It’s been a little while since a blog post, mainly because the bicycle riding, especially the tandem riding, has been a bit sparse lately. The concurrence of rainy weather, illness, odd work hours, and packed weekends has had an adverse affect on the long bike commute and on weekend rides through the countryside. But we’re healthy again, the schedule is clearing up, and we have a century ride booked for this weekend, so it’s time to get back on the bicycle (and back on the blogocycle).
The century ride is Durham’s Habitat for Humanity Halloween benefit ride. One thing that makes this ride special, other than raising money to raise a roof, is that my fiancee/stoker and I did this together last year, and it was then that we realized that we needed to ride together for the rest of our lives. Last year: single bikes, this year: tandem, next year: wedding rings + tandem.
Speaking of weddings, what kept us off the bike and driving in cars all this past weekend was two separate weddings. Weddings give you a chance to have reunions with friends and families, meet new folks, and make a lot of small talk about whatever’s at the tip of your tongue. For me, that means talking a lot about bikes. It also means getting a lot of funny reactions. I’m still surprised at how many people think that lycra cycling shorts are silly, pretentious affectations and don’t realize how functional they are (I can’t tell you how conversation turns to lycra shorts at a wedding, but somehow it does. Thank the open bar, perhaps).
I also forget that for people who don’t own one bike, their eyes will bug out when I casually mention that we have seven bikes between us. This sort of comment usually comes when people ask about where we live and I describe our house as “comfortable old mill house that has just enough room for us and the dog, and all of our bikes.” I don’t think about why I have so many bikes (I am more the culprit than my honey) until I get into these conversations and have to explain.
It just happens that one bike leads to another. I acquire one bike, use it for everything, then acquire another for a slightly more specialized purpose, and never get rid of the old bikes. I don’t feel as though I’m acquisitive, as it’s taken years for me to collect my bikes, but now I seriously do have a bike for every occasion.
For many years, I only had a mountain bike – my trusty steel Stumpjumper that I got in ’94 when I was a junior in high school. I used it for everything: trial riding, daily transportation, long road rides, even raced a triathalon on it with slick tires. Then I got into touring in 2000, which is when I purchased the Co-Motion Americano, which has now taken me cross-country on fully loaded tours a few times, and makes a perfect commuter bike. Then, there’s the Co-Motion Co-pilot which I got when I decided I’d been biking slowly long enough and could reasonably afford a speedy racing bike, and travel enough that I wanted couplers. Oh yeah, and I got the tandem because I’d always wanted one of those, too, and now I have a great partner to ride it with. Spaced out over time, it doesn’t seem like I’ve bought a lot of bikes, but describing the bikes hanging around in various places in my house to people makes it seem like I live in a bike jungle.
I’m still riding that fully-rigid gray-green steel Stumpjumper. Gone are the long worn-out umma-gumma tires (weird) and the matching gray saddle and grips (actually kind of attractive), but it’s been easy to maintain. Never replaced it with an aluminum bike or any sort of suspension or carbon or yadda yadda, though wouldn’t it be nice someday… Once, I was home from college in the summer when this bike was about 4 years old, and I ran into an old classmate of mine on the trails. He was racing mtn bikes at UVM or wherever and was like, “‘sup guy [that’s a Maine thing I guess, calling people ‘guy’], still ridin’ that stumpie? why don’tcha get a new bike already.”
Well, guy, it’s 15 years old now and still does the job. In fact, it might be doing more of the job now, as my 20-mile tandem commute is getting phased out for the winter season by the park-n-ride option: park the car on the outskirts of town, then have a nice 15-minute leg stretcher into the office. Yesterday, I decided to “innovate” this ride usually undertaken on the touring/commuter bike. I chose the old stumpjumper, and followed my typical route through Carrboro’s streets. I realized the stumpjumper would enable me to take a short off-road dirt path to avoid the sketchy part of Estes Dr (a narrow stretch of heavily-traveled road devoid of any bicycle facilities save a flaccid share-the-road sign though it’s the only northern connector between Carrboro and Chapel Hill; and it’s the site of the only place I’ve ever been hit by a car):
Not only did the trail take me off the road, it inspired me to detour fully on trails on the way back to my car after work – a two-hour trail odyssey of some of the finest miles of tight, twisty single track in the southeast. While the 20-mile ride home is a great way to slowly let the stresses of the day fade away as the scenery of cow pastures and corn fields rolled past, the constant attention-demanding trails and psychedelic fall leaf colors in the woods makes work feel like the office never happened. This might have to be my new winter bike route.