This is what you say when you’re about to tell a bike story and you want to make it clear that it wasn’t your fault. Bike shops hear it daily. “I was just riding along and my derailleur fell off.”
“I was just riding along and this jersey tore in half.”
“I was just riding along and my forks snapped.”
It’s such a thing that in bike shops it’s called “JRA.”
Yesterday I had finished teaching a class at the LA Law Library in Torrance, after which I rode over to San Pedro to meet with a client. I finished about 4:00 and decided to take the hillier, but shorter and more scenic way home along the coast.
That’s when something happened that I’m pretty sure has never happened before. Think about it. How often can you say you’ve done something on a bike that is a first?
Won the TdF? Yeah, so have a hundred others.
Hour record? Been set lots of times.
KOMd your segment? Ah-hah.
Anyway, there I was, just riding along, and it was windy. Really windy. I had a good 40 minutes of slogging to go, with a backpack, on fat tires, in sneakers, and so I decided to pass the time by practicing The Knight’s Tale.
I’m a little more than 1/4 of the way into this 2,000-line beast, and it has been rough sledding. Before long I’d gotten to Hawthorne, which is a long gradual climb of a few miles up to where I live.
About halfway up I noticed a shadow, and not just any shadow. It was a bicyclist wearing a cowboy hat, a big one, which you don’t see too often, by which I mean “never fucking ever.”
I checked the shadow which was now glued up right behind me, and then I went back to my recitation in Middle English. I figured he was going to pass me.
But he didn’t. Instead, he appeared to be sitting back there listening to the poem, which is weird because it’s not like there are many people who understand Middle English. Away I recited and his shadow remained.
I didn’t look back because one of the key rules in cycling is “don’t look back.”
Soon enough we got to the little steep pitch past Monaco and his shadow moved over to the left. “Here it comes,” I thought, still babbling out loud about “Yow loveres axe I now this question/Who hath the worse, Arcite or Palamon?”
Cowboy pulled up along side me. He didn’t say a word, just looked over and kind of glared. I’ve seen that glare plenty of times. It’s the “I’m gonna drop you now, pal,” glare.
He was bathed in sweat and riding a very old Shirtless Keith-style hybrid bike with a rack, knobbies, and 26-inch wheels. I turned my head slightly, still spitting out Chaucer, as he made his move. However, and this has happened to me more times than I care to remember, once he hit the wind to make his move, he realized that the 30% effort he’d been saving on my wheel was now all gone.
Without changing my pace we rode side by side as he slowly buried himself into the violet, then the light blue, then the green, then the yellow, then the orange, and finally the red, after which there was only the deep red, after which there was the heaving, rolling, roiling, shaking, swaying, gasping, full-body shudder of “blow.”
He spiraled away behind me like a spent rocket stage.
“That,” I said to myself, pausing my recitation, “is certainly the first time in the history of cycling that someone has been dropped by the recitation of a Middle English poem.”
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