Denial can only last so long, and when your rear brakes start to sound like metal grating on sand, it’s time to install new pads.
Or at least to install new pads within the next two months. On auditory notice that my brake pads were nonexistent, I still managed to forget about buying new ones for about a month. Visual notice that my brake pads actually were no longer there, combined with the increased inability to stop had me nervously watching Andy while he dug through a box of pads. Luck smiling down on me for once in my life, I was able to claim the last ‘cross set in his inventory.
Because stopping’s important, you know?
I’m not talking about the ability to slow down or stop in the middle of the West Side Highway, River Road, or Central Park, with one foot clipped out to wait patiently, because quite frankly I’m the one that can hardly keep up. My rear wheel isn’t ever going too fast; at best it feels sturdy and reliable, at worst like an anchor with a dead body wrapped around it. Ascents are painfully slow. Descents are faster but still akin to a walrus lumbering lazily towards water. But it’s comfortable despite its inhibiting weight, and kept me fairly grounded.
The first time I rode Mike’s Cyfac to New Jersey, though, the only thing I felt was pressure on my feet and exhaustion tugging at my thighs. It was like riding on air, like flying. The kind where even your brain stops screaming and all you can do is blink.
And even though it was heavier than that Cyfac, potential memories flashed like strobe lights through my brain as I took my sister’s new Bianchi Via Nirone on an unauthorized spin down 2nd Avenue last weekend [HAHA I RODE IT BEFORE YOU, oops, i mean, sorry Kak!]. Built up and exactly my size, it was sitting pretty in NYC Velo and I couldn’t resist jumping on to shift the gears and coast down the street. The brifters bent inwards under my curious fingers, the derailleur clicked, and the cassette spun. I was jealous and a small part of me - okay, more like at least half of me - was tempted to pick up the damn thing and throw it into oncoming traffic. It just didn’t seem fair. I’ve wanted a road bike for so long now that it almost seems like I’ve been biking forever.
But that’s not true [clearly]; I’m just spinning out of control.
It’s almost too easy to do, too, which makes those jumbled up feelings of envy and bitterness simultaneously more tolerable and more frustrating. There is a lot of teaching of need, of powerful learned wanting that manifests itself into an exchange of things, stuff, whatever, for the motion of sliding plastic and a signature. It’s everywhere, even in an industry fueled by human muscle and grace. And when people told me that this was cool, this was pro, and that this would buy me membership into the exclusively cool, I - an ignorant newbie who is about a billion miles from even trying to emulate Cat 4s - bought into it.
Unknown at the time, and realized only a few days ago, the foolish purchase of that mentality also bought me quite the existential crisis. Deadset on chasing a false sun, I had turned into the modern day - albeit cliched - Icarus, vanity and the desire to fit in shadowing the blatant signs that my wings [or wheels, as the case might be] were melting. Right before I fell, I asked myself why I started all of this - the bikes, the blog, the obsession - in the first place, and unable to come up with a clear answer, I fucking crashed.
But it stopped me, too. Maybe with a few more psychological bruises and a lot more self-disgust than I had anticipated, granted, but no one ever said this sport was easy. It was never supposed to be; at least not as easy as cutting a check or typing in your credit card number. And I forgot that, even in the company of legit racers who didn’t give a shit what they were riding as long as it worked [and, okay, wasn’t steel], friends who didn’t need to spend money to look like they could lead a breakaway because they could actually do it, and win. Meanwhile, I was trying to hide the weakness of my legs by covering them in money; and in that game, there’s never any winning.
I crashed again yesterday, for [sort of] real this time, first bouncing into the right side of the doorway before smashing into the left side before I did the tumble-slide-fall onto the rollers, my feet still trapped in the clips. My shoulder - skinned and turning an angry red - burned, and I remembered that was where Jared, a Cat 1 track and road racer who will entertain my stupid questions about optimal gearing for the track, punched me last weekend. We were with Andy who once [snobbily] told me that I had to work on my bike snobbery, Chris who does triathlons without training for them, Justin, whose quiet acceptance of everyone as they are is as comforting as his nickname of “Hot Chocolate,” and of course, Mike, the expert of tough love who, unmoved by my emotional meltdown, dared me to give it all up. And I remembered, I really love those guys.
I got up, checked the bike, and climbed back on. And I remembered, I really love this, too.