This past April I took delivery of a brand new saddle
And I was so excited that I put a brand new bicycle under it
This bicycle reflects my current ethos with regard to road bikes:
--It is black, like my soul;
--It is ferrous, like my heart;
--It has wide clearances, like the loose-fitting pants I always put on before I go out to eat:
Yes, the frame and the calipers allow for my preferred 28mm tires with plenty of room to spare, and if you're wondering why the brake's quick release is at 9:00, it's because this allows me to reach down and adjust it while I'm riding--which has been especially handy in the brake pad-eating conditions we've been experiencing for the past week.
I apply the same on-the-fly adjustment concept to the belt on my "restaurant pants" (also equipped with a quick release) during the course of a meal.
Of course all this clearance also affords plenty of room for full fenders, which would go a long way towards mitigating all the crud on the bike:
However, fenders are a liability when it comes to mixed-terrain exploration, and so I'll be leaving those off until the wintertime.
I suppose I could also clean the bike in the meantime, but why waste time doing that when I can ride it instead?
Additional features of this bicycle well-suited to the sophisticated rider who enjoys large meals include:
--Leisurely compact gearing;
--Mountain bike pedals to facilitate walking;
--A threaded bottom bracket shell like [insert deity of your choice here] intended;
--A decorative gram-squandering logo on the downtube to dazzle the eye and irritate the weight weenies:
I should point out that my number one priority when embarking upon a ride is to avoid people riding bikes with aerobars. This is why I ride on dirt whenever possible--dirt is like citronella oil to triathletes. However, this past weekend it was raining, and so I decided the best course of action was to stay on the road. While I wasn't in the least bit concerned about exposure to the elements, I did worry about coming into contact with tridorks. However, I trusted that the precipitation and wet roads would be enough to keep them at bay, and so I headed off towards the George Washington Bridge:
Crossing the wet metal grating of the Broadway Bridge to Manhattan I appreciated the bike's sure-footedness:
The brown putrescence beneath the grating is the water of the Harlem River Ship Canal, no doubt rife with untreated sewage thanks to all the rain we've been getting.
I'm pleased to report I successfully traversed the Broadway Bridge, but not before hopping over its wheel-eating iron maw:
One of the better-known landmarks on the northern end of Manhattan is the Dyckman Farmhouse
, which was built around 1784:
Here's what it looked like in 1895
Sometimes I think about how, if only they'd never paved the streets, then maybe there would be no such thing as aerobars...
Then I weep a little bit for what we've become.
Besides the Dyckman Farmhouse there are few remaining vestiges of upper Manhattan's rural past, though its spirit does live on in the whimsically bucolic rooftop of the Fine Fare:
They say if you listen closely at night during a full moon you can hear the cows mooing, and that on Old Man Dyckman's birthday the one on the left cries chocolate milk.
Yes, upper Manhattan abounds with mysteries. You might think of subway stations as little more than holes in the sidewalk, but sometimes they can be a bit more intriguing than that, and this one is practically carved into a mountainside like a portal to another dimension:
At 140 feet it is one of the deepest in the system, and while it might not be quite as glamorous as an alpine gondola, it certainly wins in the urinary redolence department.
The George Washington Bridge is the busiest bridge in the world (especially when Chris Christie is intentionally snarling it), and on a typical weekend day it is crawling with Freds and Fredericas like ants on a log:
For this reason, as I drew nearer to the bridge I became filled with dread. After all, as either Sartre or Jobst Brandt said, "Hell is other Freds." Furthermore, the positively gothic appearance of the bridge entrance against the cloudy sky only intensified my sense of foreboding:
Indeed, the road to hell is paved with sharrows:
And those sharrows are in turn flattened by buses.
Behold, the Gates of Hell:
Or at least the Gates of New Jersey, which is pretty much the same thing.
Ordinarily the Lycra-clad legions of New York City would be coursing through the arterial bike lane that leads to the bridge, but this morning the weather was indeed serving as something of a tourniquet and the flow was merely a trickle:
Leaving a polite distance between myself and the Fred ahead of me, I tested the road-holding capabilities of my tires on the wet pavement as I rounded a brace of parked motorcycles festooned with traffic cones:
Clearly the cones were meant to warn hard-cornering drivers and cyclists away from the crotch rockets beneath:
Though I'd have added some hay bales for good measure, especially given the huge number of hapless triathletes that frequent the bridge.
You know you're in Fred Country when the lampposts are plastered with Gran Fondo posters:
As I ascended the bridge I turned to take in the Manhattan skyline, which looked doomed and forlorn beneath the leaden sky:
Don't worry, it's not doomed and forlorn. It's full of filthy rich people throwing money at each other.
Then I contemplated the monolithic grey support towers:
The bike path executes an awkward right-angled chicane as it passes beneath them:
The bike traffic was minimal this morning, but when the weather is fair it's crucial to check in the overhead mirror for oncoming tridorks lest you get gored by their aerobars:
I've never been shanked in prison, but I have faced oncoming triathletes beneath the George Washington Bridge support towers, and I imagine it's not too dissimilar:
If the sun had been out there would be flocks of Freds and Fredericas displaying their bright Lycra plumage in order to attract riding partners, but as I arrived there was merely one hardy specimen:
Until this rider arrived on the scene:
Complete with anatomic Stealth Bomber-like saddle weaponized with a full butt-rocket arsenal:
If you put your ear to your monitor you can hear someone at Brooks sobbing.
Then a second triathlete arrived:
Followed by a small group returning from hunting Strava segments in the wilds of New Jersey:
And so I scampered away in haste and sought the open road:
Where all was peaceful and serene, save for the OBNOXIOUS HIGHWAY SIGN TELLING CYCLISTS WHAT TO DO:
Come on, this is a park road, not the New Jersey Turnpike:
Save the tax dollars and the retinal assault and use a sandwich board for chrissakes.
I enjoy sunshine as much as any Fred, but there are few sounds more pleasing than the gentle sucking sound of bicycle tires on wet pavement:
Shortly thereafter I dropped down to sea level to begin the first climb--and around here the start of a climb is always marked by a goose standing sentinel:
As I began the ascent a pair of roadies passed me effortlessly, their conversation unlabored and peppered with the word "motivation:"
I've never needed motivation in order to ride a bike. If anything, I've needed motivation to stay away
from the bike. ("Sure, go for a ride, just don't expect me to be here when you get back.")
Then again, I am a terrible climber, so there may be a connection there:
As I pondered all of this, it occurred to me that I've ridden through this beautiful park about a gazillion times, and year after year I've consistently failed to dismount my bike and take even a single step into the beguiling landscape (bathroom breaks excluded of course). Instead I've simply pedaled through it, businesslike and oblivious, no better than the sorts of people who need "motivation" to ride a bicycle.
So as the roadies vanished I resolved to remedy the situation by checking out the waterfall that was, at that very moment, babbling away seductively right beside me:
It ain't exactly Victoria Falls, but it has its charms:
So I stood there for awhile, listening to the water and watching rider after rider attacking invisible Strava foes:
And after awhile I remounted and tackled the climb myself, after which I checked in with Johnny:
It turns out the pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof of a porta-potty is nearly as soothing and contemplative as the rushing sound of a waterfall.
Finally after a few more miles I arrived at the base of The Big Climb--presided over of course by another goose:
"Ready, set, go!," I cried, the goose started the stopwatch, and I began to climb--steadily at first, and then slowly shrinking into myself like a snail in the sun:
Finally I made it to the top, and if you squint (or you're sufficiently oxygen-deprived) you can pretend the ranger station is a Swiss chalet and not a shack in New Jersey:
As I crested the summit, I was greeted by this turkey, who wagged his head disparagingly at me:
He then radioed down to the goose to tell him how badly I suck.
I was tempted to linger for awhile, but I didn't want my legs to seize up, and in fact if you wait too long to get going again you can turn into a tree, which is what I assume happened to this person:
Between the tree-Freds and the talking turkeys it was getting downright Narnian up there. Furthermore, the sun was burning through the clouds, which meant that there would soon be an infusion of triathletes from the city. So I headed back over the bridge just ahead of the charge:
Sometimes it's best to stay ahead of good weather.