I can see you!
Actually, the title of this post is a lie. If you are a cyclist you know there is no end to the puzzle; there are always new gaps to be filled, new pieces to add. I may, for example, have in the past occasionally mentioned my lack of matching leather bar tape once or quince. But I finally added the last major set of components I need for Gypsy Rose to be fully ready to rando: a full-scale lighting system.
Lumbarton 200K, February 1, 2014
Here are some of the valuable lessons I learned before, during, and after a recent brevet in North Carolina:
- There is apparently no infrastructure budget in North Carolina. This would make sense, since this is one of the many “No taxation with representation” states. But the result is that many rural roads are pretty bad. There were some parts of the ride that were like riding over a cattle-stop (and remember, I’m riding on 35mm tires at about 55psi). There were other places where there were miles and miles of perfectly regular cracks which produced a monotonous ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk ka-thunk . . . I will never complain about Virginia roads again.
- The back-country roads are filled with trucks the size of aircraft carriers, all of them beating the crap out of the roads for which there is no infrastructure budget.
- North Carolina features some of the nicest truck drivers I have ever encountered anywhere. All of them gave me a wide berth, and when the weather packed in, some of them actually slowed down as they passed me to avoid showering me with water.
- Speaking of weather, apparently in North Carolina “chance of showers” in the weather forecast means “four hours of driving rain.”
- North Carolina has some of the best behaved car drivers I’ve ever encountered. Especially out in the rural areas, not only were the roads refreshingly free of people hurling abuse or actual objects or trying to assure themselves that their horn still worked, but like the truck drivers, almost everyone gave me a wide berth. Moreover, people waited patiently to go around cyclists (well, I assumed it was patiently, there was no aforementioned horn play) whether we were in a large group or, incredibly, even when I was riding as a singleton.
- Dunn, North Carolina is the “Dump Truck Cab Capital of the World.” Proof positive that it is sometimes better to be nothing than something. But it does make you think. Somewhere out there in America there is a “Toilet Cistern Ballcock Capital of the World” just waiting to be discovered.
- A large number of North Carolina vehicles are apparently sold without working headlights. Driving rain, reduced visibility, none of those extremely well behaved drivers passing me (coming and going) seemed to feel the need to actually use their lights. Maybe all North Carolinians are equipped with enhanced vision. But it does sort of raise an interesting question. If we cyclists are being good road citizens and doing all in our power to make ourselves visible with multiple pieces of reflective gear, none of that really does any good if there is no light to reflect. It made me wonder what happened when it got dark: “Hey, the light has disappeared. But that’s OK. The Lord My Savior will keep me safe.”
- I found myself becoming fascinated with the North Carolina rivers that we crossed. They all appeared dark, tortuous, overgrown and mysterious. Much like the state of my soul by the end of this ride.
For the true Northern Cyclist, a minor setback. (Photo by Jason Persse, Creative Commons Licence)
We get it. You are tough.
Where you are from, when it snowed, the only vehicle that could get into your driveway was one of those giant machines that Metro uses to bore train tunnels. As a kid you used to dogsled all the way to Hudson Bay just to pick up the local paper. And your schools never, ever, closed. For example, there was the great blizzard of ____ where the entire school was buried for six whole months and the only thing that happened was that the kids got really, really good at their multiplication tables.
gasp. . .cough. . .splutter. . .
OK, that attempt to imitate a Disney tween singing voice might have been ill-advised. But it is certainly an apt description of my experience thus far with randonneuring.
Posted in Bike Equipment, Life Cycling, Randonneuring
Tagged Adventure Cycling Association, Bicycle Quarterly, biking, brevets, Compass Bicycles, cycle touring, Randonneuring, RUSA, VeloOrange
The language that we use to talk about bikes treats them as filled with personality. Bikes are lively, sprightly, twitchy, springy, relaxed, stiff, and eager, to use just a few of the adjectives that crop up regularly in bike reviews and casual post-ride conversation. It is a thing we humans seem to do, attribute personality to inanimate objects (a category that also includes many people) with whom which we spend a lot of time. But bikes are like cars in that we invest them with much more personality than other everyday artifacts like an office chair or a flat screen TV (both objects with which I probably spend about the same amount of time as my bike). Bikes literally and metaphorically take us places; as such they are not simply extensions of our personality (or attempts at counterbalance; cycling certainly has no shortage of guys (usually) and gals (occasionally) who are obviously over-compensating for something). Rather, they have often helped to shape our self and personality. Sometimes those changes are obvious (the most recent issue of Bicycling has an impressive series of stories of people who lost dramatic amounts of weight through biking), sometimes they are more subtle, reflecting a new level of confidence or calm.
Yet this tendency to see our bikes as imbued with personality is countered by another cycling trend: riders’ willingness to de-personalize both themselves and their bikes visually.
Posted in Life Cycling, Life, and Other Ephemera, Philosophical Musings
Tagged bicycles, bike decals, cycling, cycling apparel, road bikes, road cycling, triathlon, triathlon bikes
I recently completed the first set of improvements to the Surly Disc Trucker to bring her in line with what I need for a randonneuring/touring/commuting bike. Also known as the One Bike to Rule Them All.
But first. . .
After trying out several different possibilities, I’m pleased to report that the Trucker now has a name: Gypsy Rose. It was originally Gypsy because it is a bike for roaming the landscape, but the Rose just seemed to want to attach itself (initially, I think because of the color). Not because she really gives off an exotic dancer kind of vibe, but certainly Gypsy Rose Lee was also a free-spirited independent type. As an added bonus, Gypsy Rose sort of does sound as if it could be a trucker CB handle.
I also found that there’s a name for me! Doing the odd bit of digging around on forums for randonneuring and touring info I came across an established term for people like me who show a marked preference for old-style bikes and bike gear. Now to all the people who know me, prepare to laugh it up, I can take it (please Mommy don’t hurt me): retrogrouch. Yes, I know, too perfect a fit with every other facet of my character. But here’s the interesting thing. I’ve noticed that on the forums it isn’t simply a dismissive term of abuse. Often it is used with an almost grudging admittance that the retrogrouches might be on to something. Yes, you can almost hear some users saying, those retrogrouches might have a point about cassettes that are one louder and are right to suggest that people who spend all their time hollowing out the titanium screws on their bikes to save 0.3 grams should seek professional help.
So there we go, the curmudgeon and the stripper. Together at last.
Safety First! This bike has supernatural powers.
There’s a new addition to the Velorage, which brings the number of bikes owned by my partner and myself to. . .well, an obscenely large number. Perhaps this is why the walls of the Velorage are beginning to bulge outward. This is only temporary since I’m going to start selling off a couple of the former steeds. They are all in good condition but I just don’t ride them anymore and can’t see that that will change anytime in the next couple of years. By which time bike technology will have advanced and it will be time to buy new bikes!
Posted in Life Cycling, Life, and Other Ephemera, Randonneuring
Tagged Bicycle, cycling, Randonneuring, Randonneuring Bikes, Road bicycle, Surly Bikes, Surly Disc Trucker, Touring, Touring Bikes