Internal Detours
Monday, January 11, 2010

I emailed Ainsley and said, "Hey, are you up for a painfully slow, probably very short ride with a very out-of-shape cyclist?" And being the generous, kind, thoughtful friend he is, Ainsley allowed that he was - but family schedules meant we would be riding at 9:00 a.m. on Saturday.

Friends - we's in the midst of a cold snap. A very serious cold snap. All the good descriptors of just how cold it is are alas unsuitable for use by this recently minted family man, but take my word for it - it's bloody cold. How folks up North deal with this is beyond me.

At any rate, Ainsley and I hashed out the details. He proposed a ride to the bakery in Ninety Six, and I had to break the news to him that I am just not quite up to that yet. So we finally agreed I'd ride over to his house and we'd set off for whatever we could manage.

It was a balmy 21 degrees or thereabouts when I left the house, wrapped up in some serious wool - to wit, wool undershirts (plural!), wool jersey, cycle shorts, wool leg warmers, lycra tights over top of the lot, windbreaker, brown fleece balaclava, thinsulate gloves purchased for wear in Russia ... and it still wasn't enough. I stopped us at one point so I could don my fleecy ear-band thingy under the balaclava, because of all things, my forehead was freezing cold. Sheesh.

I rode Julius, the first time my dear old fixed-gear Mercian has been out on the open road for a fun ride in eons. I had the presence of mind to flip the rear wheel over to the 18T cog, a nod to my knees and low temperatures. A lower gear is good - my mileage for 2009 was something like 550 miles or so.

I found Ainsley in good spirits, and we chatted a moment while he added the final layers of clothes before we rolled off down Grace Street. It's been probably 18 months since I last rode with him, but I fell right in behind his wheel, then alongside, and we made our way downtown.

"Look, [name redacted] and his crew aren't out riding," he said.

"Nope. Wimps. Maybe they'll be out later," I said. "Of course, we are like the anti-racing set today."

We looked at each other. "You know, no one can see you grin when you wear a balaclava," I said.

Ah, be-fendered English fixed-gear bikes in winter. It's just so, so, so hopelessly British Isles, right out of a Patterson engraving - a very cold looking Patterson engraving. We stopped for my freezing forehead fix, then stopped again a moment later because I discovered I can't refasten my helmet straps while riding along wearing the Russia gloves. Ainsley showed pity on me and kept the pace down.

By the end of the good old rail-trail, I realized that two layers of wool socks in my normal cycling shoes wasn't really doing it for me.

"How about we go down the Canadian Mist highway and cut back in on Norris," Ainsley said. "We can get in some dirt that way."

I had to disillusion him. "I just don't have it today," I said. So we decided to take Florida Avenue across 34 and work our way back via New Market. We caught the light at 34 just right and cruised on across, and I settled in for the spin down the hill, my now ice-cube-like pedal extremities spinning the pedals around madly. I made it up the first part of the hill okay, then settled in, climbing while sitting on the rivet, hands down in the drops.

Suddenly, I found out why the guys riding fixed between the wars so often had the funky secondary pillar holding the nose of the saddle up from the top tube - my saddle slipped.

"Uh, mechanical," I said. So we limped across Marshall and pulled up onto the sidewalk. A few minutes later I had the multi-tool out and was cinching the seat clamp down as tight as I could manage it. The next hill, it slipped again.

"It's all right, Ainsley," I said. "I think I paid, like, $1 for this seatpost, with a saddle attached."

"Yeah, you got your money's worth," he said. I smacked the top of the saddle back into alignment and we limped on into town. A black cat dashed across the width of Main Street, dodging traffic and making it alive to the other side.

"I don't see [cyclist's name redacted]'s car over there," I said. "They're really not riding today?"

"It's only 24 degrees," Ainsley said, and we laughed inside our balaclavas.

I had a little more than 10 miles for the day. My feet needed a full half hour indoors before they felt normal again. My legs felt pretty decent, though, and I felt like I could do it again, depending on the weather.

Later Saturday, I discovered the seatpost was fine after all, and cinched it down hard. Last night, Ana said, "Hey, Ainsley's posted the MLK Jr. ride for this year. Are you going to ride it?"

Yes. This could be a lot of fun.
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Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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