Sunday, January 13, 2013

Revolution of a cyclist: Only a little broke, I hope

That tangled mess of chain and metal used to be my derail-er.
It looks worse in person. Trust me.
Until I hear differently, I'm going to assume that my bike has suffered a mere flesh wound and the only thing standing between it and a full recovery is a good mechanic and the right parts. However, to my untrained eye it seemed to be one of those Monty Python flesh wounds that should have been spurting chain oil and Gatorade all over the road. Leif spent a little time trying to prepare me for the worst; the possibility that the actual frame might be damaged too, then quickly said  (in what I'm sure he thought was a perky manner) "But you'll still have the wheels and the saddle and the handlebars!" I wasn't comforted. It's just a flesh wound people! I refuse to think anything else till we can get her to a mechanic.

Yesterday the forecast was for warm temps, if not actual sunshine, so my friend Barbara and I started out for a ride. Being the enthusiastic hill-loving cyclist that she is (she might argue, but don't listen) she chose a destination that included a long, steady climb. She was quick to point out that it's a great training climb being long and mostly straight and only about a 5% grade.

This is all information that I don't want to know. It just scares me to hear the grade, even if it's single digits and practically flat. I also don't want to hear that it's x-number of kilometers of climbing and prefer the kind of ride with lots of switchbacks so I can't see the the road rising endlessly in front of me. I'm still easily intimidated by hills. I hope I never have to climb an actual mountain. What am I saying? I'll never have to do that because if I see one coming up I'll just faint after hyperventilating for couple of miles and be done with it. Pick me up on the way back down folks.

All I need to know about this route is that I can handle the hills no problem and the views are absolutely gorgeous. The sun was just coming out and the air was warming up as we made our slow and steady climb up to Impruneta when my bike made a strange clunking noise. I immediately stopped pedaling (I'm cautious....and terrified that something exactly like this would happen), looked down at the mass of twisted metal that used to be my derail-er, remembered that I was clipped in so removed my foot from the pedal and stopped. Said to Barbara "I think something's wrong with my bike," and dragged it off to the side of the road, which wasn't far as this road doesn't have ditches or shoulders but those quaint stone walls that keep everything on the road, well...on the road.

This is the kind of thing  you really would prefer to have happen in town where there are numerous options for getting home. Ten miles from home in those rolling Tuscan hills is not where you want to be.

Every other time I've stopped on the side of the road for trivial reasons like changing gloves or drinking water I've gotten numerous offers of help when no help was really needed. Now I was standing at the side of the road next to a bike that obviously needed help and no one stopped. Barbara quite rightly pointed out that they were on the downhill side and it's tough to stop so we headed up to the top so we could catch someone before they were free falling down the side of  a mountain.

As I walked my bike up the hill I realized where we were and after a quick phone consultation with Leif we decided to leave my bike at our landlord's house as they live only a short walk (relatively speaking) from where the bike broke. The bus runs on this same road so I could catch the bus home and we could figure out how to get the bike later. No, you can't take a bike on the bus here. Sad but true.

A brilliant plan I thought. But Milvia and Luigi thought taking the bus wasn't a great plan.....they could loan me a bike to get back down to town! Luigi took me to a house nearby and in the cellar under the house we unearthed an old mountain bike with flat tires, a rusty chain and only one working brake. He found a pump and filled the tires with a little air and sent me on my way. I met up with Barbara (we went separate ways for a bit) and we spent some time trying to get just a little more air into the tires because I wasn't comfortable riding a strange bike (which may or may not have working gears and was already short one brake) down a mountain on mostly flat tires.

We went back the way we came, slowly because I wasn't sure if the brakes would hold on the downhills and climbing with a mountain bike is just slow going. Barbara was great, sticking with me the whole time and very graciously saying that this is the way it goes sometimes. Some days you get to ride and some days you have to deal with problems.

I'm guessing I handled this the way I handle all problems. Inside my head I'm running around in circles waving my hands in the air screaming "Oh my God, what do I do now?" perhaps even crying and stamping my feet a little, while outside I seem to be calmly assessing the situation and reviewing my options, then making a decision and creatively solving said problem, or at least getting to the next step efficiently. I have everyone completely fooled.

In fifteen minutes or so Leif and  I had found a place to leave my dead (or possibly only dying) bike,  found me a way home and had a plan to pick up the broken bike the next day. Barbara said that if this had happened to her she'd be sitting in a taxi right now instead of heading back down on a borrowed bike. Then she offered me the use of her extra bike until mine can get fixed. If I was a crier that would be the time I'd have started tearing up. Her bikes are very important to her.

She's so right, you know. Leif and I (but mostly Leif) have such a network of fantastic friends that when the shit hits the fan we aren't alone. From riding with Barbara to breaking down practically outside our landlord's house, to our friend Dominic with a big car, to the use of another bike till mine recovers, to one of my moms offering an advance so I can get back on the road sooner we always have friends watching our backs. And just so they know.....we're watching out for them as well and all they have to do is say the word. We'll be there with whatever we can give as quickly as we can get to them.

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