Saturday, February 25, 2012

Safe, Unsafe, or Stupid

TREXLERTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA

We, or at least I, have a saying: There are three types of riding - "Safe, unsafe, and stupid." 

And often the line between unsafe riding and stupid riding is blurred.

I came to Trexlertown, Pa. which is home to the famous Valley Preferred Cycling Center's Velodrome. It was cold (38 degrees) and windy (winds steady 30-40 mph with gusts even higher). I had budgeted time to ride before meeting my sister, Betsy, in Allentown.

Velodrome - All locked up

Snow was blowing. The roads were clear so the snow wasn't sticking but it was blowing. And here in the mecca of east coast cycling, I saw no one.

I took my time. Ten minutes passed. The van was shaking from the wind and I could feel the cold air blowing in. I didn't want to go but yet...

...I was here and it was time to MAN UP!!


Then I saw three cyclists arrive and that was my cue. If they could ride, I had no excuses. I kitted up and headed off. I had briefly thought about asking to join them but figured they were stronger than me. Plus I am nursing a torn meniscus so I didn't need to push it to keep up.

I headed off into the wind. And it was strong. I had downloaded a ride that was on RideWithGPS.com with just the right distance (28 miles) and turns (a bunch) to be interesting. After 3-4 miles of fighting the winds I saw three cyclists coming at me and they were soft pedaling. It was the three guys that had been in the parking lot.

Windy. And cold.

My thought only turned to how slow they were going, with the wind, and me kicking myself knowing I could stay with them. I regretted not going with them.

I then hit the open road unprotected by houses or trees; just open fields. The winds were howling. At times they were incredibly loud and other times there was an eerie silence.

Down the road a gust hit me and almost caused me to crash. I fought with both hands to steer and although I stayed upright, I had been blown across both lanes of the country road. Had another car been passing me, or another one been coming from the opposite direction, I would have been in a crash with an automobile. It was scary that I could not steer the bike in a straight line. Nor could I hear cars coming because the winds were howling so loud.

This was stupid. I guess it took me to realize that it was stupid to know that it was unsafe. And it was unsafe. At that point I decided I had to return. 

I turned around determined to retrace some of my route but also to follow road signs for the shortest way back to the start. And then I discovered why my three friends were going slow even with a tail wind. They couldn't hold their bikes in a straight line. I thought a tail wind was a reward for fighting the wind but today it was no reward.

In a year in which all my rides thus far went a minimum of 16 miles, I had to cut this off at 11 for which I was thankful. I was smart enough to park the bike knowing I can ride another day.

Now stupid riding was yesterday. Bob Ryan had forecast a high of 70 degrees and I came prepared for 70 degrees. It never got out of the 50s and I headed out for a ride in the pouring rain. Stupid.

I went around Hains Point and was soaked. What was the point? I hadn't done a ride all year less than 16 miles and riding in the cold rain became a matter of pride. I couldn't let this be the shortest ride of the year. So I suffered on. Yesterday was stupid.

Today -- today was simply unsafe. It is why it was the shortest ride of the year although in a few days when I start evening rides I will go shorter.

This area is beautiful. I would like to return some other day but without these winter winds.




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