Friday, September 4, 2015

Roadway Treasure

As someone who prefers an enjoyable chatting pace on a bicycle (whether anyone is with me or not), I find it interesting that there are times when I feel the need to push myself speed-wise for whatever reason.

There are moments when I do this to myself purposefully, intending from the start to go a particular distance in "x" amount of time. I think it's good, at least from time to time, to see what I am capable of accomplishing, otherwise I tend to always think that I am only capable of slow speeds.

Most of the time I am perfectly content to ride at my slug pace. I just find it more enjoyable to take things in on a bicycle than to race by everything, but on some of these trips, I find myself - often just for a brief moment - sparked by some outside happening to speed up. It could be a variety of triggers from an ill-behaved motorist to another cyclist far enough ahead of me that I think I can catch. Neither of these is necessarily always a motivator, but given the right set of circumstances, I can find myself in crush-it mode, wanting to out pedal anyone in my path.

A couple of weeks ago, I experienced one such moment. I was out on what was supposed to be a meandering ride, to test out some changes to a bike and just enjoy being in the outdoors. I had been perfectly content, pedaling along, singing a song (mostly in my head, but occasionally out loud), enjoying the ride. My pace was slow, but I really didn't have any concern about such things and instead wanted to get a good feel for some different bits on the bicycle I was riding. In fact, the Garmin was only attached to the handlebars because I wanted to know what distance I'd traveled with the tested parts.

At one point, I came to a junction on my path that would allow me to continue along on a bit longer journey or to turn in a direction to take me home. The day was running late and I had some other things to accomplish so I made the decision to head in the direction that would take me home quicker.

As I rode, I still had no concern about speed. My pace was comfortable and I was enjoying. No sooner was I thinking these thoughts when a gentleman on a race bike came tearing past me. On the right day, this may have been a motivator to get me to chase him (not that I would have caught him), but today, I was perfectly content. I smiled as he whipped by and I continued to move forward.

A couple of moments later, I could hear another cyclist coming up behind me. It was a different sound though. It wasn't the whirring of race wheels, but rather the sound of something perhaps a little clunkier, older, or in need of some TLC.

The sound was pretty close before I took notice because I was now pedaling beside motorists who were traveling at 60-65mph/96-105kph, but I could definitely hear that the person on a bicycle approaching was on a different sort of ride.

At this point, my pace had picked up. The road was flat and there was no need for me to pedal at a slower speed. When I looked down, the Garmin indicated I was traveling at about 19.5mph/31kph. As I looked up to the road in front of me, the bicycle I'd heard approaching came past quite swiftly.
*Image found here
It was in this moment that I started to giggle internally. The rider who was passing was wearing plain clothes (jeans and a short sleeved button down shirt, along with a wide-brimmed hat) riding, I would guess, a very late 60s to early 70s Schwinn, yellow in color, equipped with upright handlebars and what in a quick glance appeared to be fairly rusty original parts. It was also donning a rear rack with a roughly 13 gal, rubber receptacle attached to one side.

As the rider and his squeaky bicycle rolled by, I realized I simply couldn't allow him to pass me without putting in a bit more effort.

I picked up the pace, wanting partially to get a better look at this bike, but also realizing that it seemed a tad unacceptable that I was on a machine most would consider far better suited for this type of travel, and yet I had allowed him to roll by without much thought.

About 1/2 of a mile down the road, I caught up to him (which should also indicate how fast he was pedaling). I could see that he was spinning well, and I was frankly surprised he was able to keep up this sort of speed for such a stretch of road. I have ridden similar bikes and I know there's no human way I would have ever been consistently traveling these speeds. At this point, we were pedaling at around 25mph/40kph.

His wheels continued to squeak and the whole bike was making noise, but I was absolutely fascinated by this entire moment.

As I lagged behind him for a bit, I checked out the rusty wheels, the chain in need of lube, the paint bubbling in many places from the surface of a frame that had likely seen much better days. There was something about this entire situation that made me smile; it simply made me happy.

When I pedaled by, I knew it would be difficult to have a conversation because of all the motorized traffic beside us, but I felt the need to say something. "You have quite an efficient cadence going on that bike," is what came out of my mouth. I have no idea if he actually heard me or not, but he laughed a bit and smiled.

I continued on my journey, still several miles from home, with a huge, ridiculous smile on my face. I have no idea where the rider was headed or what he was doing that day, but he certainly seemed to be on a mission. And for me, what better bike-riding moment than an opportunity to see a bicycle some might discard being used not just for a quick jaunt to the corner store, but rather being utilized on a highway for longer distance needs.

What sort of cycling treasures have you found on the roadways?  Would or do you use a bicycle that others might see as unsuitable or not ideal for the type of riding you do? Feel free to share. As always, happy weekend riding to all (and a long weekend for those in the US!).


  1. About 8 weeks ago I was slogging up one of our favorite Canyons towards heaven, and I encountered a woman (with a cyclist following her), on roller blade style skates, using ski poles to push up a 4-8% grade. I thought I have it rough! I let her know that it was "pretty damn impressive", to no response, either from exhaustion, or the assumption that I was mocking her. Either way, super brutal, and an odd thing to see! I guess this isn't so much a cycling treasure, than an oddity?

    1. I cannot imagine using roller blades to go up the canyon. Well, I can't imagine being on roller blades at all because I fall down on all forms of skates, but that aside, the muscle power I'd think that would take is pretty incredible. I wouldn't take her lack of response as an insult. She was probably highly focused on breathing, I'd guess.

  2. I love this post! I thought it was going to be about some object you found along the roadway. Okay, my "roadway treasure": I've probably told these stories in the comments before. They are some of my favorite encounters on the road.

    First, I was waiting at an intersection for the light to turn green when a guy in a motorized wheelchair who was using the crosswalk in front of me suddenly turned toward me. He looked very serious and said: "I'll race you. Title for title?" I laughed and said "no way, I can't afford to lose this bike!"

    Second, I pass a homeless guy near the railroad tracks on my commute probably once a week or so. We always nod or wave to each other. Last winter I got a new pair of boots and the first day I was wearing them to work, I passed him. He pointed his walking stick at me and hollered "GREAT BOOTS!" I smiled all the way to work.

    Finally, on the way to commencement in May, I was stopped at an intersection in the pouring rain. A homeless guy (different from the first one) was using the bus stop for shelter. He offered to share his space with me. I thanked him for the offer but said that I had to get to work. He said, "okay, but be careful. These roads get slick when they're wet." As I pulled away when the light turned green, he called "be safe!" Such kindness.

    1. Those are each fantastic on their own, but as a whole are even better, I think. Sometimes these moments mean so much on a particular day too. I find that when I'm having a rougher day (for whatever reason), these kinds of moments tend to stick in my memory.

      After our flooding here a couple of years ago, the bike path has been re-routed through different parts of town until they can get everything fixed. So, it's caused a lot of the multi-use travelers to head onto other arteries through our city. For several weeks, there was a guy I kept passing on his bicycle when I was riding to an appointment. It was rather amusing to me because it didn't seem to matter if I was 10 minutes early or 10 minutes late, we always seemed to hit the same intersection at the same time. I think we both made the realization that we were passing each other on the same day, regardless of time, in the same moment because I'm pretty sure we had the same look on our face that day - that moment of, "Hey, this seems to happen regularly, and I don't know why I hadn't realized it until today."

      Hope you're enjoying a fantastic holiday weekend!

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  4. I met a lone wolf rider a few years ago. His bikes were his sole transportation. He'd find old bikes and fix them up. Some he'd sell and 1-2 he'd ride - mostly steel or for awhile a used Trek aluminum hybrid. I saw him go up a 25 degree grade hill once on an old steel girl's bike. I bailed before I got half way up that hill on my new bike. He'd leave half the air out of his tires so he could ride with me without getting too bored. It was a good time while we could ride in the country. If I had a slipped chain or problem with my bike he'd fix it on the spot. He could leave me in the dust when the notion took him. Once he peeled out to buy some tobacco at a store a mile or two ahead so he'd be ready to continue by the time I got there. I'm a firm believer that your bike is only as fast as you are.

    1. I agree that often times a bike is only as fast as the rider... but, I have definitely ridden bicycles that, despite my best efforts, were simply more difficult or challenging to pedal, or that sometimes simply require much greater force to move at the same speed. I'm always in awe of the riders who seem to be able to keep the speed on steep inclines or on much heavier or less-suited-to-a-task bicycles. Sounds like your friend is quite a machine! :O)

    2. Yeah, being a few years younger than me and 6"4" helped.


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