Fat Epic – Both Epic and Fat

The conversation went as follows:

Whit: “Dude.. What are you doing?”

Me: “Sleeping?”

Whit: “You need to get up right now. GET. UP.”

Me: “Okay..?”

Whit: “Eat this.”

Me: “I don’t like gels. Got any cookies?”

We were roughly 112km in to our 200km mile fat bike journey and there I was asleep on the side of the trail. The memory of how I ended up asleep on a rough patch of frozen grass alongside the D&L Canal Path is a bit clearer now than it was on Saturday afternoon, but the thought process that put me there isn’t.

The day started off like a normal ride/race day. We rolled up to Washington’s Crossing National (?) Park way too early and realized we were the first of the riders to arrive. Jim and the Hilltop crew were setting up the main race tent and seemed a bit busy so we drove the minivan over to an adjacent parking lot, cranked the heat, and waited with nervous anticipation.

One by one, riders were arriving. Whit and I hopped out of the van and started unloading our bikes and gear. I curiously scanned the parking lot for signs of life. I was also interested in seeing how other people had set-up their bikes for the day. Considering this was the first of it’s kind – that is, the first fat bike ONLY event – on the east coast, I was hoping to learn a thing or two by what others had packed for their 200km adventure. Some were setup for a full-on expedition, with every bag imaginable strapped to their bikes, while others were running lean with only a couple of bottles and a simple bag or backpack. Some just stuffed their pockets with food, gear, gels, and whatever else they needed to get along for the day.

At around 7:45, we lined up at the starting line with 30 or so other intrepid souls for the first D&L Fat Epic. Our course for the day was simple – Ride along the canal path adjacent to the Delaware River, turn left at Easton and continue along the canal path until it reached the state park in Allentown, turn around and roll back. The race started and the pack was off – racing furiously toward the service road exit and onto the dirt canal path leading us North along the river. Whit and I were at a slight disadvantage – and I’ll put this on him.. his speed was limited to his top cadence. You see, Whit’s fat bike is a single speed with a 17T cog. This turned out to be a boon, as it kept our pace manageable at around 12-14mph for the day, and then 10-12mph in the evening when the sun dropped along with our collective spirits, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

We rolled from the front group to the back and settled in. Somewhere around the 32km mark we met up with Rob from Boston. He apologized for being a triathlete and we agreed not to hold that against him, as he set a nice pace and provided great conversation. We arrived at the first aid station (50km mark) and Whit took a few minutes to repair his ailing front tube, which had punctured a few clicks back. Just as we started back on the trail the first of the 1/2 distance riders were hitting their turnaround for the day. Yes, there was a shorter option but we’re not that bright.

We pressed on, riding through what seemed like an eternity of boggy mud and grass, eventually hitting a construction site on the trail, forcing us to dismount and hoof it along the ridge. This cost us a few minutes but provided a nice photo op.

Whit fell down right after I snapped this.

Whit fell down right after I snapped this.

The story isn’t very interesting from here to the half-way point. We rode, ate, chatted, rinse, repeat. As we traveled north the air got a bit wetter and the temperature a bit colder – I was glad I picked up a pair of 45NRTH Cobrafists from Bicycle Revolutions earlier in the week. Riding with lightweight fleece gloves and pogies was much better than having to deal with the bulk of soggy lobster mitts. If you haven’t ridden with pogies, get a pair.

10384358_10152693336553071_2594608124303188230_n

We got to Easton and pressed on. Hitting the Bethlehem town line we started to see the lead group of 6 coming from the opposite direction – they were already 1-2 hrs ahead of us and were hauling like a freight train. This didn’t bother us, though. We had no visions of standing on the top step, or any podium step that day. Our goal was simply finishing the event.

Our group picked up another rider, Tim C. from Philly. He was riding a Surly didn’t seem to mind us blasting Kill Em All (which gives me a 10% wattage boost.. true story) from a bluetooth speaker.  Arriving at the turnaround at the 100km mark we were a bit bummed to see lots of water but no food. While we were all prepared to carry more than we needed for the day, the empty boxes of gels disappointed us. I sat down and ate some macadamia nuts, drank a bit of water, changed my hat, and we got back on the trail.

This is where things got strange. Whit passed around his flask of Makers Mark and I took a short swig, passed the flask back to Rob and Tim, and then drifted to the rear of the group. I started riding slower and slower and the distance to my group went from a few bike lengths to 50 meters. I saw Whit drift to the back as if to wait for me, but I just stopped riding altogether. I laid my bike down on the side of the trail and sat down. A few minutes later, Whit arrived and found me asleep on the trailside.

Whit’s a good friend, the best, really. He had a look of pure panic in his face but kept cool – I think he was genuinely worried that I was beyond cracked with a long way to go and he was probably right. Over the past several weeks I have been experimenting with different ways to fuel my body during the day. This is a good experiment for winter riding when most of my riding is slow and steady and my burn rate is lower, so I didn’t think that it would be an issue on this journey. I thought wrong. Apparently, I was totally depleted and had no color in my face when Whit found me passed out. Thankfully he had the wherewithal to pump me full of gels (I really hate gels) and an Italian cookie, got me back on my bike and continued to watch me for the next few miles.

The color returned to my face and I felt great. That little bit of glucose was all I needed and we pressed on. We were now a duo – Rob and Tim kept rolling when Whit turned back for me. Our spirits were dampening and the daylight was getting dim as we drifted past Easton. Our goal of finishing was beginning to drag on and we kept hope alive that the promise of hot soup at the final aid station at the 136km mark would be a reality. When we got to the blocked path this time around, we simply hopped the fence.

EE-LEE-GAUL

EE-LEE-GAUL

Dusk had passed and our lights were on. We had a feeling the aid station wasn’t coming for a while and thankfully noticed a road side cafe somewhere north of Reiglerswhatever and stopped in. I picked up a week-old egg sandwich and Whit grabbed a hot dog.

The egg shells were thrown in for free!

The egg shells were thrown in for free!

A few miles later we were glad to have stopped. Apparently the pesky park rangers forced the final aid station to pack up early – no permit, no aid station. Pffft.

It was right around then that I received a text from Tom @ Hilltop asking about our progress. We checked in, he wished us well, and we pressed on. It was now a ride for survival.. We just wanted to finish, eat some fried chicken, and go home. Yeah – that’s how you know you’re knackered.. we started talking about food non-stop.

Whit and I rode single-file and I pulled at the front the rest of the way in. We stopped here and there for nature breaks, etc, but kept the pace steady. By the time we entered Frenchtown we were certain we had the Lanterne Rouge award locked up and figured we’d do our best to maintain that by riding at an easy pace. We actually saw Rob and another rider up the path and pulled over to give them some distance. Any hero can WIN a race, however, it takes a real moron to race for last place. That red trophy was going to be ours and we were going to ride as slow as possible to get it.

We passed Bulls Island, Stockton, New Hope, and eventually rolled into the park at Washington’s Crossing. The Hilltop crew was there and cheered us on as we crossed the line together, riders 21 and 22 – the Lanterne Rouge was ours. Whit and I ate pizza and relaxed for a bit before we packed up the minivan and headed back to Hopewell.

Finish line photo with the Lanterne Rouge trophy. We're going to share it.

Finish line photo with the Lanterne Rouge trophy. We’re going to share it.

Whit stopped by the next morning and we took another photo. We look terrible.

Two dumb guys and a rail road spike.

Two dumb guys and a rail road spike.

My haunches still ache, my bike needs to be cleaned, but I’d do it again in a heartbeat. Thanks to Whit for being a great friend and riding partner. And thanks to Jim Vreeland and the Hilltop Bicycles gang for putting this thing together. Can’t wait to see what they cook up next.

EPILOGUE: Oh.. and the passing out thing. Whit was concerned that I might have a sugar issue (my father is diabetic) and tested my blood sugar on Sunday night (he’s got the sugarbetes and knows a thing or two). All fine, but I’m going to have a chat with my doc just to play it safe.

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Getting Fat

You may have noticed that it’s Friday and I’m not riding 200km. I didn’t chicken out..  I’m taking today off and shifting my Friday KMsForICM ride to tomorrow’s D&L Fat Epic. It’s a 200km fat bike ONLY race from Washington’s Crossing, PA to Allentown, PA and back.

The route.. it's an out-and-back.

The route.. it’s an out-and-back.

Whit A. and I will roll the full distance (there’s an option for half but we’re feeling brave) and have no plans of finishing with the front group. We’re pretty sure Selene is going to win anyway – she’s superhuman AND a super human. Really, she’s great and you should buy her books and read her column.

In true “Un-racer” fashion, Whit and I are both hoping to get our hands on the special “Lanterne Rouge” trophy. I suppose we’ll cross the finish line holding hands. Or maybe have our hands in each other’s Pogies. Hey now.

Lanterne Rouge trophy.. Come to Butthead.

Lanterne Rouge trophy.. Come to Butthead.

I’m new to the fat bike thing, in fact, I only started riding a MTB again last winter after a 6 year stretch without one in the stable. However, I really prefer rolling fat over riding my 29er right now, but that may change after tomorrow’s event. My friends at SE Bikes hooked me up with this one – it’s a F@E (or “fatty”). I made a few modifications (Brooks Cambium saddle, Jones Loop-H Bars, Surly Big Fat Larry/Bud tire combo, Revelate baggage, 45NRTH pogies, lights, etc) and it’s just right now.

This is what I'm riding.

This is what I’m riding.

We’ll likely post photos during the day and night, so check @jerbkernblerg and @datatrident on Instagram if you want to see two dudes riding bikes on a dirt path alongside a river for 12+ hours. Exciting, I know.

Also, still short of my fundraising goal for I Challenge Myself. We’re doing some really great stuff in partnership with FOUR NYC public high schools. Getting kids on bike through our Cycling Smarts program, taking 10 of our students on a Summer College Bike Tour, and in February we will be launching our new X-Fit Challenge program. 2015 will mark our 10th year! Help us make this the best year yet by giving to our fund. You can click HERE to donate directly. To sweeten the “ask”.. I’ll raffle off one Sommerville Sports cycling kit (jersey and bibs) in January. Anyone who donates $100 or more will have a chance at winning the kit.

I’ll leave you with this ear worm that I plan to get stuck in Whit’s head for the duration of our ride. Enjoy.

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Failure Is Not An Option Until It Is

Today was the 3rd 200km ride in my KMsForICM challenge.

I didn’t finish the ride and I’m beating myself up over it, mainly because I don’t like having to quit a 200km ride at the 124km mark, but my right knee was on fire (and that’s the GOOD knee) and I knew I had to pull the plug or not be able to start the D&L Hughley Fat Epic next weekend (and I’m pretty excited for that).

My bike at the start - a 7-11 near the Princeton Junction train station.

My bike at the start – a 7-11 near the Princeton Junction train station.

So here’s what happened..

As you may know, I recently picked up my new bike from Bilenky Cycle Works. Blah blah blah – love the bike, rides like a dream, blah blah blah. HOWEVER, the Thomson binder on the seat collar isn’t quite right and has to be wrenched so tightly that it feels like it’s about to snap. I actually saw a little puff of something as I tightened it for the 4th time today..  I clearly need to figure this out because the post slips ever so slightly, which creates a bit of tenderness in my knee. Normally I’ll just pull over and make the adjustment but that tenderness got the best of me today – it went full on throbby-hurty and I rode one-legged for about 20 minutes through Jackson as I attempted to stretch and massage out the soreness.. Didn’t work, so at Controle #3 (WaWa in New Egypt) I called my lady for a ride home.

So, 124km out of 200.. Not terrible and certainly not the end of the world, but not what I had in mind. I was actually hoping to ride in some heavy rain to test the B&M Luxos U‘s USB port in wet weather… That will have to wait until tomorrow, I suppose.

As with everything in life, I like to take the good with the bad. Lots of lovely scenery today, weather was damp and cool but not terrible. Wind was blowing from the east and was VERY strong in Belmar (naturally… it IS a beach town).

A few things I saw today.

The best part of riding lots is getting to see the sun rise.

The best part of riding lots is getting to see the sun rise. Alexander Road at 6:45AM.

Tales of the NJ housing bust..

Tales of the NJ housing bust.. Perrineville Road?

I ride by this house a lot lately. I’ll bet the neighbors LOVE it.

The ONLY deviation from my ride diet of EPIC bars and Macadamia nuts. I had two.

The ONLY deviation from my ride diet of EPIC bars and Macadamia nuts. I had two.

Not a bad view for an early lunch, eh? Lady at Dunkin Donuts loved my King of the Muffins vest. Other lady at Dunkin was really stoned.

The rig... Prior to the seatpost slip.

RIP, Steve Hed.. Your wheels are magical.

 

Frank Lloyd Wrong

Frank Lloyd Wrong. A cheap attempt of a much lovelier house of worship in the Philly burbs.

 

For David Sommerville. It's his favorite insult.

For David Sommerville. It’s his favorite insult.

 

In the pine where the sun never shines.

In the pines, in the pines, where the sun never shines. I did, in fact, shiver when the cold wind blew today.

The ride started going to shit after this and I didn’t bother to take photos of the WaWa market where I raised the white flag, mainly because we all know, or should know, what a WaWa looks like. In case you forgot – Here’s a WaWa.

As I said, my lovely lady came to my rescue and, upon arriving at home, I cleaned up and headed for recovery.

Dog + NormaTec Boots

Dog + NormaTec Boots

No.. I’m not a big shot. I got these way back when I broke my ankle. Insurance is GREAT!

A high-stress movie for stress reduction works like a charm. Thanks, Mamet.

A high-stress movie for stress reduction works like a charm. Thanks, Mamet.

Next up… Ride report from the D&L Hughley Fat Epic next weekend. Should be tons o’ fun.

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Long Rides Through the (Polar) Vortex

Last Friday’s KMsForICM ride was considerably more difficult than the previous week’s. Still 200km but with the added bonus of 9167ft (2174m) of elevation gain. Not terrible, but considering that most of that climbing was from roughly mile 41 to mile 101 it meant that my ride time went from “killing it” early on to “please kill me” by the 65% mark.

I rolled out of the parking lot at Mountain View Plaza in Hillsborough (on Rt. 206) promptly at 7:01AM and headed east, eventually connecting with Millstone-River Road and the bulk of the northbound morning traffic. The congestion was heavy and I was rethinking my 7AM start on a Friday the week before a national holiday, but before I had much time in the saddle I was across the Raritan River, through Bound Brook, and climbing up the Watchung range. This first set of rollers got me ready for the heavy lifting of the day but didn’t push me too far over the edge. Through the Watchung Reservation and into Chatham, I stopped to tighten my rear fender mounts (yes, I know… Loctite) and pressed on. I had a soft target of getting into Mendham before 10:30 and I was on target at this point.

Across 202 and into Jockey Hollow well ahead of schedule.

 

 

 

IMG_0085

Eric lives in Mendham. I shot him a text as I was rolling right past his house – he threw a hot cup of coffee in my face and snapped a photo. Friends to the end.

blurrby

 

And then the hurting started.

Climbing up Cold Hill Rd with scalding hot coffee in one bottle and a frozen block of Skratch Labs Margarita Mix in the other, I realized that my early gains would be a blessing a few hours from now. I arrived at the next checkpoint at Budd Lake a bit later than I though, refilled my bottles with (1) coffee and (2) Skratch MARGZ and soldiered on. I had eaten into my gain and was now on track for a 9 hour day… at least.

The next few hours were about the same. Climb, eat, drink, climb, eat, drink, climb, eat, drink. I was alternating fueling with bottles of vanilla Ensure and bison Epic bars every 45-60 minutes, with a few bites of Clif Bar in between – roughly 250 calories per hour, which seemed on point as I wasn’t feeling fatigued, shaky, or bonked at this point. If you haven’t tried Epic bars I highly recommend them. They’re basically meatloaf sticks.. so yeah, I was eating meatloaf and chugging vanilla milkshakes while riding hills (The marketing lady at TheFEED claims they aren’t for intense workouts, but whatever – Meatloaf.). Want Epic Bars? Get them locally (NJ) at Halter’s – Jason has the lamb variety in stock – DE-LISH.

Lots of view like this

Lots of views like this

By the time I hit the checkpoint near Spruce Run, I was starting to feel the ride in my legs. The wind had picked up considerably and that meant more polar vortex blowing in my face. Similar to the previous week’s 200km adventure, I was dealing with a constantly shifting headwind and it was getting a bit old. Into High Bridge and up Wilson Rd. is when my body started cracking and I had to pull over at the top and take a seat on someone’s lawn for a few minutes to stretch my calves, which were getting a little knotty. Then the coffee I guzzled at the Union Township DD’s kicked in and I was starting to feel better, so I saddled up, put my head down, and motored down the descent into Oldwick – I was running on fumes but with only 24 miles to go I had a decent carrot – finishing at twilight.

Last checkpoint before the finish… at a Burger King?

FREEDOM FRIES

FREEDOM FRIES

Worst Possible Checkpoints for $1000, please Alex.

I ate half of my fries, snapped a photo, and got back on the road. This last stretch would take me through a heavy traffic area (Bridgewater) right at the start of the evening commute. On a Friday. Garmin started to die so I plugged in the cable to the inline charger on the Luxos U – worked like a charm and ran both the light and the trickle charger simultaneously (as long as I maintained a decent speed). No problem. This is when it became clear that I was going to be finishing in the dark.

I pressed on, riding along Country Club Rd. and through neighborhoods for about 25-30 min. In and out of traffic, no big deal. Got a few thumbs up, a few glares, and only one middle finger. Not bad.

The final miles were delightful. I rolled through Bridgewater, into Branchburg, alongside Duke Island Park and then back into Hillsborough, finishing up just before 6PM. Grabbed a chocolate milk from the gas station for my final checkpoint collateral and soft pedaled over to my car across the lot. I was cooked and ready to be home, fed, showered, and in bed.

IMHO, the best part of randonneuring is the use of traditional tech, in other words pen and paper. The brevet card, used to tally checkpoint collateral, is a piece of oak tag or heavy paper with handwritten notes for the time checks. Once I’ve filled it out I mail it back to the “route owner”, who verifies the time and records it for RUSA. This means I get to write letters and use stationary – it’s a nice touch.

Card and receipts

Card and receipts

We’ll be away visiting family for the holiday next week, so while everyone else is waking at 4AM to hit the mall I’m planning on doing the same except heading across the Newburgh Bridge and riding a route that starts and finishes in Kingston, NY. This one follows the Hudson River north and south and has less than a third of the climbing of the NJ Transit 200km. Perfect for burning off that turkey. Can’t wait.

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Metamorphosis

I’m back. It’s been about two years since I have updated this blog and have decided to bring it back. I know – blogs are passe but I really don’t care. And anyway, Fatmarc still has one (respect).

2015 will be the first year since 1997 that I will not renew my USAC license. Why? Because I ‘m no longer a bike racer (and wasn’t a very good one to begin with) and it seems silly to pay money to an organization I really don’t like for an activity I no longer enjoy. Yes, my living is made (to some extent) by supplying racers with their team clothing, but I’m no longer enamored with the lifestyle that accompanies training, racing, etc. I wrote about this a few years ago, then backpedaled on that reasoning, but have decided it’s all for the best and will focus my riding on what I really love: Going the distance.

Rather than renewing my USAC license I have instead paid my annual dues and become RUSA Member #9831. What’s RUSA?

From their FAQ on rusa.org:

“Randonneurs USA (RUSA) is a national organization whose goals are to promote randonneuring in the US and provide service to American randonneurs and randonneuses. Established in 1998, RUSA doesn’t actually organize any rides, but rather, coordinates the brevets of the Regional Brevet Administrators (RBAs) and clubs who do. RUSA also frequently acts as the interface between the Audax Club Parisien in France and American riders and RBAs, especially with regard to ensuring correct brevet result processing. You should join RUSA to help us build a future for randonneuring in the US that encourages member participation.”

Sure… but what’s a Randonneur, right?

Also from rusa.org:

“There is no direct English translation of the French term “randonnée”, which loosely means to go on a long trip, tour, outing, or ramble, usually on foot or on a bicycle, along a defined route. A person who goes on a “randonnée” is called a “randonneur”. (The correct French term for a female participant is “randonneuse”, but such distinctions are often lost in America, where we tend to lump everyone together). In cycling, it means a hard-riding enthusiast who is trying to complete a long randonnée inside a certain time allotment. Note that a randonnée is not a race. Overall, about the only thing being first earns is some bragging rights. It is not uncommon for the last finishers to get as much applause as anyone else. Indeed, there is much camaraderie in randonneuring. One does it to test oneself against the clock, the weather, and a challenging route – but not to beat the other riders.

In comparison to other forms of competitive long-distance cycling, such as at the Race Across America (RAAM), where there are following cars with crews supporting the riders every inch of the way, randonneuring stresses self-sufficiency. Help can only be given at the checkpoints along the route, so support crews (if there are any) must leapfrog the rider. Any rider caught receiving assistance from a support crew in-between checkpoints (or, “contrôles” as they are commonly called) will be subject to a time penalty, or even disqualification. Randonneurs are free to buy food, supplies, or bike repairs at any stores they encounter along the route. Once riders have successfully completed a 200-kilometer “brevet”, they are entitled to be called a “randonneur” or “randonneuse”.”

So, not quite a cyclotourist and definitely not a club racer, but something in the middle. I wasn’t certain this would be for me, so I made a little mental checklist.

Enjoy timed, long rides with odd checkpoints? Check.
Enjoy routes with little to no road marking? Check.
Enjoy foraging for sustenance at gas stations? DOUBLE Check.
Enjoy riding mostly in small groups, often alone, for hours on end? Check.

Yes, I’ve started to become one of them, but won’t really be one until I’ve completed a 200km brevet – one of the organized events listed above.

But, as Grant Peterson (or Rod B.) says, I am now an “Unracer”.

I even had a new bike built by my pals at Bilenky Cycle Works with a generator-powered light, full fenders, and bar-end shifters.

YEP

YEP

 

Yep, indeed.

I’ve always been fascinated with randonneuring and have been unknowingly collecting information on the culture of randonneuring, reading blogs, product reviews, and absorbing other bits and pieces of information I’ve discovered only to find that I’ve had my toe in the randonneuring waters for a while. I really blame Jan Heine’s magazine and blog for my interest in randonneuring, but after reading just one of his mags from cover to cover it would be hard not to get excited about this silly stuff.

So, in true Kornbluh fashion and as a test of my cold-weather mettle, I have set out to complete a 200km “permanent” (rando speak for lonely 9-hour training ride) each Friday from now until the end of the year. Last week’s route went from Hopewell Borough to Asbury Park and back, a nice ride made even nicer by my ride companion, RUSA #9832 Whit A., who stupidly jumped right in to the randonneuring thing with me. It was cold, about 27 degrees when we rolled out and the temp didn’t lift much from there. Not much to report, other than the fact that Pop Tarts still cause a lot of gut rot and a pork roll+egg+cheese sandwich is still the best pre-ride food.

Final stop during our first 200km permanent

Final stop during our first 200km permanent

This week’s route starts in nearby Hillsborough and rolls up and over some of the tougher elevation this part of NJ has to offer, about 8000ft of climbing in total. I’m also rolling solo, so it will be a test to see if I can complete the route without someone at my side (or pulling into the wind).

NJ Transit 200km

NJ Transit 200km

Looks fun, right?

My randonneuring plans for 2015 are simple and might include a run at Paris-Brest-Paris, the grand-daddy of all brevets. To do this I have to qualify by riding a brevet series – which means a 200, 300, 400, and 600km event prior to registering for PBP. Once you complete PBP, or any ACP-recognized 1200+km brevet, one becomes known as an “ancien” and is allowed to brag, wear a medal, and get free coffee at Dunkin Donuts (limited to National Coffee Day).

Regardless of PBP plans, I’ll still ride a brevet series in 2015 because it’s a good challenge, but I have family, work, and other life commitments that might bump PBP out of contention.. especially our planned July adventure from Jackson, WY to Missoula, MT for which I have made a large withdrawal from the “free pass bank”. Either way, I’m looking forward to finishing these half-dozen 200’s before the end of the year and getting to know some other randonneurs when brevet season kicks off in the spring.

Oh, I’m also using my 200km adventures as a way to quietly promote my favorite non-profit organization, I Challenge Myself. I sit on the Board and love what we do for so many kids in NYC. To donate, click HERE. To learn more about ICM, click HERE.

Thanks – Jed

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Be Careful

It’s getting bad out there.

A few days ago I set my alarm for 4:45AM and set out to tackle a 4+ hour adventure before heading to the beach with my family for the rest of the weekend. After getting in 81 miles through the lovely roads of Hunterdon and Bucks Counties, I rolled into the driveway with just enough time for a quick shower and inhalation of some rice, before I was out the door to pick-up a friend from the train station. While on my way to the station, I was hit from behind by an obviously distracted driver. I know she was distracted by the look on her face via my rearview mirror as she added some dents to my rear hatch. The impact knocked my glasses from my forehead, separated my shoulder, and spilled my drink (I KNOW!). There were no skid marks, no choking odor of brake dust, just two strangers who would now know each other as plaintiff and defendant.

After checking for any damage to my body, I got out of my car to assess the situation and to meet my new friend. My Merc wagon sustained some bumper damage and a rear hatch that will require a few thousand dollars in repairs while the front end of her Honda Odyssey will likely need a Homeric-worthy list of body work. Hats off to German engineering, minus 1 for Japan. Before she was able to get out even the faintest apology, I asked her, “Were you texting,” to which she replied, “NO, my phone is in the back of the car in my purse.”

Right.

She asked if we should call the police, to which I replied, “You call the police, I’m calling my insurance company.” She started to cry and attempted to explain that her children were distracting her and swore she didn’t see me moving slowly, even though traffic on this particular stretch of local road is notorious for congestion. I asked her when she was going to get her phone to call the police and she stepped away to make the call. Cops came within minutes (it’s a small town), took our statements and left, and we drove off to our destinations – mine was the hospital for an x-ray of my now-nagging left shoulder, hers was to her angry husband (I deduced based on the phone conversation she was having). Six hours of ER time determined that my shoulder had a slight separation and I would have to walk around with a sling for a few days. It wasn’t terrible news, especially when I realized it wasn’t so bad that I could likely ride in a day or two – which I did just 36 hours later.

I went for that first ride with an old friend visiting from San Sebastian, my favorite Basque city nestled in the foothills of the northwest corner of the Pyrenees. Illart fits the stereotype of slight, yet powerful Spanish climber, a guy who requires very little training to hang on climbs that go on forever, yet has to work hard to get over short and steep lumps in the road. He and I have known each other for nearly twenty years – he was an exchange student living in my home when were were teenagers and became one of my lifelong friends. Illart (or EE-Art, as my parents call him) is the kind of unusual friend who one may not see for a decade yet slips back into your life like you last met just days ago. We hadn’t seen each other since I last visited Spain with my wife for a friend’s wedding just a few years ago. Back then he had been living in the mountains and wasn’t riding much. He had gained a little weight and was very focused on his work and other more important aspects of life other than our obsessive sport. Illart didn’t look like the skinny climber of our youth then, but on this visit seemed as though he was ready to tackle some of my local country roads and maybe a few climbs.

We spent the first part of our weekend together at my parents’ place at the Jersey shore, sitting on the beach, catching up and talking music, politics, pro cycling, art, etc. He was also curious about current relations between motorists and cyclists, wondering if it had improved at all since the last time he rode in the States in the early 1990s. I mentioned that just a week ago I was out training with one of my friends and we received a standard “Fuck you” from a good old boy in a giant pick-up truck (read: small dick compensator). This fellow drove by slowly as his passenger leaned out of his window yelling, “Move the fuck over you fucking queers.” My friend and I responded as we normally do to such harassment – we waived at high velocity like coked up toddlers and yelled an enthusiastic, “Hi!!!!”. The driver sped off, also as usual in this situation. Illart was surprised that we were met with such hostility – in Northern Spain riders are often cheered on by motorists who yell the Basque equivalent of “GO INDURAIN!” – which is also funny considering Big Mig has been out of the spotlight for quite a long time (Clearly, the Basque need a new hero).

It’s basically summer and already the national death toll for cyclists is up. How do I know this? I’m seeing articles posted on social media sites on a weekly basis mourning the loss of someone’s friend, colleague, or former team mate. The increase isn’t shocking – it’s getting warmer and more cyclists are on the road, paired with more lousy/new drivers now that schools are finishing up for the semester. This is obviously a lethal combination as more motorists – many of whom are distracted by mobile phones, cranky kids, or too much cockpit gadgetry – are taking to the roads during the hours cyclists like to train. What is shocking, what is disturbing, and what does push me to ride in the wee hours of daylight, are the angry folks (read: fucks) who seem to think it’s necessary to buzz my road-side shoulder while yelling “fuck you, faggot” as they pass by, often on a dangerous stretch of road and, more often than not, to turn into their driveway just 200 meters from the incident. In the past week I have experienced this almost daily, often on sleepy country roads (I live in a cycling paradise, btw) with usually little to no car traffic – I often see more John Deere tractors than Ford F-150s. It’s astonishing that these drivers only see me as a small fragment of my total person. I’m not just a cyclist – I’m also a father, husband, son, friend, mentor, and human.

I know. I KNOW. It’s no surprise nor is it anything new, but it bugs me more during these early days of summer. In fact, it’s always been like this.

For example:

Once, while on a morning training ride with my parents back in the day-glo 1980s, we came within inches of losing our lives to a couple of drag racing rednecks who were tearing up Landis Avenue on their way to work. As I remember the story, my father and mother sprinted their tandem up the road and were able to catch a glimpse of the drivers just as they pulled into their worksite, wherein my father pulled the foreman away from his danish, insisting to confront the two goofballs and receive an honest apology. The foreman reluctantly gathered the accused and we eventually got a police officer to come down to take statements. We were granted a court date and I went with my family to the hearing, watching my father testify, telling the judge about these reckless jitbags and their early morning exploits that nearly wiped out our family. Thankfully, the law was on our side and the jokers received a stiff penalty, and we all took a collective sigh of relief, feeling much safer to resume our morning ritual. Later that summer, a man was killed as he leaned out of a moving car to pinch a female cyclist’s rear end. According to the stories I heard, his head exploded like a watermelon as he was run over by his friend driving the vehicle. True or not, justice was served.

However, that was a long time ago and, while we have always been harassed by pea-brained drivers, back then they didn’t have a hundred satellite radio stations, in-dash DVD players, iPads, multi-screen ventilation controls, or the mother of all distractions – text messaging – in their cars. The worst distractions a driver of the mid-1980s had was either receipt of road head or a call from Cooter on their CB radio. Yes, times were quite simpler, but I leave the garage each and every day assuming it will be my last ride (New York Life, please don’t cancel my policy). At the request of my wife, I bought a Road ID (aka morgue-ready ID bracelet) in case some drunk/distracted/asshole driver makes the mistake of ramming me into a tree. Morbid stuff? It’s the reality I’m faced with every time I roll out of my driveway and it’s not getting any better no matter how many bikes lanes we install or drivers we intend to “educate”. Modern America is a selfish place and most drivers just see us as something in the way, though I have seen the same motorists who nearly kill me slam on their brakes for a bouncing ball.

If you’re reading this then you’re part of the choir, so it’s pointless to assume that this post will do much to educate the masses that we, as cyclists, just want to coexist and enjoy the same roads you are using to get to work, school, or wherever life happens to take you tomorrow. We just want our fair piece of the road- no more and certainly NO less. Yes – YES, there are some assholes among us. We know them and, at one time or another have been a part of their rides. You know those lads and ladies who ride three-across the local narrow roadway like they are charging the descent from Galibier to Briançon. Well, I am apologizing on behalf of the entire cycling community for my brethren and their folly. Just like you can’t stop every person from being an asshole I can’t stop every rider from the same errors in judgment.

But I can correct their behavior when I see it and I can make a difference by being a more thoughtful rider.

I’m just asking begging for motorists to do the same.

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What the?

Did Hampsten wear more than a few thin layers to climb the Gavia in a snowstorm? Did Hinault bother to scrape the snow and ice from his bright red thighs as he won the 1980 edition of L-B-L? Nope.

Apparently, it was a little chilly at Grants last weekend.

HTFU, dude.

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