Friday, January 9, 2009

Ice Castles

This is how I recollect my ride.

Pedaling as gingerly as one can up a 20% wall of ice and rock atop 32 inch tires, I wonder, how did I get here? Well, in the short term, it was Birdman’s doing. Despite the Fat Cat having left him waiting out in the cold, miles from home Tuesday, Big Daddy remained magnanimous.

“HO!” There goes the rear wheel again, taking an extra turn or so. Maybe The Bird wasn’t all open arms? A little payback perhaps? He did invite Aerobinator along to turn the screws…

Ever since we started Big Daddy’s mad assault on castle Mayfield, I had been living off the thought that once the smooth pavement gave way to gravel and rocks, I could stop looking for minute points of purchase atop the slick surface and just ride. But, I am where I am. Should I risk the smooth part and make it a bit easier or should I go for the increased resistance but slightly better traction of the soft rime ice. Hmm…slow and steady or fast and loose. There’s gotta be some meta—ARF, ARF! SHIT! SLIP!

That damn big dog. I was so focused on staying upright that the white whale could have been squirming out across the frozen fields, mouth agape, towards me and I wouldn’t have noticed. Foot down now, I just give the canine a disgusted look and he goes back to his yard. Dogs are a lot scarier on flat roads in the summer. On a 3 mile, sub-zero climb, you really just don’t care about all those teeth and hackles, signifying nothing.

Back on the bike, I can just see the rougher surface snaking down around the next corner. It’ll be bumpier but if I don’t have to worry about my rear end— slipping that is—I might be able to storm the walls and put some time into these guys.

Oh, you didn’t notice I was out front, all alone. Turns out, Aerobinator does have a weakness. He is not so tough when the temperature drops. Yes, yes, he is still faster than me but not blindingly so. I think his lack of body fat lets his will seep out along with his body heat. To top it off, he has to keep stopping to adjust his clothing. He already looked like some mutant deep sea diver, gripping his handle bars with giant lobster claws. I don’t know what else he’s gonna do; maybe the birdman is back there rubbing him down. Maybe he’s stuffing his face full of oreo cookies. Too late now. Training like that takes months. Gotta keep up your caloric input and forget about your cardiac output if you’re gonna make a go of it on this circuit.

Crimeny! This part is worse than below. The thaw, rain and freeze of the past few days conspired in the perfect storm. What we have here is basically a frozen river. Class III rapids in still life. So much for the carefree grinding I was hoping for. Pedal twice, slip once—pedal twice, slip once, looks like that’s my new mantra.

Usually when we go up here we try and stay out of the gullies, carved free of silt and all sharp with sandstone. Today, I aim straight for them. The little streams of running water offer tortuous little lines of passage. The bike bucks about its loose and watery path. You couldn’t devise a better method to train handling skills. Keep moving and you won’t freeze up.

Well hell, sometimes you just gotta change your plans. I’m not about to try and ride up 50 yards of near vertical slick rock. It’s tough enough when it’s dry. Covered in a glossy clear coat of winter wonderment, better to break out the ice picks: or the ice shoes. Luckily, I still had the teeth screwed into my Lakes from cross season. Score one for procrastination. Actually, what a nice little change of pace, this little piggy back ride for Earnestina. I almost break into a run, almost. Adversity turns to amusement. I’m smiling.

Near the top, I slow up on the one flat section to look around and to let the boys catch me. Wouldn’t want to damage their fragile egos, after all. They pass right by and attack the last wall. They slip on the mountain’s last defense and then scurry on over the turrets and out of sight: funny.

Something to remember: Beware 30 minutes or so of aiming for puddles and streams in sub zero temperatures, all up hill. It doesn’t do much for your brakes. While birdman and I pump our pads and pull our levers back past the bars like the reigns of a wild mustang, Aerobinator rolls down the hill and out of sight. Descending isn’t his strong suit and I suspect he hasn’t thought to chip the ice from his rims. All down the road my bike makes strange clicks and jerks, fighting to free itself from the frozen mud. All the way down I expect to see Aerobinator’s tracks leading straight through a curve and into the woods. No such luck. There he is at the bottom of his bobsled run.

Coming up over a hill on Rohr road, we get a couple of cars behind us. Birdman, ever the gentleman, asks if we should pull over and let them pass. “Let ‘em go.” I say. Next thing you know Big Daddy is rolling head over heels in a snow filled ditch. “I said let ‘em go, not give ‘em a show!” I yell. A little salt in the wounds always helps.

Aerobinator looks bad so we stop at the convenience store to thaw him out. Again we impress upon him the need to go on a diet and gain weight. He puts his gloves in the microwave on the popcorn setting. Forty-five seconds do nothing for the wet bargain bin gloves. “Don’t you know anything?” I say, “Always put gloves on the potato setting.” Four minutes and forty-five seconds later I grimace and say, “Don’t you know anything? Never put gloves on the potato setting.”

Twenty more minutes or so of laying fresh tracks in the snow down the bike trail and we are done. Aerobinator says he won’t be warm for a week. I asked him if he had a good time. He says, “Best time I had all week.”


Kita said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog. I actually went on a bike ride tonight and it was great. Please come visit anytime you want.

bluecolnago said...

now craig, i have to say.... that's good stuff. seriously. i go from holding my breath to laughing my ass of in 1/10th of a second. our mostly flat gravel roads seem to be a challenge right about now, covered with ice, as they are. even the small hills make you squirm and slip. i can't imagine the roads you guys have out east. holy crap! good stuff.

Lily on the Road said...

You and Blue are hard ass cyclists...good for you. My bikes are in the basement until at least April. Mind you I have been looking for a used trainer so I can "peddle my ass" over the winter!

bluecolnago said...

that first picture looks like jackal trying to kick my fat ass....

he doesn't understand that old age and treachery will always trump youth and ability.

nice to see that lily found your blog!

Craig, The Flanders Fat Cat said...

I believe Aerobinator put that picture up. Hilarious. I guess I'm the fat guy and he's the skinny one. Only problem is that the skinny guy towers over the fat guy. In real life I dwarf him. My psychiatrist says it shows how he really dreams of being like me. He fears the day I put away the midnight snacks and Hunky food.

The bike is your friend.

You have an excuse. We pretend we have extreme conditions through hyperbole. You live in Canada.

How bout them Steelers!

bluecolnago said...

steelers, yes! yes,yes,yes!!!

sounds like your shrink knows his business. :)