough control to steer to the side of the road and no one was hurt. But that made me think of what would have happened if the driver was heading East instead of West and passed on my side of the road and then had the trailer detach. Happy thoughts while you pedal.
- Weather. Saturday’s ride marks the first ride of the year done in shorts. Not the whole trip, mind you. I left at 9am and the temperature was 46 degrees. By the halfway mark, the temperature crossed into the sixties and I stripped off my pants and windbreaker on the side of the road. The temperature would get into the 70s by the end of the ride on a beautiful sunny day. While it felt great to finally not be burdened by layers of clothes, one issue to which I did not pay any mind was sunburn, which according to my wife may or not have happened. Given that she only has visual evidence to go by and I’m naturally a very scarlet hue on my arms and neck, there’s no way to tell for sure. Thus, I will now need to include sunscreen in my backpack for all future rides even if some comedians believe that sunscreen is the reason that we have cholesterol (I do not think the ride would go all that well if I used their alternative of Crisco in place of sunscreen).
- Bike Issues. Saturday’s ride would have just been one big complaining session about the wind (per usual) if it weren’t for my chain snapping with 4 miles left to go. I have snapped so many chains in the last few years and every bike shop worker appears baffled by the way that I snap the chain. I have wrapped chains around the crankset and had a link get jammed into the gear of the crankset. Saturday, the chain just snapped as I pedaled up a hill. Of course, it did not snap at the power link, but somewhere elseI had my wife pick me up and drive me to the bike shop where the mechanic was able to put a new chain on right then and there. Big shout out to The Broken Spoke in Iowa City. I had my reservations about this bike shop after I brought in the Raleigh and the Centurion and neither came back with the main issue fixed on them. I wound up having to take the Raleigh to a different bike shop. For the Centurion, which was shifting up whenever I tried to climb or put more force on the pedals, I brought it back to the Broken Spoke and they fixed it over the course of a week, having me test ride it at each stage of the fix including one test ride session that took them well past closing time until they pinpointed the issue (my retro shifters were fraying inside, causing the bike to shift up). Given that fix and this latest walk-in fix, I am starting to really like the customer service and advice of this bike shop. The quick fix was much appreciated as I was able to saddle up and bike home to get the remaining 4 miles in to complete the 80-mile requirement.
Eating was a bit different on Saturday’s ride. I had cereal before the ride and on the ride I used Gatorade for the first time this year. I think it will be important to have some kind of electrolyte drink on the long ride and Gatorade is the overpriced commercial version that will be available at every gas station. I may explore making my own version using orange juice, but even if such a drink is palatable, I won’t be able to bring much on the long ride so getting used to Gatorade again will be important.
I also caved and got some Life Saver gummies for the ride. I love gummies so much. I probably eat too many too quickly while biking (and while not biking) and I have no idea if they are all that useful in terms of helping with energy level while biking but they taste delicious and break up the granola monotony. I also tried to incorporate some caramel cashew trail mix. Although it tasted fine, I did not like eating it while biking. It was too messy and too hard to fish out of the bag while pedaling and very dry. It may be a viable option to bring with and eat only while at a rest stop but I do not think I will be using it while pedaling. I made a smoothie again but only drank half of it because I had the smoothie holder in my backpack instead of in my tube bag.
When I got home, I had leftover Chipotle from the order they screwed up from the night before. Whoever invented sour cream deserves some sort of punishment. Purgatory may be too good for them.
One final note for Saturday is that the ride (not including the final four miles) was the most elevation climb for a ride this year at just over 3,000 ft.
Overall, the ride on Saturday was jam packed with excitement and nonsense. It was also by far the hardest ride of the year. The amount of exerted effort to get through the wind was felt in my quads and calves for the majority of the ride. It made heading into Sunday all the more interesting.
Sunday’s ride was an interesting one mostly in terms of the mental games that were played.
Heading into Sunday, I was quite worried about my ability to complete the required 50 miles. The forecast called for the same amount of wind as the day before, I was quite tired from fighting that same wind on Saturday, and my skin was radiating heat from my sunburn, which meant I was going to be more thirsty throughout the trip.
When I left, I planned for enough time to get me home at a 10mph pace so that I could attend a function at 3. Luckily, I woefully overestimated how poorly I would do on the ride. In fact, I turned in a relatively great time and felt decent throughout the trip. Most of the ride was the same as previous Sunday rides except for a short jut up to Coralville Lake.
Eating was nearly identical to Saturday with no smoothie component included. I think next week I will avoid gummies and go for another commercial product, GU energy packs as I attempt 85 miles and 50 miles.
I wore a long sleeved shirt to protect my lobster arms as much as I could and the temperature was just right that such a shirt did not cause buckets of sweat. I had no obnoxious honking or random trailers flying off of vehicles.
Without all the excitement in the outside world, I spent a lot of time on this ride reminiscing about Saturday’s ride and just how poorly I had handled it. From not thinking about the sun to battling the wind, not much that ride went well after I reached the halfway point.
In terms of battling the wind, one thing that does is it causes me to lose focus on the little things I need to be paying attention to, including when to eat and drink. When I am biking at an angle to stay straight as I am being battered by a cross wind, I am not thinking that I hit the 40 minute mark and need to eat again. I am not thinking of reaching down for a snack or for a swig of water. Instead, I am thinking “Boy this sucks, I better maintain focus on not dying.” Although such an attitude may be understandable, it’s not ideal and not sustainable. If I do wind up in a headwind on the long ride or a crazy strong crosswind, I cannot just be focused on that and forget to eat and drink and breathe properly. Keeping focus will be important in the micro of each moment of each ride and on the macro of getting up and back into the ride focus day after day.
The following week will be a weekend off due to a business trip that I will discuss in a separate post.