Monday, October 25, 2010

A Clean Ride

I’ve made up a few games I occasionally play during my bike commutes. A 16 mile ride that follows the same basic route can seem mundane from time to time. I’d conjecture others who regularly ride longer distances do similar things. I used to think about cadence and heart rate. I’ll never tire of pursuing the perfect pedal stroke, but I don’t race anymore so the training aspect of my rides is no longer a consideration.

There are plenty of other things to think about. I’ve written hundreds of mental to-do lists in my brain over the years. I’ve had more than one great idea for a business venture, a woodworking project, a gift for the kids or April. Heck, I even come up with some damn fine ideas for blog posts while I’m pedaling. (The current entry not withstanding.)

Every once in a while though I like resort to little rituals, things that don’t distract me. A few examples: I chant mantras when I pass flattened critters who couldn’t outrun the death machine in time; I practice memorizing license plate numbers (I picked up that one from Brother Nick Sande); I’ll spend a portion of my ride consciously reminding myself to breathe with intention; I sing a playlist from a bad 70s and 80s radio station that broadcasts 24/7 from the dark recesses of my brain; I’ll see how much of the Cedar Lake Trail I can ride no-handed.

There’s one thing I dig above most any other, however. I get a special thrill from achieving what I call the “clean ride.” This has nothing to do with the Pro Tour peloton or doping scandals. It’s the rare occasion when I leave my house, clip in at my driveway and don’t set a foot down until I arrive at the door of my office. No interruptions, just 16 smooth miles of constant rolling at a steady pace. I can’t trackstand worth a piss, so I don’t count that. I’m talking about setting out with an empty mind, not even trying to make it happen. Then one-third of or halfway to work I realize, “All the intersections have been clear, the lights have been green. A few more and I will have a clean ride!”

If I rode mostly bike paths this would be a normal thing. But I ride across several major roads and through some busy interchanges. By my count there are 7, maybe 8, places I regularly must stop and put a foot down. There are another handful of possible snags on top of those. Getting everything lined up is a special occasion. Or so I think. Besides, it’s my dorky game anyway.

I was on my way to a clean ride this very morning. The weather was perfect for fall – overcast and 50s. Rain was in the forecast but I stayed dry the whole way in. I got that little tingle as I approached the halfway mark. With each successive intersection I rolled cleanly through my excitement grew. I was so giddy I approached the one hill of the ride – a steep bump on Poplar Bridge Rd – with glee instead of a sigh. I decided to let myself grab a smaller gear and stay in the saddle. After all, the clean ride ain’t about speed it’s about alignment of the constellations, working with harmonic energy, wheels spinning in synch with the world around, baby! Halfway up the hill I was feeling a little winded but ecstatic. The clean ride was practically realized; it was mine.

That’s precisely the moment the Metro Transit “Be Line” express bus be-lined its way straight past me. I was positioned right of the white line, in a comfortably wide shoulder but this guy, driving a freaking bus no less, chose to buzz me with 18” to spare. He had an empty middle turning lane to pull over. There were no cars coming down the hill. In other words, he had no excuse for nearly hitting me as he booked by at over 30 miles per hour. I was livid. I gave him the long floating finger while I muttered epithets in disbelief. “You had the whole road, asshole. Why did you, a ‘professional’ driver need to pull that stupid trick?”

The mojo of my clean ride was broken. Within 90 seconds I pulled up to the final light of my commute. It was red. I know this light. It’s long. It hates the very thought of the clean ride. The light is evil. It’s in cahoots with the bus driver.

The bus and its driver were in the turning lane. I pulled up parallel with one lane separating us. I contemplated knocking on the door to inquire what the hell his issue was to drive like that. I didn’t though. I stared him down. He’d seen me ride up. I saw his head turn as I approached the line. He stared straight ahead while we waited, never making eye contact. The son-of-a-bitch knew full well what he’d done. There were no passengers on the bus. He was smug and proud. I noted the time (9.55am) and his vehicle number (6015) and filed a complaint with Metro Transit after arriving at work.

I filed one other complaint a few years ago against a bus driver who cut me off egregiously, forcing me into the curb on Bryant Ave. It went no where. I don’t expect this one to get much further. For the two complaints I’ve filed I’ve had dozens of close calls with buses and reasons to file complaints on a few other occasions, but didn’t. I ride the bus from time to time. I’ve observed the drivers and how they interact with cyclists, quietly from the passenger seat. I can say there are many patient, competent bus drivers out there. I can also attest there are sociopathic bus drivers out there. For that demented subset perhaps intimidating cyclists is one of their mindless pastimes while they endure the drudgery of the daily route. In a twisted way there’s probably some truth to that. At least my little games aren't designed to intimidate or hurt anyone. These yokels need to find new jobs.

I’ve had a theory for quite some time. I strongly contend that habitual driving is psychologically unbalancing. The DOT might as well require a psych exam along with the vision screening and road test for professional drivers. Because worse than some nut job driving his Ford Explorer like a belligerent jerk, I truly cringe at the thought of encountering an intolerant wacko driving a bus, dump truck or semi – any vehicle capable of turning me inside out instantly.

My vision of a clean ride does not involve viscera smeared across the pavement, my organs or anyone else's.

Damn you drivers. Whether it's delusion or stupor -- wake the fuck up.

1 comment:

Marco Esteban said...

I used to do a no-handed ride home several nights a week 5-8 years ago. There was one intersection that commonly messed me up due to traffic, but thrice I made it; my route included a bike/ped bridge with a corkscrew ramp. I only did this when I rode home after midnight, otherwise very unlikely I could have made it a few blocks in the city. They ended up being short lived yet satisfying personal victories.