Ol’ Grizzles had a serious problem with his bike beginning yesterday morning. While we were oiling our inner tubes and adjusting our junk prior to the crack-of-noon rollout, Shit in the Lane looked over at O.G.’s rear wheel.
“Dude, your rear wheel looks like it has a little hop in it.”
O.G. gave the wheel a spin. “No, it doesn’t. It’s fine.”
“I noticed it yesterday after you took that funky line going through that little switchback.”
O.G. spun the wheel again. “You’re nuts. The wheel is fine.” But now O.G. was concerned because he is an equipment fanatic.
“It’s probably nothing. Those little micro-hops don’t mean anything. You can true it up in a heartbeat anyway.”
Another spin. “There’s nothing wrong with this wheel,” insisted O.G.
Dan, who was in on it and pretending not to pay attention, said, “Hey, Russ. Did you know your rear wheel has a little hop in it?”
“Since we’re going flat no biggie. But keep an eye on it.”
“You guys are all idiots. The wheel is fine.”
All day people would drop behind him for a few minutes. “Your wheel definitely has a hop in it,” was the universal consensus regarding the perfectly true wheel.
The next morning O.G. was up early fretting about the non-hop. “I think I better take it to the shop.”
We all agreed since Thursday was a mountainous day. “You don’t want that wheel falling apart on one of these crazy descents,” we said.
O.G. went down to the shop. “I think there’s a hop in this wheel,” he said.
The mechanic threw it on the truing stand. “No. It is perfectly true.”
“You need to check the tension. Everyone says it has a hop in it.”
The wrench checked the spokes. “There is less tension on the drive side, for sure.”
“I knew it!” said O.G. “Get that fixed, will ya?”
“No. I cannot.”
“What do you mean? You’re a mechanic, arencha?”
“I can’t fix it because it’s not broken. The drive side always has less tension. That’s how one builds a bicycle wheel. That will be nine euros, please.”
O.G. came back to the villa. “Get your wheel all trued up?” SITL said with a straight face while everyone made that constipated look from holding in a side-splitting laugh.
“Fuck all of y’all.”
Thursday’s menu offered a 10km climb out of Selva then a 10km descent to the bottom of Sa Colabra, one of the most incredible climbs in Disneycycleland. The group set the absolute launch time for 10:0 AM, which on Oslo time means perhaps 10:30, perhaps 11:00, but in no event later than the time that they eventually leave.
10:00 AM pointy-sharp, however, was my launch time, in the finest of South Bay coffee cruise traditions. Naturally, I left alone, although the spirit of Major Bob was with me. Out of Selva I was immediately caught by a Dutch guy in his 20’s riding “tempo,” which is a word cyclists use when they are trying to kick the shit out of someone without grimacing. I hung on for a few km in misery until I realized that something really bad had happened; two riders had bridged up to us.
When you are on the rivet sitting on a wheel early in a long climb and someone chases you down like a crippled rat you know that a bad situation is about to get worse, which it did. The two riders, who were wearing Mexican jerseys, chatted.
“Are you warmed up?”
“We should stretch our legs then.”
“Yes, this fellow is too slow.”
“Okay, then. What about the abuelo?”
“He seems ready for the medics. His breathing is very deep and distressed.”
So he vamonosed and the Dutch stud, as seen through the rearview mirror, was not closer than he appeared, but rather vanishingly small, and then simply vanished.
The leg stretching commenced and each rider took turns stretching until by my estimation their legs should have been twenty yards long with my neck getting stretched in the process until the second Mexican over-stretched and stretched himself out the back door. The remaining Mexican, displeased at losing his friend and mightily displeased at being stuck with the abuelo, started stretching in earnest.
The switchbacks in Mallorca create a very different climbing scenario from the long climbs in the Santa Monicas. The switchbacks come every hundred yards or so to keep the grade from getting too steep, so instead of wearing out your opponent on a long grade you punch it through and past the turn, preferably taking the steepest line through the turn, which forces the following rider to also punch until it becomes a contest of who can take the most blows to the face. In this case I got one too many smash in the teeth about 500 yards from the pass, shattering next to a walking bridge filled with high school hikers who, seeing the snot and drool and hearing the death rattle began cheering and screaming “Allez! Allez! Allez!” which totally made it worth the three years that were deducted from my lifespan as a result of the effort.
From there it was a stupendous downhill to the foot of Sa Colabra, where you do a short 3km climb then descend for seven miles to the sea. Then at the bottom if you have any sense you grab a cup of coffee and contemplate the profound blue of the Mediterranean while going out of your way not to contemplate the return route, which is One Way Up.
For the first time in Mallorca I took the lead on a climb and two young DINSFD’s (indeterminate Danish-Icelandic-Norwegian-Swedish-Finnish-Dutch person) went with me. They must have been deep in the hurt locker because they were chatting, talking, laughing, and discussing various current events. Soon the little DINSFD’s were really suffering because their laughter was slightly less, maybe. I hammered the shit out of them the rest of the climb until they were yelling in fear until I realized they were screaming because while we were going up SITL was bombing down and seeing me he swerved into our lane as if he were going to hit us head-on and the DINSFD’s crapped their pants before he swerved away at the last minute.
The remaining climbs included the long haul up to the tunnel that takes you down to Soller, but a few words about that descent: It is 20km of immaculate tarmac with only a handful of hairpins on a wide road with zero traffic overlooking valleys and mountain peaks as amazing as anything on earth. The bike freefalls for so long so fast that you get mentally numb to the sensation of screaming downhill.
From the town at the bottom you take the massive 16km Soller climb, which is rife with mule trolling opportunities. I snagged a young DINSFD who fell for the old heavy breathing trick but then I roped an old British fucker who was trolling for people like me, and it was a shitty feeling when I realized he’d roped me at my own game and he kicked my butt all the way to the top, occasionally looking back to grin.
The downhill into Bunyola is long and twisty and technical, highlighting another marvelous feature of Mallorca; its amazing diversity of descents. Whether you are a terrible downhiller like me or a master of the universe like Gussy, there’s something here to enjoy and use to improve. From Bunyola there is one more major climb followed by a short ascent followed by sweet deserted mountain and country roads all the way home.
Back at the ranch we sat around and lied about our exploits while marveling at Bruce’s GoPro footage of avoiding a head-on collision in full flight down the Sa Colabra. Dinner was served and breakfast inhaled and we faced the grim realization that with only one day left we still hadn’t ridden enough … and as long you’re in Mallorca you probably never will.