My elbows hurt. I reinjured my faschium buttassicus. My neck no longer turns properly. Shoulders ache, hips sore, knees burn when I walk, and a whole new suite of stabbing pains now live up and down my spine.
Yeah, best bike ride ever.
The day before I had gotten lost and failed in my assault on Mt. Kogashi, the epic climb on the Japan Cup race course. So this time I started early and checked out the mama-chari to make sure all of the steel parts were in working order.
Big yellow bell, check.
GAME FUGGIN’ ON.
The only real issue I had was making sure I got back in time for the excursion with the Honorable-in-Laws to Nikko. That was going to be no problem because I had two whole hours to make the entire twenty-mile jaunt.
I set off on a glorious fall morning, cold air erecting my nipples through the thick wool sweater. After a while I was tired from the 140 rpm and uphill grade, but no matter. Those aches would go away after I was dead.
It took longer than I had expected but time was still a-ok. I spied the sign for the turn-off to Shinrin Park, made the right hand turn I’ve made a million times before and immediately hit a massive hill I didn’t remember at all. It’s funny how hills you never noticed on a ten-speed become Cowan-esque Everest climbs on a mama-chari.
I got up off the seat and realized that there is no good climbing position for a mama-chari except perhaps the “don’t climb” one. My weight lurched forward and mama-chari wobbled, if a battleship can be said to wobble.
Without drop bars or hoods to pull up on it was hard to stay aloft, but sitting back down would have meant full stoppage. Just before the crest of the giant 200-yard mountain, a pair of old women selling apples looked at me, gasping and blowing snot on the swaying mama-chari. Me, not them.
I passed so slowly they had time to ask, “Daijobu?” and I had time to feeebly nod. Atop the climb I rested and took a quick snapshot.
After a couple of miles that were indescribably hard, harder than politics, I reached the start-finish area. There were many cyclists and athletic-looking people milling about and they looked at me funny, as if there was something weird about an American miles from town in a cycling park on a country road looking somewhere between dead and autopsy while riding a mama-chari.
So of course I did the only intelligent thing, which was to turn on Strava. in those few moments, however, a group of about thirty school kids on bikes shot past and I’d missed the peloton.
Hurrying back onto MC, I swung my leg too low over the steel rack and almost shattered my kneecap. Everything went white as the universe concentrated in my knee, a Big Bang of pain that flung forth a billion little white stars of agony.
As soon as I stopped sobbing I began pedaling, determined to catch and drop the healthy young students who were now out of sight up the road. However I made a wrong turn and was soon off on a logging road up above the park. I saw my quarry below, cursed, and descended to the road. Soon I began picking off stragglers.
“THIS IS HOW IT FEELS TO BE SHIRTLESS KEITH,” I realized.
By the first switchback the students had all dismounted and were pushing their bikes which had gears. Gears! Pffffft! Mama-chari ain’t got time for gears!
Around the second switchback I was pedaling down and yanking up so hard I thought my knees would merge into my shoulders. I tried to paperboy but the ship merely listed rather than turned.
For only the second or third time in my life, I got off my bike and pushed. Each time the pitch lessened I remounted and pedaled a little more. I crested the top pedaling, having only pushed about half of the one-mile climb. A pair of walkers at the top gaped.
Strava of course is here:
If the climb-walk was hard, the descent was terrifying because the road was covered in a thick carpet of leaves and mama-chari had been engineered not so hot for taking switchbacks at 40. I regained the main road with 45 minutes to make the one hour pedal back.
Mama-chari could do 18-ish if you could maintain 160+ rpm, which I could except that it caused my knees to melt. Hot pain from the rack whack, legs 3/4 bent, hips groaning, back screaming, and all the while flying through six-inch gutter gaps, bars-to-doorhandles with passing trucks, and mama-chari devouring divots, potholes, giant cracks, and cement curb lips with her massive fat tires, 90-spoke wheels, and the downhill, tailwind momentum of a falling leaden sky.
Somewhere between “I’m ready to die right fucking now” and death itself in the form of oncoming traffic through an orange light, mama-chari’s brakes gave up the ghost, her kickstand dragged in the turn, and I put 75 pounds of Japanese steel into a hot slide whose outcomes were binary: awesomeness or splat.
Physics voted for high-side and the oncoming windshield but you gotta let the steel beast run because mama-chari wanted to live too and she flipped the skitter into a controlled skid about the time the 150 mm cranks went from pedaling through the turn into hallelujah and I scooted through so close to the windshield that I counted the truck driver’s nose hairs and inspected a gold tooth crown.
“How was your ride?” they asked as I wheeled up at 11:59, pointy fuggin’ sharp.
I shrugged. “It was okay.”
But the rest of the day I floated like a genie on a cloud. The best day of your life will do that.
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