Crashing The Boy’s Ride
Rode with neighbors Chris and Matt– a red letter day, because I wasn’t unwelcome. Perhaps I tried a bit hard to become unwelcome….let me explain…
A million years ago, I rode a few months with the Wednesday boys who met at Sunshine Bicycle Center here in Fairfax.
I didn’t wait to be invited. I just rolled up on beat-up Peugeot three inches too big, wearing my shortsleeve men’s madras shirt, khaki shorts, and Clark’s wallabees (no cleat) with chartreuse socks. Try to imagine what ten guys hanging out before the shop opened, rocking their latest (and it was new back then) lycra might be thinking. I didn’t realize at the time that guys check out every detail of outfits as much as we women do.
1981 was my first season as a racer, and as long as my boyfriend and I were together, I was immune to the heavy macho vibe. I raced every weekend, driven in style in Gary’s BMW sedan with the back seats ripped out to accommodate our bicycles.
He puffed up with proprietary glee on those Wednesday rides, whenever I hammered up the hills at the front. He relished the fact that I was undroppable by Marin’s fastest. We both pretended not to care that my enthusiastic sprints for the city limits went un-contested (except by him).
“You’re racing more in one month than most of these these guys will do all summer”, he’d tell me. “They’re all show.”
I was pretty sure I was going to be a champion, and hoped my breaking-in period wouldn’t involve broken bones. I let the grumbling roll off me. Besides, my hands were full, trying to figure out how to ride in a straight–really straight–line, and not freak when someone rode alongside at 25 mph. These things take time. Over the next couple of months both the women in the racing scene and the guys I trained with ‘schooled’ me. And yes, even the women wished I would just take up wind surfing…
That autumn, I broke up with Gary, and unwittingly entered a new era. Without his protective support, I was food for the hounds.
I can’t forget the last time I rode with them. My former mate was out of town. By letting me lead through the maze of Fairfax streets, the gang ‘dropped’ me the only way they could: by veering off-route en masse behind me.
Otis G. and Garry Somers stood waiting at the usual corner.
“Where’d everyone else go?” said Otis.
“They were behind me a second ago.”
From a different direction, the pack approached.
I glumly rode along at the rear, and heard one of them hiss, “can’t she take a hint??”
I headed back home. Numb.
Is it any wonder I hesitate to ask if I can barge in on someone else’s ‘regular’ ride?
For five or six years I’ve seen Chris, my neighbor, return muddy from what had to be a nice 2-3 hour dirt ride. Every time, I would supress the urge to invite myself along. It was especially hard to resist once his wife told me that he rides circles around the young lions in his fire crew.
My competition chakra—ignore the gray hair—burns with the need to take them all on.
But someone would grumble “It’s not a race”.
To which I might retort, “Oh, right“.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that any ride consisting of more than one man becomes a race.
Which brings me to this week, when a certain Matt H. and his kid Sam appeared at our place to shoot pix of CC and I for the boy’s art school fort polio…
The dad (busily ‘keeping out of Sam’s hair”) admired our hovel, and mentioned a regular appointment on the trails with Chris, my down-the-street neighbor.
“CAN I COME?” I hinted subtly.
“Sure, we go on Wednesday. Tamarancho if the weather’s good”.
With beginnerish anticipation, I met up with them on Iron Springs, and we cruised onto “Alchemist” (the trail that links Goldman Trail to Iron Springs Road). I ought to have heeded that “newbie phelan”, and just played it cool.
But then I wouldn’t be Being JP.
I announced that I like to pass people, even on singletrack trail, ’cause it feels more like racing’. Thank God I told them, rather than ambushing them with my prowess.
“Just tell me you’re passing, OK?” Matt shot back.
Ten seconds later I warbled “PASSING!”
Jamming myself into the four inches of trail alongside the poor guy, I jacquieknifed my front end, twirling off the bike in a reverse somersault down the leafy trail’s edge. Musta been a hidden root under the leaves just as I made my move.
I meant to do that, I thought to myself, dragging my (unharmed) bike back onto the trail. I was covered with leaves.
Out loud, I said: “Permit me to demonstrate my superior bike handling skills….heh!”.
Matt looked a bit taken aback, and Chris just said: “You ride in front“.
Inside, the voices mocked: “fool, salope, eedjit, stronza, corkskalle”.
I behaved the rest of the ride, and actually stayed behind most of the time so I could hear ‘em talk.
Maybe they’ll ask me back, but I won’t hold my breath.