I’d planned on writing a follow-up to Tuesday’s post, in which I’d suggest changes to the current biking laws.
Maybe next time.
Because that’s what I was thinking about as I was riding today, when I suddenly realized I was missing a hell of a great ride. So I mentally hit command – option – escape (control – alt – delete for you ‘softies out there) and shut off that part of my brain for the remainder of the day.
It was one of those idyllic late summer days, when it might be unbearably hot inland, but absolutely ideal closer to the coast. Warm and dry, clear blue sky, little or no wind, and big, blue waves forming perfect curls crashing on the beach. The only flaw was a wall of haze – a local euphemism for smog, for the uninitiated – along the coast above Malibu; but since I wasn’t going that way, the only thing it marred the view north across the bay.
Better yet, this was the week it finally all came together for me – that magical moment when cycling becomes almost effortless, and you can just ride, without having to think about it or work at it. Usually I reach that point by mid-July; this year, as I struggled to come back from the infamous bee encounter, I was starting to think I wasn’t going to get there at all.
Then as I was riding on Monday, I suddenly found myself just…riding. For once, I wasn’t trying to get in shape or thinking about what I was doing. I carved effortless curves through the corners, and zoomed along a couple of gears higher, and a couple miles an hour faster, than I had just the week before.
And just enjoyed the ride.
I enjoyed that same effortless feeling today as I rode, enough that I was able to hold my tongue when I found myself passing the helmet-less, mountain bike-riding jerk I’d encountered a few moments earlier. The one I’d just seen blow through a red light, forcing the oncoming traffic to brake to avoid him, then speeding up to cut off a car on a narrow corner a few seconds later — again, forcing the driver to brake hard to avoid him.
Normally, I might have said something. And maybe I should have. But it just didn’t seem worth marring such a lovely day.
Same with the county beach employee who was driving his pick-up with two wheels in the bike lane, as he prepared for a turn a few hundred yards further down the road. I ended up right next to his open window at the next light, and almost said something.
But for a change, I just didn’t feel like it.
Instead, I contentedly followed the young guy riding with his jeans rolled up, who insisted on jumping ahead of me when the light changed — and surprisingly, was able to ride just fast enough to keep ahead of me. I finally passed him on the marina section of the bike path, after I kicked it up to my big gear, raising my speed another 4 or 5 mph. Yet when I got to the fork between the Ballona and Braude bike paths, he was still there, just a few yards behind me.
I really had to admire him, because I was really hauling through there. And I was actually dressed for the part.
The rest of my ride was just as pleasant, if uneventful, until I found myself speeding downhill about a mile from home. Suddenly, the car ahead of me stopped without warning to let a pedestrian cross, forcing me to swerve right at over 25 mph to get around him. Then as I did, the driver waiting at the cross street took that as his opportunity to cross, and pull out directly into my path. So I gently squeezed the brakes and swerved right again to go around him, then immediately swerved left to come back into the traffic lane, carving a perfect C behind him.
Only problem was, there was a car illegally parked in the red zone on the other side of the intersection, directly in my path. So I squeezed the brakes again, tapped the rear derailleur to drop down a couple gears, swerved hard to the left, then back right to straighten, and cruised back uphill and home as if nothing had happened.
It went something like this: swerve, squeeze, swerve, swerve, squeeze, tap, swerve, swerve. And just about that fast.
Like I said, it all came together this week — and not a moment too soon.
Then I went home and had a massive iced coffee, into which I may have inadvertently spilled a wee dram of Irish Whiskey.
Of course, we won’t mention the school bus driver who decided to pass me on a curve, and nearly forced me to rear-end a parked car. Because something like that would be upsetting, and risk marring the lovely mood left by this idyllic day.
And we can’t have that, now can we?
Alex tells the story of S.M.P.D.’s hassling of Critical Mass riders, and offer’s his heartfelt opinion at the end. (Welcome back, dude – we’ve missed you.) Bike completes her car-free challenge, and offers tips for the rest of us. No Whip finishes the hardest thing he’s ever done – a 500+ mile challenge through the high desert; if I wore a hat, it would be off to you, Matt. A writer for the Times shares our rants about the lack of bike lanes in this town. And finally, the S.F. Bike Examiner lusts after a very light — and very expensive — new bike.
Thanks man – I’ve been moving and just haven’t had the juice to write.
I’ve had encounters like yours where you string together a series of urban cycling maneuvers to avoid a series of surprise obstacles. I always get on the other side, sometimes still sporting a good amount of speed like you were, with sort of “WTF” lingering in my mind, and then continue on as if nothing happened. Of course, there are those rare occasions where you’re forced to come to a complete stop.
You gotta watch those normal looking kids riding bikes – they might be faster than you think. You might run into someone who rides the Wolfpack Hustle, Root Run, or Cub Camp looking normal. Or you might run into my buddy Matt riding fixed in jeans, but watch out – he just finished the 508 in 37:20 –
Yeah, I’m often surprised by how well some people who don’t look like bikers ride, then I remember what I was like when I still rode in cutoffs and t-shirts. But I wouldn’t mind running into Matt sometime — sounds like he’s got a hell of a story to tell.