Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Riding at 45 Degrees...

I am not talking here about outside temperatures. No, rather I am talking about angle to the ground plane. I often describe Claremont as existing in a little environmental and climatic pocket. This is probably just my imagination, but summer temperatures seem ever so slightly cooler, winds considerably less severe. I say this must be imagination because branches keep snapping and trees, like the one at the end of the street yesterday, keep toppling over. Yes, the last few days have brought some grossly punishing winds blowing across the region. If you have been out on a bike, you may have noticed.

what says wind more than a rippling flag, or a haggard looking cyclist?

You may have noticed it has been more difficult to get from here to there, and back again. You may have noticed that it has been harder to turn the cranks around, that your gear selection has tended to run on the granny side of the cassette. You may have noticed the impossibility to hold a line, or even a heightened dread of being blown completely across the road or path. You may have noticed more bees; though you would be tempted to believe the little buggers would hunker down until the air calms, the reverse seems to be true. The winds seem to have made them agitated, to the point of swarming across a quarter mile stretch of my route. It was like riding through a minefield, and any moment I expected the worst.

And bees have not been the only creatures to keep a wary watch of. There was the crow, gliding along free as a bird (funny how that works) when all of a sudden it came to an abrupt halt, as if it had flown into an invisible wall. Then there was the grey squirrel, with big bushy tail, which fell out of the sky. I figured it was probably blown out of a tree, but there were none within striking distance. Who knows how long it had been up there, but after hitting the ground ahead of me and then scampering into the chaparral, I noticed what appeared to be a huge smile on its face - must have been one heck of a ride. And the coyote, don't forget the coyote, tumbling along from my left to my right. In fact I thought it was a tumbleweed at first, rolling along at my periphery. But then I saw its eyes wide in shock, paws clawing at the ground, futilely attempting to halt its uncontrolled roll. Poor thing. Finally, there was the other rider, just the one, approaching from the opposite direction. It seemed to be taking a long time to get up to him, to pass one another. When we finally did I realized the reason - though he was pedaling forward, he was actually moving backward. How the heck does that even happen? Some wind, alright, and I have had my fill of it.

Headwinds I can deal with pretty well. They are a simple matter of settling into a rhythm and grinding out the distance. Tailwinds I will take as I get them, with pleasure. Cross winds, though, especially when they are gusting, I can do without. Of course what I want does not readily factor into the equation, and my latest ride was more nerve-wracking than it was physically demanding. Another of those latest rides was a normally simple out and back, the advantage of which, during periods of extreme breeziness, have to do with wear. If the wind pushes you into a 45º lean to the right hand side on the outward-bound grind, the return balances out with a lean to the left. This way, your sidewalls get equal wear, shoulders and arms an equal workout. Pushing against the bars, against the wind - to stay upright, to keep the course straight - "all we are is dust in the wind" rarely seemed a more appropriate song to hum.

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