And I decided to go out for a walk
And do nothing except
Look everybody I see in the eyes
And not be the first to avert my eyes
No matter what
And I was planning to be gone for ten minutes
But things started happening
And I didn't return for two years
By which time I was the heavyweight champion of the world
And the expectant father of sixteen children
By thirteen different women
- Dan Bern "True Revolutionaries"
This song, and specifically these lyrics looped throughout my head on my Thursday evening as I pedaled Mr. Plow through the wonderful streets of downtown Pittsburgh. I hadn't been on a solo city ride in some time and what I could not believe was how many people were out, walking and cycling. But even though I was encouraged by how many people were out, I was discouraged by how many people seemed not to be enjoying themselves. And how many were ignorning the very people all around them partaking in the very same activity they were, uh, "enjoying". As is usual when I'm cycling, whether alone or with a group, I was smiling. Cycling represents such freedom and connection to community to me, but I grow concerned that others are doing for other, less fun reasons. Perhaps they're just showing their concern for the "environment" or trying to save money in fuel costs in the tough economic times, but whatever it was, it didn't seem like many were doing it for the joy of it. After noticing this, I decided to start smiling at every single walker or cyclist that I passed. I would look them in the eye, smile, and nod to them that I recognized and appreciated their endeavor to be active and enjoy the day. Throughout the day and evening I encountered 84 people and only two people smiled back at me. The rest had looks ranging from fear to completey nonplussed.
Perhaps it's just our culture of cell phones, internet and facebook, but it certainly seems the people on the streets are uninterested in friendly acknowledgement of their fellow humans all around them. On the positive side, however, I had a decidedly different experience on our Sunday mountain bike ride at Bavington. Every rider we ecountered that day on the trails was friendly and made some effort to say hi. It was also very nice to be smoked by local cyclist Tim, who blew by us on his single speed Moots, but still yelled out thanks for our moving aside. We had the good fortune to meet up again with Tim shortly thereafter as he finished a loop around the same time we did and he stopped on the road for a chat. Turns out he actually reads this blog (Thanks Tim!) and is aware of the BABES endeavors. Just shows once again in the balance and harmony of our wonderful world. Yesterday, they were as big as small dogs, yessir, yessir.
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Sunday rides are taking shape as well and there’s talk of getting out of Beaver County for a ride real soon. Perhaps even this coming Sunday, April 18th. I’m wondering about Bavington. I think I only rode there once last year. Or perhaps even Moraine. I hadn’t ridden there at all last year. Gotta make up for lost time.
Also a PGH City ride scheduled for Friday, April 30th for the BABE favorites Uncle Scratch’s Gospel Revival and Whiskey Daredevil show at the Thunderbird. The show doesn’t start until 10pm and the ride starts at 6pm, so if your soul is in need of no cleansing bubbles
Lebowski Fist in about 2 months as well. Wow, these years just fly by, don’t they?
Check the BABE Facebook page for up to date details on these and other activities/events.
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
Tuesday, April 6, 2010
About 13 years ago, just after moving back to Western PA from Aurora Ohio, I started mountain biking in Brady’s Run again. After a few months of solo riding I came upon a few people I knew from my youth growing up in New Brighton. I was still riding my 8 year old steel Paramount Series 30 and these guys were riding the latest and greatest aluminum rigs with, gasp, suspension forks! They also had clipless pedals!!! This was eye opening to me as I hadn’t changed a single item on my bike, aside from a few tubes and brake shoes, in 8 years. Yes, that’s not an oversight that I neglected to mention tires. I was running 8 year old tires that, I hate to admit, were full of 45 lbs of tire pressure (no wonder my neck hurt so much!).
Anyway, despite these guys being newbies to riding mountain bikes, I couldn’t keep up with them. They were a few years younger than me, but still, I figured it had to be the latest in bicycle design that was the difference. This was 1997 and Gary Fisher had just come out with his Genesis geometry bikes, and I figured it sounded pretty good to me. I picked up a beautiful blue Big Sur that year and I was amazed at the difference in my riding and enjoyment. My knees stopped hurting and I described climbing with the bike akin to strapping a rocket to the rear. It was indeed a genesis for me, and it wasn’t long before I was able to stay with the pack on our nightly rides. However, this enjoyment soon gave way to disillusionment as I came to realize these rides were not rides at all, at least not how I defined a ride. No, these were little races.
On my Paramount, I would always be at the back of the pack and the group would wait for me at certain spots and upon my arrival, they would immediately start riding again. But once I was able to keep up, they quit stopping as often. And on the rare occasion when we would stop, the banter would most often revolve around some lighter weight component someone had purchased, or some ointment or drink mix that was helping them ride more quickly or for longer duration. On a few occasions, after a few of our regularly scheduled rides, I would pull out a beer from my cooler and get looks of disgust from the other riders as they chugged down rainbow colored “energy recovery” drinks out of old plastic bottles. I found this odd.
I was quickly becoming disgusted with the whole scene. Immediately I began skipping the scheduled weekly rides and started sneak out for some solo rides on other days of the week. What I discovered was these guys were actually training on these other days. Mind you that none of them were actually racing their bikes in any official capacity. They were training for our weekly rides! I will never forget coming upon a couple of the guys on the access road as I climbed from the horse arena. They were coming down the main vein trail and so I waited for them and joined in as they went past and up towards Wildwood trail. Except they didn’t go onto Wildwood, they made the hard turn on the road up towards Shelter #1 (or 10 as it was in those days). I thought that strange since they had just descended from there, but thought, “oh well”, and continued to follow them. Once we got up to the top of the hill, they made the hard right onto the main vein and proceeded to blow down the main vein back to the very place where I had just joined them. At this point I had no idea what the hell they were doing, but I figured there was only one way to find out and so I followed down the hill. What I quickly discovered was they were just doing this loop over and over again. I caught up with one of them just as he was turning to go back up the hill. I hollered out asking what the hell they were doing. What he yelled back haunts me still to this day. He said “We’re working on hills tonight. This is number 4 of 10”. They were “working” on hills?!? At this point, in near paralyzing fear, I turned around and rode out Wildwood trail alone and, finally, at peace.
I never attended another of their weekly rides. Over the next year or so I ran into a few of them on occasion. I’d stop and say hi, never, of course, asking to join in on their ride. After a few years I never saw any of them in the park again. Then one day I ran into one of them in a local bar and asked where they’d been riding. The response was “Oh, we all sold our bicycles and bought dirt bikes”. I guess there’s only so much “work” one is willing to dedicate to them thar hills.