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American Past Time
A novel by Len Joy

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Friday, August 14, 2009

The Ride

I was anxious to try out the new bike. I got up as soon as it was light at 6 am. I swapped the pedals from my road bike (the Guru pedals hadn’t arrived yet) and then tried to figure out a way to bungee a water bottle to the frame as my bottle holder was also on order. Nothing worked so I squeezed a bottle into the fanny pack that I usually stuff with my cellphone, wallet and toolkit. I sacrificed the tool kit as I wasn’t planning on having a breakdown, and if I did I would just call Mark and have him take the bike back.

My original plan was to drive to the Green Bay trail head at Lake-Cook road and then take the trail north for 7 or 8 miles and then return. This would give me a chance to get used to the bike handling without having to contend with traffic and stoplights and potholes. But it was a nice morning and it seemed like a waste to drive the ten miles to the trail when I had this fancy new bike, so I decided to ride there.

As I pulled out of my driveway and turned east on Foster Street my first thought was that this is just another bike. I won’t have any trouble adjusting to it. As that thought was forming in my head, I simultaneously move into aero position (because I can think and move at the same time, sometimes.) As I did that, the bike lurched to the right and then as I grabbed for the other aero bar it veered sharply back to the left. I quickly returned my hands to the handlebars and managed to stay upright.

That sort of shook my confidence. I pedaled for five minutes winding my way north and east to Sheridan Road. On the smooth new surface just beyond the Bahai Temple, I ventured back out on to the aerobars again. Carefully this time. The bike handled like a goddamn sports car. The slightest push or pull on the aero bars caused an instant reaction. I got a little more confident. I rode for several blocks at a time in aero-position, but was careful to move back to the handlebars when a vehicle passed me. Even when I wasn’t in aero-position, the bike was much faster than my road bike. The ride was physically comfortable, but mentally challenging.

Mark had warned me that it would handle different from a road bike. It has a short wheelbase, and so when I’m in aero position, I’m practically on top of the front wheel. It can almost literally turn on a dime, even when I don’t want it to. I didn’t have a speedometer on the bike yet, but I would guess I was going 21 to 24 miles mph on the sections of Sheridan where I normally would have been riding 18 to 21. It felt faster.

As I turned off Green Bay Road onto Lake Cook I ran right into the early morning rush-hour of commuters streaming on to I-94. Lake- Cook is busy and bumpy and to get to the trailhead I had to pass over the highway and Skokie Boulevard. As I approached the vortex of I-94 my confidence-meter plummeted. I had images of losing control of the bike right as I crossed the entrance ramp and a stream of angry commuters blasting their horns at me as I dragged my bike out of their way. I remembered those times when I got my foot stuck in the pedal and wondered how much damage I would do to my new bike when that happened. When I got within 100 yards of the entrance ramp, I looked at my watch and I had been riding for an hour. I decided a two hour ride was enough and I turned the bike around and headed back home.

As I road back down Green Bay Road I realized it would be foolhardy for me to try and use the tri bike in the upcoming race. I needed to practice shifting (the shift levers are on the aero-bars which is new for me) and drinking (I was just getting the hang of that on my road bike) and staying in aero position for extended periods.

Too much to learn, too little time.

So for the race I’m going to stick with my road bike and rent race wheels from Mark. But next year, watch out. This bike is fast – I just have to learn how to ride it.

Workout: Swim - 34 minutes open water at South Boulevard Beach and then a 42 minute run along the lakefront. Legs felt good. Ran 90% pace;

Weight: 187.0

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