Don’t let the title fool ya, I’m a fair weather cyclist. Part of me dreams of being an intrepid cyclist type that commutes to work regardless of what Mother Nature throws at us.
But I’m not.
I had tentative plans to find the path to the airport and bike to work “once the weather got good” a few times this summer. Instead, I quit my job. The only thing worse than a bad job is a bad job that you also have saddle rash while doing, right?
Ok, maybe there’s worse things. Probably that’s no contest,
But outside of the weather, I’m leery of becoming a regular bike commuter for two reasons:
A) I saw a UPS truck going the wrong way on a one way street the other day.
Now, my faith in humanity is pretty low, I won’t lie. To that end, I look both ways before crossing a one way street. But I don’t expect to see a professional driver pulling a bonehead move like that.
B) Bike Commuters are mean. At the very least, intimidating. Probably to some degree because of their hyper vigilance on the road due to the folks in example A, but even within their own ranks, their pretty fucking judgy.
But, Portland has had its False Spring and now that nice weather has come around for the second time, I can reasonably expect the weather to be decent more days than not and I’ve trotted out the old bike to try and blend in.
That’s a lie.
I’m trying to pedal off my Winter Layer.
I’ve managed two rides in the last week and am heading out on my third this morning, but am also enjoying being trapped under Mistress Myrtle while sipping my Monster so I thought I’d tap this out before I go…I’ve just got to get out before all the Cubicle Dwellers finish their First Brunch of the weekend and get outside.
That was one of the many things I re-learnt on ride number one.
Second Spring arrived on a Saturday and I let my enthusiasm get the better of me and went out for an afternoon ride on the Eastbank Esplanade and out the Springwater Trail.
But it was only my first of this short ride.
Everyone was there. They also seemed largely to be suffering under the delusion that they were the only people on the planet. I expect the Esplanade to be busy with strolling couples on a weekend. Lovey-dovey shit going on is gonna happen. The only way I’ve discovered to avoid it is to be…y’know, me. But on top of those slow strollers, you’ve got the other fair weather athletes out getting their shakedown runs and rides on the books.
Oh, and the actual athletes that probably were hating on all of us.
But it was a shit show.
No one was paying attention to anyone past the immediate obstacle they represented. Sure, they were going around them, but not thinking past them to what might be ahead.
Around the figurative next bend, if you will.
Here’s an example:
A jogger comes up behind a slow moving couple walking hand in hand and moves around them by running down the center of the path. There just happens to be a cyclist coming the opposite direction, but it’s ok…the path is wide enough to accommodate four abreast.
Ok, that example NEVER happened.
It was close, but:
Maybe the couple wasn’t walking hand in hand and there was a person width gap between them.
Maybe the jogger passing the strollers was a fair weather athlete and as he passed, a real athlete came up and decided to pass him simultaneously, not realizing that jogger was passing a couple he couldn’t really see.
Maybe the oncoming cyclist was two abreast instead of single file.
This shit show created a lot of Matrix worthy action as everyone just carried the fuck on.
Meanwhile, I’m looking at oncoming traffic before I try to pass someone and occasionally hold up behind them until oncoming obstacles go by, only to see some jerk-wad pass me and the people in front of me and almost die in a head on collision with oncoming traffic he didn’t see ahead.
Sidebar: I’m not being sexist when I say “he”, we men are typically at fault when it comes to single minded selfish behaviors. Outside of nothing, I never saw any of the many women doing their fitness do any of this stupid alpha male bullshit behavior.
What really surprised me was that this general cluelessness continued onto the Springwater Trail. I wasn’t expecting this. The Springwater is a 25-ish mile long path that runs from Downtown out to the ‘burbs. It’s actually got an extension now out to the Netflix-famous town of Boring, Oregon, so maybe it’s even longer these days.
That said, it’s not a path that really affords a casual “let’s just get on the trail” type of experience. The entrance and exit points are fairly distant, so once you’re on, you’re on for a while. Seeing so much casual traffic was confusing to me because I couldn’t figure out their motivation or destination.
It became clear to me a few miles in when I encountered the first couple just suddenly reversing course.
No looking around before they turned.
No stepping to the side to let any trailing traffic pass and check to make sure it was clear.
Just, “we’re going back now” and <poof>, they were suddenly facing the other direction.
This happened three times on the Springwater during my nine mile ride on it – 4.5 out and the (after pulling off at a wide point by a bridge) 4.5 back to the Esplanade.
Really, I left the Springwater hoping for more Wandering Geese. At least I couldn’t fault them for their brainless behaviors.
That earlier sexist disclaimer aside, I cane upon a weird situation that just ended up being a racist stereotype trap by Oaks Park during my ride out.
There was a woman seated on her BikeTown bike seat walking her bike instead of pedaling. She was in the middle of the outbound half of the trail. The way she was moving, I thought she might be injured. I slowed down to make sure and check as I went by – on the right side of her. Naturally, the runner behind me just blew by on the left as some oncoming cyclists passed a slow mover on their side so we almost all died.
Turns out, the woman I thought was injured was just Asian and the slow mover in the oncoming lane was only her boyfriend trying to snap an “action” shot of her “riding” her BikeTown bike in front on the Oaks Amusement Park roller coaster in the background.
The rest of my Mistake Moments on this inaugural ride of the season were gear related.
Remembered: Helmet, tunes, water bottle and sunglasses.
I did pretty good for my first ride.
Forgotten: Padded underwear and cycling gloves.
Now, this was only a 12 mile ride. I was intentionally taking it easy because I’m prone to injury.
The injury I wasn’t prepared for was the hamburger ass I ended up with for forgetting my padded underwear.
It was ONLY 12 miles!
But, sure enough, every little bump on the ride back in was an exercise in agony.
Bicycle seat + cargo shorts + cotton underwear + my lame yet frustrating excuse for a vestigial tail = the perfect recipe for saddle rash. Regardless of the shortness of the ride. Add to that a good sweat on a nice day and you get “Oh, c’mon!” type irritation for your ride home.
As if my trail cohorts weren’t irritating enough.
But, lessons learned so that future rides were more enjoyable, right?
Sure enough, my second ride of the season was mid-week and much less crowded. Poorly timed, it seems, if only because all the shirtless runners were heading into town as I was heading out.
It took me the first three oncoming joggers to really relax into appreciating the oncoming displays of masculine beauty.
The first one was a slender but muscular runners framed guy with a smooth chest and impossibly thin waist. My internal pedo alarm went off and I warned myself against ogling truant high school boys.
The second jogger that came my way prompted the same perversion diversion behavioral subroutines to activate. I began thinking that I’d wandered out during a HS track team practice run and prepared to tuck my lascivious nature away for the duration of my ride. Just as I began to look for a place to pull off and put on some Indigo Girls music to tamp down my inner dirty old man, the third, fourth and fifth shirtless runners passed by, visually reassuring me that the first two were just flukes.
I was relieved. Guy-Candy is such a motivator for me when it comes to exercise. I enjoy being a fair weather cyclist. I love the urban nature Portland has to offer and I unapologetically consider shirtless athletes to be part of that urban nature.
So, motivational visuals safely intact and padded underwear securely in place, I confidently set my sights on a 20 mile ride.
It was great.
Not too crowded.
Actually, the best Portland stereotypes were out.
Superfit granola-y type people in their 60s or better out slow-jogging.
Rollerbladers, because Portland Weirdos still do that.
Combination standard/recumbent dual bicyclists – that’s a new one one me.
No list of Portland’s finest would be complete without Segue Riders or the poor man’s Segue, the Razor Scooter.
All out on display on this gorgeous day.
Not too hot, but sunny!
Gorgeous scenery. The aforementioned male pulchritude and the riverside greenery and occasional wildlife.
My favorite part was the 5-way intersection on the way back by Oaks Park where the Springwater crosses a road. A driver coming out of Oaks had the right of way, I was next and then there was a car coming to a stop on the road.
Now, this lady could have been through the intersection before I even stopped at my sign. I was gauging this and thinking about whether I should stop just to be sure the second car didn’t pull a California stop and kill me in exercising my right of way.
But, no…this being Portland, the first driver waited for me to stop so she could yield her right of way to me in true Portland fashion. But I’m certainly not going to complain about someone being considerate!
Speaking of which, if you’ll excuse me, I have to get out onto the trail for my ride before it gets too people-y. I’ll proof read later.
Oh, PS: I still forgot my damn cycling gloves last time. This caused some good numbness in my forearms during my ride, but my achey knees made up for the lack of feeling in my arms. But I’ve got the gloves safely stowed in my helmet for today’s ride.
PPS: I’m thinking this might have to be a summer blog series…thoughts?
Ciao for now!