Sunday, January 14, 2007

Remind me why biking is fun

Date: Jan. 14
Mileage: 23.0
January mileage: 342.9
Temperature upon departure: 35

I had a terrible ride today. Just awful. It was like a really bad B-movie, almost comical in the way that all of the wrong elements fit perfectly together. It may even qualify for the over-the-top rating of “Worst ... Ride ... Ever.”

Not really. But by the time I set out today, all of the freezing rain had turned into plain ol’ regular rain, which streamed in torrents down the glare-ice-covered roads. I took my studless snow bike because I assumed I’d just ride in the snowy shoulder. But the rain-stewed slop that remained from Friday’s snowfall was nearly impossible to negotiate. The conditions were a sourdough starter for mushy disaster. On days like this, I should learn when to cash in my chips and hit the gym. But I can be pretty stubborn when I want to be. After all, I had just spent a half hour designing a new wet-weather ensemble, and I wanted to test it for butt-cheek-warming and dry-feet capabilities. (Addendum: After two hours, I still came home with a cold butt and wet feet.)

You know a ride is bad when three miles in, you’re already cursing cars just for being there. I wove through the slick slop in the shoulder, spinning at skin-freezing slowness just to stay in control. I wanted so badly just to ride on the smooth, icy road, but it was too risky with the vehicles. It was too risky period, without studded tires. But I ventured on to the road once I passed the Eaglecrest access road, where about 99 percent of the traffic turns off. It was slick but manageable - as long as I kept my butt planted on the saddle. It was good practice for steering Snaux Bike on ice, anyway.

But then I hit the boat launch. There, the forest canopy gives way to a narrow cliffside that is fiercely exposed to the sea. Intense wind gushed up the channel. I hadn’t noticed the tailwind before, riding as slow as I was, but there it was beyond ignoring. It pushed me faster than I cared to go. Since braking wasn’t really an option, I decided to test how far I could ride without pedaling. It turned out to be far. Really far. Almost two miles far. (OK, I pedaled a little in there.) At the turnaround point, I managed to finally stop the bike and dismount. But as soon as I had both of my N.E.O.S. overboots planted firmly on the wet ice, a huge gust tore the bike right out of my hands and blasted me several more feet up the road. That’s right. I was standing on my two legs on the road, continuing to be pushed forward by that tailwind.

I couldn’t even keep the bike rubber-side down just standing there. It was clear that riding back was not an option. Walking on the road wasn’t even an option. I had to climb over the guardrail so I could trudge through the sometimes knee-deep snow. I definitely built some good bike-pushing muscles doing that.

As soon as I hiked back to the relative shelter of the tree canopy, the rest of the ride was a fairly predictable slushy slog into a headwind. It lacked the drama of the wind-blasted ice road, but there was enough stinging rain to make it miserable enough.

And the best part? I went to bed last night thinking I would wake up to a fun, tasty trail ride today. That won’t really be an viable option until it cools down again. Until then, I’m back to remembering why December nearly drove me to register for a season of indoor spinning classes.