This is not easy to explain. Three months or so of hard riding atop a 55-lb., fully loaded touring bike has made me really fit. I’ve got cycling strength that is new and different, a combination of power and endurance that feel so good as to be odd.
One of the first things I did back home was to ride my road bike, which is really light, carbon, has skinny tires, and rolls like a gazelle. I couldn’t believe how fast I can go with a fraction of the effort. E-tap, carbon FastForward wheels … man!
For what Matt Brousseau would call the Avid Recreational Cyclist, I had reached nirvana, which is the strength to smash at will on the group ride. The next Donut Ride is on Saturday. The usual suspects will be there, and if it was a ride I used to do well on, now it would be a bloodbath. It could be a return of epic proportions. Scalps and bald skulls hung every fuckin’ where.
I won’t be there.
Today I went down to the coolest bike shop that hasn’t yet been opened, The Dropout in Old Torrance. Baby Seal was there, laying bathroom tile with the precision of a 12th Century mosaic artist working on the stained glass windows of Notre Dame de Paris. Boozy P. was there, hooking up the pipes and whistles for the world’s largest air compressor.
“Here,” I said. “Take it.” I pushed my Fuji to him
Baby Seal raised an eyebrow, grabbing the bars. “And then what?”
He shrugged. “Okay. How much are you asking?”
“Whatever you can get.”
He nodded. “So what’s the back story? In the market for a new whip?”
“Nope,” I said. “Me and Avid Recreational Cycling … we’re done.”
“Got dropped by some old guy on an e-bike, huh?”
“Kinda but not really. I was riding up Mt. Bachelor and got passed by a really terrible human being. So I caught him and dropped him.”
“With your touring bike?”
“Loaded with those fucking panniers?”
“Bet that put a kink in his day.”
“He later explained that he’d been sick and was only at 80% max power, and that this was his easy week, and that his coach had his peak targeted for October, and that he used to live next door to Steve Tilford but that he missed his memorial service cuz bike race. He’s now focusing on October for realz.”
“When all the big races are, I guess.”
“Right. In snow skiing.”
“What happened then?”
“I realized that the idiot was me. Here I was, riding my bike on some of the most beautiful roads, meeting some of the most interesting people, seeing some of the most amazing things, learning some of the most important lessons life has to teach, and the second I get passed by an idiot with a coach, I chase him like Pavlov’s dog.”
“Pretty lame,” Baby Seal agreed.
“That’s when I realized I was over it. No person my age trying to go fast has any business trying to go fast. We’re almost in the grave. If we have any sense at all, we need to be slowing the fuck down. Way down.”
“Yeah. And as soon as that epiphany happened, I got passed by another dick, this time some guy in his 70’s.”
“Well it must have felt good to let him go. You earned your inner peace the hard way, man.”
“Yeah. Except I chased him down and dropped him.”
Baby Seal looked perplexed. “That’s fucked up, man. I thought you were going to have this awesome story of enlightenment. Sounds like you’re the same old wanker you always were.”
“I had a couple more opportunities where I got passed and then couldn’t resist.”
“You’re a lifer. I’m not taking this bike. See you on the Donut.”
“No, no,” I protested. “You didn’t let me finish my story.”
Baby Seal had a shop to open. “Okay. But make it quick.”
“I got to LA and got badassed on San Vicente, first thing.”
“And I let it go.”
“Then I got badassed on Ocean a few minutes later.”
“I let it go.”
“And on the way to Manhattan Beach, you know who I saw?”
“Shirtless Keith. And you know what he was doing?”
“Smiling. Waving. Riding his fuggin’ bike. That’s the lesson, Baby Seal. And I’m done.”
He wheeled the bike into the back. “I think we can get $2,399 for it.”
I stood on the street, for the first time since I was 18 the non-owner of a speedy road bike. If I could have looked at it in a rear-view mirror, I wouldn’t have even spared a glance.
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