I show up at your house. It’s weird, because you don’t know me, but I’m on a bike, so you answer the front door despite your misgivings. First, I explain who I am, and you’re like, “The guy who writes the nonsense on the thing?” And I’m like, “Yup.”
The ice is broken, and you wanna know what I’m doing at your house, so I say, “I’m here to ride bikes.” In this scenario the bike that I have ridden to your place and the kit I am wearing are nebulous. All that’s important is that I’m there and I’m ready to ride.
And let’s just say that whatever it is that you do, you are not doing it in this particular moment, OR you are doing it, but taking a break to ride a bike isn’t a big deal, because work is for suckers and the sun is shining, and we’ll all be dead one day anyway. Sorry. That got grim.
So there we are standing at your front door (unless you’re one of those people who come and go by a side door…look, don’t make this weird or get too hung up on details, ok?), and I’m like, “Grab your stuff and your bike! Let’s go!”
At this point, some sort of magic happens. My bike and cycling costume suddenly align with your instincts for where and how we’re gonna ride bikes. If you have trouble accepting that this kind of magic is possible, you probably didn’t open the door in the first place to find out what I was doing on your stoop. I do this to people who come to my house to get me to sign petitions or to contribute to some cause I have not sought out on my own. I ghost ’em.
I get it. Who has time for this nonsense?
The better question though, in this case, is, who doesn’t have time for this nonsense? This is the most serious nonsense going. It’s riding bikes. Get your stuff. Let’s go.
So this week’s TCI Friday asks, where are we going? What is the bike? Where is the spot? What are you gonna show me and what are we gonna do after? Food? Coffee? Get matching bike tattoos? Did I have fun on our ride, or did you flog me within an inch of my life. I wouldn’t blame you. I’m pretty much asking for it.
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I invite you in. Front door. So we go out the side door. And because this is the kind of day it’s going to be, we then go out the back door. To my bike shed. At 12×14, it’s small. Well, as viewed from above. Each level is 12×14′. And I don’t know how many levels there are.
The lift brings up my Scott Spark to match your full suspension bike at the XC end of the trail spectrum. Mine’s the new Spark with the hidden rear suspension, of course.
The trailhead behind the shed dumps us onto Hagerman Road just south of Turquoise Lake near Leadville. Since it’s Aug 13, we get there just as the racers from the green corral arrives. They’re a bit stronger than we are, but our legs are amazingly fresh and we keep pace.
Before we know it, we make the sharp left onto the Sugarloaf climb. The temperature is perfect, the light is wonderful, and we’re pedaling like we don’t have a chain. After a bit, climbing changes to descending and we’re bombing the Powerline descent. We hit every line perfectly, which on another day would surprise us since there’s no such thing as a perfect line on the Powerline descent.
We reach the pavement, but the descending isn’t done. I double-tap both AXS shifters (because, SRAM) and our Bastion Demons surges forward. Because what else could it do–the Mauna Kea descent points downhill for the next 40-plus miles … and 14,000′.
Finally at sea level, it strikes us as odd that we’re now commuting to work. Another double-tap–I love my Bike Friday, and you love yours. We get to the station, quickly fold our bikes, and settle in for the short train ride. The first class car is surprisingly empty, so the 45 minutes pass quickly and comfortably. We disembark, unfold the bikes, and navigate the empty city streets to the office. We secure the bikes just inside the atrium door, nod to the receptionist, and thank our good fortune that despite it only being 9am, the big boss has seen fit to give us the day off. We head back out to the street as the receptionist packs his things.
We use our newfound free time wisely. It’s June 4 and Unbound isn’t going to ride itself. Double-tap. My Seven Mudhoney, Captain America, is the perfect tool for the job. Your Seven Evergreen is equally up to the task (because let’s face it, the Mudhoney and Evergreen are the same thing). We applaud our good thinking–the flint-proof tire liners we just installed help us get to the finish line without a single flat.
A big day already logged, we take a 15-minute break. Then, the PA system barks, “Final call for Masters 50+.” We’re staged mid-pack. Double-tap. I love my Canyon Inflite. Well, not mine, really, Mathieu has loaned it to me. And his pit bike to you. The paved start straight at Stage Fort Park kicks uphill. For the first time in our CX careers, we get the hole shot (not bad starting mid-pack). And at Gloucester, no less! The beach run is back. We ride it. Two laps in and we hit the first of Providence’s iconic flyovers. Racing Roger Williams Park never gets old. Since you suggested we ride today, I “gift” you the win. But we both know that I was never going to take the day anyway.
I can’t believe I say this, but “I could use some road. You?” You agree, and we double-tap ourselves back onto our Demons. The fresh tarmac (please don’t sue me for using that word, Mike) is a dream. And despite it being the city center of Paris, our Varias never once emit their “car back” chime. We hit the FDR and join 30,000 of our closest friends. “Right! Today’s the Five Boro ride!”
Double-tap. Fat bikes are the best. Seaside sand, but somehow salt corrosion isn’t an issue. Maybe chemistry works differently in Alaska? We’ve lost track of which edition of the Stowe Derby this is. No matter, the snow is perfect and we don’t need studs. We cruise into town for an adult beverage. We’ve earned it.
The sun’s getting low in the sky. Only one event to go. We’re both new to artistic cycling, but willing to give it a try. Double-tap. Wait, what!? Artistic cycling!? That’s nuts. If we include artistic cycling, no one’s gonna believe the day we’ve had.
@Jeff – Wow. Wow. I’ll admit, the detour to Stage Fort Park caught me off guard. I love it.
And my Paceline pick is….Jeff’s dream bike day!
This year, we are rolling on gravel bikes to do my favorite weekend loop from my home in Folsom, CA. Start off with pavement to get to Rescue in the Sierra Foothills where we start using neighborhood back roads, some of which are unpaved, until Ponderosa Road delivers us to Shingle Springs. Now time for Shingle Lime Road where we roll through an empty valley, around a gate, down a deserted descent, hit the dirt and speed by the sketchy house at the bottom before we climb over another gate. Okay, now its decision time: more back roads and steep climbs or fly down Shingle Springs Road to Latrobe? Either way, we end up in the undeveloped prairie east of the Sacramento-San Joaquin Valley to make a three-pointed star out of the jeep roads known as Old Latrobe and Michigan Bar. The latter takes us on a narrow old bridge over the Cosumnes River right into the front yard of a house that reportedly was a bar for the miners who blasted water at the ground to create the weird, ugly hills and crevasses in their search for gold. Let’s hope the little yapper dog who lives there doesn’t come nip at our ankles when we invade his personal space. Back to the pavement and its an hour back to Folsom through El Dorado Hills or we could use the still embryonic lower section of the trail planned to link Folsom and South Lake Tahoe, depending on how much we like to walk our bikes.
It’s 75 degrees and the sun is out, perfect for me and like the face of the sun for you. So time to swim in the pool and barbecue. You’re my guest, but it’s weekend afternoon nap time for me, meaning you get stuck manning the grill. Hey, it could be worse. We could have gone into some Ann Rice inspired meme delusion for an alt tour of France to fight the existential threat posed by Guillaume Martin and #CofidisIsVampires but carrying a cross large to stake into the hearts of those restless immortals makes riding harder than necessary and nearly impossible to catch World Tour trained undead ghouls. (I’m not saying the blood doping in pro cycling is a cover for actual blood sucking but I’m also not denying such possibilities have not been explored in the collective human mind known as the internet: https://cyclingtips.com/2021/07/is-cofidis-a-team-of-vampires/.) Now I’m wondering, is this all the fever dream that accompanies having my lifeblood sucked away to feed those ravenous monsters? I should have closed the front door as soon as I noticed the black magic bike and kit you brought to seduce me into this devilish folly.
“You get stuck manning the grill.” Priceless.
@Dave – If there’s a pool, I’m your grill master. Next time I’m in Folsom.
It’s a good thing you have a gravel bike because we’re about to hit some Northern Michigan singletrack and seasonal roads. Rolling hills, no traffic, and packed dirt make for a great day. We don’t push too hard, around 40-50 miles and about 2000 ft climbing, then roll back into town to one of the breweries to refuel.
@TC – I have not been to Michigan, and this feels like a fundamental failing. I’d even wager Michigan is the most-underrated bike state in our (dis) union.
Q for Tcfrog: Where in N MI are you? We went thru N MI and the UP in ’16 on a cross-country trip in our travel trailer and LOVED it. We spent at least 3 weeks there and hated to leave – Interlachen, Traverse City, Tahquamenon, McLain SP, Copper Harbor, etc. Lake Superior is an absolute gem. I had varied success finding good gravel riding, though. Some areas were way too sandy (TC area) and I just couldn’t find much. Just curious, we’d love to go back.
YEAH, Michigan has gravel. I never knew. We just moved here from SC with lots of climbing and gravel roads and trails along the Blue Ridge mountains and Piedmont. But now, it’s like I’m in some gravel kingdom. Flat, mind you, but still gravel everywhere. I have several routes from my house where the gravel / dirt starts 800ft away and you only ever smell pavement at a road crossing. 30 – 45mi of contiguous gravel. I am hoping that I can tie in a longer route, but that’s pretty good so far. And, if you do hit some of the road, you can of course make those routes as large / long as you’d like. c’mon up! Brighton, MI / Kensington Park area. I’m not on the socials, so you’ll have to use the magic Emlyn offered to find my front door.
[…] Emlyn Lewis. His fantastic Friday Group Ride/TCI Friday column is a weekly must-read. This week’s edition is no […]
I say, “ummm, OK!, Just a minute!”
I usher you in to my basement garage, down creaking stairs, a space that will never see a car within. I beg a moment to futz with that thing on my BB / pedal / mech that is rattly or squeaky for enough time for our La Croix (Pamplemousse, natch) to find room temperature.
“700c or 650b?” It matters not your response, I’m changing the wheel set.
I take a long moment to show you my latest bike project. That moment turns into a spirited discussion of Victorian classism and early, no, proto- Steampunk literature.
“Another La Croix? Mini fridge! (pointing)”.
“Honey! Where’s my new bibs?”
“I don’t see them!” I’m yelling up the stairway.
Lycra located, I’m stuffing my jersey pockets with the usual talismans of the ride: multi-tool, fig bars, maybe a Clif bar… (“How far / long do ya wanna ride?”). The thick ziplock bag that keeps my phone from suffering a sweaty malfunction in my pocket. The ziplock also contains stickers, a bandana, and a little microfibre swab for my glasses. My wallet. RoadID.
I’m filling bidons in the bathroom basin.
The rear tire feels soft. “Does this feel soft?”
I grab a pressure gauge. Oops! That one is for my plus bike… Here we go! Dammit. The tire IS soft. A dozen pumps to get it to the plumpness prescribed by our route and its surfaces. I double-check that my tiny frame pump is right where it should be, on my bike’s frame.
The garage door rolls up over our heads, bearings shrieking.
The sun is setting behind the islands to the west, the horizon awash in orange, with a thin rind of green fading into blue, fading into darkness above.
“I have lights!”
The lights are charged, and it only takes a moment to assemble what we both will need.
I turn around.
I am alone.
“Fuck. Not again.”
This is fantastic. I’m imagining that Emlyn showed up promptly at the crack of dawn on the longest day of the year, and that the narrative covers about 14 hours.
@schlem – Whoa. I would never do that to you. I love a night ride. I love to boogie.
I turn and hit the switch that will close the garage door on the sunset fireworks happening outside. Standing before me, there you are, apparently shaking your hands dry.
“Are we still riding? I had to, um, see a man about a… recumbent. All that La Croix, you know.”
“Yeah! Yeah! Of course we are! Just trying to find that squeaking bearing in the garage door roller.” I stab the button again , and the garage door rises, howling, again.
You cock your head, and slowly point to a metal wheel in the right door track. “That one.”
We are on our bikes, lights ablaze. We cut through town and take the chipseal around the point. In the rising twilight, Great Blue Herons rise from the cobble beach, croaking as they flap their six-foot wings, the tips barely kissing the mirror-flat water. Each time we disturb a heron, a trail of growing ripples follows the retreating bird, reflecting the faint red on the horizon.
We ride and we ride. There are no cars on the road tonight. We turn off our lights, nervously laughing as our eyes adjust to the night.
We ride under a dome of stars, flashed by an occasional meteor crashing into the thin atmosphere miles above.
There is no chill in the air; There is no wind. Just we two cyclists dancing on our pedals, sharing this perfect ride.
I wanted to go with my pals to B’ville for riding shenanigans, but couldn’t get out of work. Instead I finished building my new hardtail a Banshee Paradox with a Zeb up front. A reviewer said “that if the Banshee was a band it would be The Ramones; raw and fun. I was sold. Took it for a shakedown cruise (literally shook any bolts loose I hadn’t tightened down enough) yesterday and had a blast. Most would say “you don’t need that big ass fork” but at 150mm of travel it sets the bike’s geometry ideally and I haven’t ridden a better fork in terms of stiffness as well as composure. As an aggressive rider than rides like an angry/drunken bear this is important to me. So nothing epic nor fancy as far as rides go, but Blaque Deth (I was going to nickname it “Screaming for Vengeance”, but liked the Johnny Fever hat tip better) will add some spice to my usual haunts. Yes, it has a Ramones sticker on the fender.
We’ll take our xc dualies down to Facing Rock and, after a beer at the trailhead, roll Phazed and Confuzed, session a couple of the big rock rolls then back to the trailhead for more beers and banter. A day well spent.
After a ‘Welcome to the mountains. of Western North Carolina,” we would make sure you have had enough coffee. Then we could drop down to Banner Elk. Passing through Lees-Mcrae college we would retrace some of the old Tour Dupont route on roads designed for horses. That would bring us to a climb of Grandfather Mountain and the hard decision of whether to take the Blue Ridge Parkway and go over the Linn Cove Viaduct or down the dips and dives of the Old Yonahlossee Road aka US221. Either way we would enjoy the descent of Shulls Mill Road before passing through the Valley of the Cross. Finally we would catch some gravel on the Watagua River Road before climbing Beech Mountain via Laurel Creek, Gwaultney and Chapel Hill Farm Road (all gravel). After a final push to the top of the ski slope we could descend Beech on the road and shout, “it is about the bike,” before stopping at the Blind Elk to see what is on tap. After winding our way back up to the house we could compare the finer points of Defeat socks on the front porch. The Seven should pair well with the BMC Roadmachine.
I think we’re going to Pinnacle. Once their, we’ll circle around and stop at the overlook at Thatcher Park and enjoy a snack and take in the amazing view of the Albany area and views of the southern Adirondacks, Greens and Taconics. Then we’ll hop on our bikes and head over to Schoharie to fill our bottles and maybe grab a full-gas coke and a snickers. Finally, we’ll climb back over the mountain and drop into Mad Dog for a brew and whatever the Food-Truck-du-Jour is serving.
Dangit! Not Mad Dog.
Mixed Breed Brewing in Guilderland Center. Tasty stuff. Dogs allowed. And today’s food truck, I h ear, was serving lobstah rolls.
@All – Thanks. I think this may have been my favorite Friday question thingy in forever, and it reminds me how easily we all get along when the bike is in the mix.