Monday, June 1, 2009

BSNYC Ride Report: Slippery When Hairy

As you may recall, awhile back the ironically-named author of the Fat Cyclist blog, Fat Cyclist, raffled off an opportunity to travel to New York City to meet me, and this past Saturday that meeting in fact took place. Of course, the real fruit on the bottom of the yogurt container that was the Fat Cyclist contest was the free plane ticket. Meeting me was just the sour and boring part that gets in the way of the deliciousness. And fortunately for the eventual winner of the contest, Brad Wedemeyer, he lived close enough to New York City to visit without squandering his plane ticket, which he can still use to take a trip that's actually interesting. Even more fortunately, Brad also received an additional bonus prize, when he got to watch me fall off my bike after urinating, which I will address in due course.

Brad opted for a road ride, which was fortunate for me since my recumbent is in the shop. (Visibility is paramount when you're palping a recumbent so I'm having a commercial grade Hurricane Illuminator Series outdoor flagpole installed.) As such, I figured we should "slay" the quintessential New York metropolitan area road ride, which is of course the ride to Nyack. If you're unfamiliar with the cycling patterns of the New York region, here's a very general map of the sort you might find rendered as a line drawing in the opening pages of a lengthy fantasy novel:

The pink thing shaped like a piece of lox is the island of Manhattan (where, as it happens, most of the bike salmon reside). On the northern tip of the piece of lox you can see a green line heading west. That is the George Washington Bridge, which leads to "The Land of Make Believe," so called because it is a mystical place filled with people on all manner of misshapen crabon contraptions and clad in a bewildering array of colors. Essentially, it's a kingdom full of court jesters without a king, and every weekend New York City's cyclists don their most absurd outfits, and head over the bridge to The Land of Make Believe. Some ride in tight pacelines, others hunch over their aerobars, and still others weave dangerously as they ponder the cue sheets clothespinned to their handlebars. The "Smurf Village" of the Land of Make Believe is Nyack, which is about 20 miles north of the George Washington Bridge on the west bank of the Hudson river and contains the cafe in which most of the jesters purchase and consume their comestibles.

Meanwhile, downtown Manhattan (and, to a larger extent, the portions of Brooklyn adjacent to it) contains "The Fixie Hatchery." As the name suggests, this is the place where fixters spawn and conduct their first experiments in customization and color coordination on their new IROs and Pistas. While the fixters rarely stray far from the hatchery, you will occasionally find them in The Land of Make Believe, where they look exceedingly disoriented and uncomfortable due to their sweaty jeans and overgeared bikes.

But the most mysterious and forbidding of these domains is The Hunting Ground of the Lone Wolf. This is the marshy, flat portion of Brooklyn and the Rockaways where forbidding individuals on exotic bikes roam. Here, the Discman is the music player of choice, and the mountain bike reigns supreme. In The Hunting Ground of the Lone Wolf, cyclists do not fly in formation like those in The Land of Make Believe, nor do they flock together like the fixters. Instead, they pick their way through the reeds in conspicuous solitude like the egret.

And so it was that on a warm, sunny Saturday morning I met Brad in Manhattan for a trip to The Land of Make Believe. I had with me a one-man security detail (in the form of a stealthy assassin who can hurl a multi-tool with deadly accuracy) as well as a brace of CamelBak Team Garmin Slipstream bottles, which were sent to me unsolicited by Slipstream for this very occasion and which I presented to Brad:

We then headed over the George Washington Bridge and into The Land of Make Believe, which was resplendent with court jesters due to the favorable weather conditions. As we approached the New Jersey/New York state line, we stopped to answer the call of nature, since I was almost certain I'd heard a maple tree calling my name. It turned out I was mistaken about the tree, but we figured while we were stopped we might as well urinate. However, I had come to a stop atop a layer of wet leaves, and when I clipped back into my pedal after relieving myself and attempted to ride away from the curb my wheel slipped out from under me and I fell over in a manner slightly less graceful than this. Fortunately, I fell away from the patch of ground I had just moistened and not onto it, though given the volume of cyclists in The Land of Make Believe that morning I choose not to think about what may have made those leaves wet in the first place.

Eventually, we made it to Nyack, where we stopped at the Runcible Spoon, which is the Performance of cyclist cafes. Characteristically, it was bustling, and here was the scene as we arrived:

As always, the full range of bicycle brands, lycra hues, and unfortunate bar tape "colorways" was on display in front of the Spoon, and as hard as it was to tear ourselves away we finally headed inside. I ordered a muffin, from which I picked and nibbled until I spotted something that stopped me cold:

While it's not visible in the photo, there was in fact a hair in my muffin, and it was way too long to belong to Brad, my security detail, or me. Also, the fact that it had not been visible initially led me to suspect that it had somehow been baked into the muffin. Now, I hesitate to blame the Spoon for this, since it's quite possible it simply fell from someone's head as they passed and alighted on the muffin while I was eating it. (Plus, I'm prone to paranoia, as evidenced by the fact that I hear trees talking to me.) In any event, I elected to discard the muffin at this point. While there's certainly nothing wrong with enjoying a hairy muffin, it's something that's better left to consenting adults in the privacy of their own homes.

I was still shaken by the muffin debacle as we left the spoon, so we detoured slightly on the way back towards the bridge in order to ride up some hills. At this point I should mention that Brad, who is a strong rider, is also a triathlete. In fact, he is an Ironman, having completed multiple whatever the plural of Ironman races is. (Maybe it's "Ironsman," like "Tours de France.") This puzzled me greatly, since triathletes are supposed to be bad bike handlers who can't climb, yet Brad climbed quite well and also managed to stay on his bike the whole time and generally ride it with aplomb while I had nearly fallen headlong into my own urine. It was very nearly enough to convince me that I should discard my misconceptions about triathletes, though in the end I just decided to consider Brad an anomaly since I find stereotypes and sweeping generalizations comforting.

In any case, I enjoyed myself greatly, and I hope Brad managed to enjoy himself too despite my tedious company. Thanks to him for making the trip, and I wish him the best in all his endeavors. I guess it couldn't have been too bad for him since he does seem happy in this post-ride shot, though that's probably just because he's already reminiscing about my unfortunate post-urinary accident:

Shortly after this, we parted ways and I headed homeward. My route took me along the Great Hipster Silk Route. Here is a rider in Queens heading back towards The Fixie Hatchery which lies just across the bridge in the distance:

Yep, nothing more comfortable than a well-worn generalization. It's just the thing to assuage my wounded dignity.