Crashing The Boy’s Ride


Skillful (self) execution

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.

~ by jacquiephelan on November 15, 2009.

8 Responses to “Crashing The Boy’s Ride”

  1. Mebbe if they read the story they’ll ask ye back. Anyway, makes a good story!

  2. I think you could have taken them. If that damn root didn’t get in your way. They would be singing your praises. Well, or not.
    BUT: the real issue is weather or not they were smart enough to ask for a cup of tea at the end of the ride, Alice?

  3. nice.

  4. You have good insite to the male ego ride sydrome.

  5. Ya Hu! Superior acrobatics & way to roll.

  6. Jacquie, you were such a nucelar reactor full of power in 1981 — I was in _good_ shape then, racing USCF, and you could drop me like a pebble any time you wanted to. But yeah, your bike handling sucked, and you had no concept of thinking about what the pack was doing. And you talked too much. Now you’re mellow and cuddly and still a great rider. You’ve accomplished a vast improvement over the years.

  7. […] Phelan, who’s as good a mountain bike historian as we have these days, recalls crashing the boyz ride back in the day. Great writing, great […]

  8. After displaying uncommon restraint, giving fair warning of your competitive nature, and announcing the pass, you get pitched into the shrubbery; it just ain’t right.

    Some day you get the bear – some days the bear gets you

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