For the first time in my career, I have finished the year with more vacation days in the bank than I can carry into the next year. I’m in a use-‘em-or-lose-‘em situation. Obviously, I will use ‘em. Which means that last Friday was my last day of work for the year.
Why am I telling you this? To gloat? Well, yes, a little bit. But mostly, I’m telling you because I’m so excited to have a couple weeks in front of me where my daily ride isn’t a commute. I won’t be packing a messenger bag. I’ll be both starting and ending the ride while it’s light outside. If it’s raining, I’ll wait until it isn’t. Unless I feel like riding in the rain, which has been known to happen.
And I will be riding my fixed gear bike every single ride. I swear, this Bianchi Pista has gotten a hold of me unlike any road bike ever.
So yesterday, I rode around Lake Sammamish. It’s a perfect ride for a fixie: about 30 miles, sometimes flat, sometimes rolling with short, moderate ups and downs, with a big climb at the end. And it’s no bad thing that for big stretches of the ride, you’ve got a beautiful lake on your left (or on your right, if you choose to ride it clockwise).
The first couple miles of winter rides are usually the worst. That’s when you’re warming up, getting used to the feel of the saddle, finding a rhythm for the ride. By the time I got down Inglewood Hill (squeezing the lone MTB brake lever at the top-left of the handlebar all the way – I’m nowhere close to able to use my legs to keep my speed in check down a 10% hill for half a mile), I was warmed up. I settled down into the drops, and cranked away.
My Best Show of Skill Ever
I cruised along East Lake Sammamish Parkway for five or so miles, cut across Marymoor Park, and then started spinning along the length of West Lake Sammamish Parkway. I was feeling good, enjoying the smooth, solid feel of a fixed gear. Somewhere along the way it occurred to me that so far on this ride, I hadn’t felt the “kick” a fixed gear gives you when you try to coast. I’m getting used to pedaling full-time.
I crested a hill — standing to pedal — then sat back down and spun lightly down the other side. I’m learning to turn fast circles on the downhill, applying no pressure to the pedals. In this way, I’ve learned to go fairly fast on downhills — maybe 28 mph — without my butt bouncing on the seat. So I didn’t move my hands out of the drops. No need for the brake.
And that’s when a big ol’ Grampa-style car (a Buick? Oldsmobile? Tuna Boat?) pulled through the stop sign at the intersection to my left, going straight through. With an uncanny sense of timing, he was driving in such a way that I would broadside the passenger side of his car almost exactly in the middle.
I yelled at the top of my lungs, hoping he would stop before he got to the intersection. Nope. So I cut hard right, turning into the intersection he was going through. Riding in parallel with him.
I missed him. A clean getaway.
I Confront the Driver
I pulled over to the side of the road, actually ahead of the car, and looked back, my hands raised in what I would describe as a “What are you doing?!” gesture. The old man in the car smiled at me and waved as he drove by. He had no idea.
Later, it would occur to me that I had just showed the most riding skill I have ever shown in my life. Namely, I had just executed a 90-degree right turn, on a fixed-gear bike, with my hands in the drops, without touching a brake, at speed (I was coming off a downhill, remember?). Which means that I kept pedaling through this maneuver, and I didn’t instinctively grab for brakes that weren’t there. And I stayed close enough to the curb that I didn’t touch the car that was rolling through.
To tell the truth, I’m still not sure how I pulled it off.
At that moment, though, I put the bike down on the sidewalk, then paced back and forth, unable to think straight, my whole body shaking. It would be another five or so minutes before I’d get back on the bike and start riding again.
First, I needed the rush of adrenaline — compounded by the rage of having been absentmindedly waved to by the guy who just nearly killed me — to subside.