As of Saturday, the Autumn weather has turned into what it’s supposed to be. In the morning you need to ride in tights and long sleeves, but in the afternoon, it’s just warm enough to ride in shorts and short sleeves, provided you keep up the pace. The sun’s bright; the sky’s clear. There are dozens of hang gliders and paragliders in the air off the point of the mountain (I’ve got to try that some day).
To cap it all off, Tuesday a group of us — Kenny, Gary, Dug, Brad, Rocky, the three Richards, BotchedExperiment, and I are going to ride Gooseberry Mesa, a serious contender for one of the top 10 trails in Utah, and therefore one of the top 20 in the US.
In short, my mood is as good now as it was bad last Friday. Maybe that’s why, as I rode to work Saturday (got a big project due Friday; if I’m going to take Tuesday off, I had to put in some weekend hours — a reasonable trade), I noticed all kinds of things I love about riding my bike.
Little stuff. Stuff I normally don’t even think about, but which I’m pretty confident anyone who rides knows what I’m talking about.
- Catching up with a car at successive lights. Off the green, you’re the first person, until maybe just a few feet past the intersection. Then you get swept up and passed by traffic. But wait a second, there’s the next light, and it’s red. You ride past everyone who just passed you, back up to the front, getting there just long enough to trackstand for three seconds (which is about as long as I can hold a trackstand) and you are once again the first guy, in front of the same group of cars.
- Having someone wave from a car. For every jerk who honks or swerves, trying to unnerve me, I’ll bet there are ten people in cars who wave, or — once in a while — yell some encouragement (I can never tell what they’re saying). And you know, only about half of those cars have bike racks on them.
- Carving a fast left turn. A good supple road tire on a good road bike on a good road can lean at crazy angles at crazy speeds. I get every bit as much of an adrenaline rush from hitting a left turn at speed — no brakes — and coming out of the turn as fast as I went in as I do successfully cleaning a technical move on my mountain bike.
- Drip. Riding in a nice, straight line on a road bike, sometimes it’s nice to just put your head down and focus on the effort. As I do this, the sweat runs down from my forehead to the tip of my nose, and then drips, regular as clockwork. I like watching that drop of water fall to the left of my top tube (I’ve never thought about it before, but for me it’s always the left of the top tube), thinking about how cool it is that because the water’s going the same speed as me, it looks like it’s falling straight down. Then it hits the pavement and — zing! — seems to shoot backward as it stops and I keep going.
- Fresh, smooth pavement. I rarely think about the texture of the pavement I’m riding on unless it’s especially bad. When Kenny and I rode the Nebo Loop a few weeks ago, though, we hit a five mile stretch of brand new pavement that was just elegant. It was so smooth your riding effort dropped perceptibly while riding it. I notched it up a gear and looked at my speedometer: 27mph. The speed and silence of a well-tuned road bike on perfect pavement is something to be savored.
- Being 90% up a hard climb. I seek out rides with climbs, whether I’m on a road or mountain bike. I’ve often wondered, though, why I do this. These climbs hurt, after all. Last Saturday, though, as I came to the final stretch of the north side of the Suncrest climb, it hit me: I love the last 10% of a climb, where I know I’m going to finish, and feel like I can open it up and put my heart into the final push. It’s strange how it both hurts like crazy and feels like victory, at the same time.
- Putting the bottle away perfectly. You’re in a paceline — or maybe you’re by yourself, but thinking about the next time you’re going to be in a paceline. You want a drink. You grab the bottle without looking — while still pedaling. That’s easy. Then, you put it away. Again, without looking, you push the bottle back toward its cage. Most times it kind of hits the rim of the cage and you’ve got to nudge it left or right a little bit to seat it. Once in a while, though, it just sinks right down the middle, as if it had been vacuumed in. Nothing but net.
There are more little things — lots more — to love about biking.
Tell me what they are.