Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Tales From the (MS150) Tour

The Ride – 5-ish miles from home to the tour start. 75 miles from start to tour finish. 15-ish miles from finish to the in-laws.

The Bike – steel framed mountain bike with 2-inch wide slick tires at 60 psi. Mountain bikes are an unconventional choice for riding that far, but I love this bike. I could nap on this bike and it would still get me where I mean to go.

The Worst – there was a particularly busy four-way stop intersection on the edge of the finishing town that also happened to have very poor course markings. I stopped nearby to chat with some people about the lack of markings and watched the variety and creativity of the riders as they for better or worse navigated the required left turn. There were bikes everywhere. Thankfully everybody seems to have made it through without contact. Sadly and surely, from a driver’s perspective, the chaos was unnecessary and unwelcome.

The Irony – mountain bikes on rides like these sometimes elicit strong opinions from other riders. There are the experienced road riders who “know better” than to ride 100 miles on such a bike and they expect you should know better too. There are also the inexperienced riders on their ill-fitting bikes who express a mixture of admiration and pity, being glad and relieved that at least the tires they had tech support fill with air this morning before the tour were skinny. I quickly developed a standard response of “I knew what I was getting into” for those who were willing to express these opinions to me.

So I found it completely and utterly inronical when the man with the wobbly rear wheel (hopefully he broke spokes during the day and was just trying to finish as opposed to having started the ride like that) and the wheels that still tracked in different directions anyway, even if the wobble were to be fixed (could it be a bent frame?) rode up to me at the previously mentioned intersection. After catching his balance (he almost fell over as he stopped, seriously, I even put my arm out to try to catch him) said, “I can’t believe you’d ride that bike on this tour.”

The Conversation – another guy rolled up behind me and the typical small talk ensued. “Hi. My ride is going fine. Yes you’ve seen me on the city bike trail. Yes I ride a lot. Yes I’m riding a mountain bike. No, I haven’t decided if I’m riding the century loop; after the ride I still have to ride to my in-laws. No, I’m not having them pick me up. No, I’m not really into the car thing. No, I haven’t been arrested for DWI.”

...arrested for DWI. Here's why this conversation turns into a good story. I said at the beginning that "suspended license" is a first thought for lots of people when they see someone headed to work on a bicycle.

“I’m concerned about green house gasses. No, I still think the bicycle beats hydrogen and solar powered cars. I’m one of the 14 bus riders in Sioux Falls. I use my bike and the bus to reduce my automobile usage by 350 miles a month. A typical day has me riding on the bike trail home from work.” At this point the guy decides he can’t keep the pace and excuses himself. He said hey to me at the finish line so I figure he doesn’t think I’m totally crazy…just a little crazy.

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