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Suspect Information, Ideas, and Opinions - rarely updated and of dubious quality.

Tour de Peterborough

I'm not even breathing hard...

What I am about to relate to you is unremittingly silly but it's also entirely true. I swear. I have not embellished what is to come in any way...

On June 24th, I rode my bicycle to work. It's a distance of between 8 and 17 kms depending on whether you believe my car's odometer or the laptop-sized 20-year-old cyclo-computer on my bike. I was pretty excited the night before while setting myself up for the ride because I used to be like *really* into long-distance cycling. Me and a buddy once did 1000kms over a 2 week period on a bike /camping trip. So thinking back on successful past trips like that one, I decided that for this little trip to work to use the same bike as from back-in-the-day - my old touring bike - a Japanese Sakai Express. I chose the Sakai over my much more modern mountain bike, reasoning that the older, lighter touring bike was designed for just such a commute...and I could use all the help I could get. My Sakai is still a great bike too. It's all "aluminum alloy this" and "molybdenum that" and even though it's over twenty years old, it's still a pleasure to ride...

I figured that even though I am fat and out of shape, I could easily sustain 16kms per hour for the entire ride and so that would make the total ride a maximum of one hour in length. But just in case of unforseen circumstances and because it is my livelihood I was biking to I decided to pad that figure with another hour. I had to be at work at 8AM so the next morning I was up at 5 sharp, had my coffee, got in the shower and bathed as the French do (hardly at all) and at 6AM had my lunch stowed away in my right saddlebag (my change of clothes I had sensibly already packed in the left saddlebag the night before. It was a beautiful morning sunny 12 degrees and the sun just coming up and just the slightest breeze. I set off for work.

The first three kilometers were uneventful; it was mostly downhill so there was a lot of coasting. But I was barely doing 11 kms an hour and to my dismay I noted that the pedaling was quite a bit harder than I remember it being 20 years ago but still it wasn't too bad. The bike was running well - well, I the chain could have used a little more oil. And my biking gloves were a size too small (or I guess my hands have gotten bigger;) I'll have to replace those. And my butt wasn't used to riding on a bike seat, even with the gel cover...Still not too bad.

Let's get this over with. Around the 3 km mark I wasn't paying attention and I hit a pothole - BANG! After that, I thought noticed a rubbing sound but I couldn't see where it was coming from. Next a slight incline came up and when I went to downshift I discovered that my front dérailleur was no longer working. Of course I was on the big cog. At kilometre 5 an old man coming the other way passed me going really fast. He said: "Good morning!" to me and I sort of gasped it back. That was a little embarrassing but I took some solace in the fact that soon I would be at his level - cycling along effortlessly while laughing inwardly at all the noobs. But for now this was turning out to be way harder than I remembered. At kilometre 6 I was already in desperate trouble. My legs were killing me, and if my butt could have literally screamed at me it would have - like this: "OOOOoooooooooooo...". Both my hands were asleep from the too-small gloves. I was soaked through with sweat and had plenty of wind tears streaming down my face, but I was also hell bent on getting at least to roughly kilometre 10 - within visual distance of the smokestack near my company before stopping for a rest. Because, when you are tightly strapped into Campagnolo toe clips, stopping and putting your feet down is not something undertaken lightly. A poorly planned stop means you will tip over...

So by kilometre 10 my cyclo-computer was showing me as doing roughly 3 kms per hour. The average person walks at 5, and people were actually walking past me at that point without trying to look too curiously at me. I don't know if I can properly describe the exhaustion I felt. I was going so slowly that I had to constantly turn my wheels left and right to avoid falling over - I was actually going so slowly I couldn't go in a straight line. I was gasping for air. Little old ladies on their cast iron Raleighs were flying past me. Finally I thought I caught a glimpse of the smokestack through my tears. I carefully twisted my left foot out of the toe clip and set the jelly that used to be my left leg down on the ground. I didn't have to stop - I was going that slowly.

With my bum thanking me profusely the whole time (like this: "OOOOoooooooooooo...") I slowly and carefully released my right foot from the clip and swung it over so I was standing on the left side of the bike - still in the middle of the road, and then I simply and carefully stood there for a few minutes, not even caring what I looked like. Finally I was ready to push the bike over to the side of the road - and the rear wheel wouldn't move. It was seized! So that explained it! It wasn't just the fat man unused to exercise. It turned out that for God knows how many kilometres, I had been forcing a seized wheel to turn! In retrospect that explains why I glided to a stop on the the downhill grades...

So with the rear wheels busted, I started walking, and even walking turned out to be hard work. That rear wheel just did not want to turn. And as I walked along, I couldn't help but wonder that in all the years I had been riding, I had never seen a seized wheel... I stopped again to take a closer look and that's when I saw that my pump had come off its mount; I guess when I hit that pothole way back at kilometre 3, it had wedged itself between the rear tire and the frame. I yanked the wrecked pump out and...the bike glided like a feather again! 5 minutes later I was cruising into work...

I sat out from of the office for 20 minutes until my breathing returned to normal and the sweat dried. The computer showed the entire trip as 8 km (it obviously needs calibration) and that it took me an hour and 15 minutes with an average speed of 6 km per hour. I also found out that the only place to change at work is the plant bathrooms, until I remembered the locked server room that only I have access to...My socks spent the day merrily drying themselves out on the rack mounted Cisco 1700 router, while my t-shirt dried nicely on the APC USP devices.

And after 8 wonderful hours of painfully adjusting and readjusting my seating position at my desk, it was time to return home. I honestly thought I would be more comfortable just riding on the seat post, but in the end I decided to use the regular bike seat like before. On the return trip I only ran out of energy twice briefly, and I was able to make the entire trip home in just 45 minutes with me going "OOOOoooooooooooo..." the entire time.

Tour de Peterborough

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Maybe read No Big Deal, a story I consider to be the very best thing I ever wrote.