It was a blustery day for a ride. Especially heading mostly uphill, as I seemed to be doing, when I turned into the wind coming off the lake. Even more especially, considering I’d chosen to ride the 1971 Raleigh International that I recently converted to a three-speed internally geared hub configuration. (And, perhaps, even more so still, considering that I’ve installed nice, wide – but bullet proof, very slow, and very heavy – 700 x 38 tires.) I’ve got my vintage Carradice Bag hung from the saddle to carry the necessaries, although I do take a moment to dispose of some villainous looking peanut butter crackers apparently leftover from last summer.
Heading north from home was a slam dunk. With a tail wind at my back I literally found myself flying up and down the hills. It’s tough to express the pure exhilaration I feel when the ride seems so effortless. My legs and feet are light and every bump in the road is non-existent as I either dodge or glide over holes left behind by Old Man Winter.
Reality sets in as I turn down a blacktop road pointing west toward the lake. The side winds are crushing and I know the price I’ll pay on the return trip will be high. Even now I’m starting to feel it in my legs. Please let me assure you that if you are in search of a cycling workout that will test your resolve and mangle your leg muscles, look no further: I have it for you. Simply ride up and down hills on a three-speed bicycle. It is just the ticket.
I’ve chosen my chain ring and rear sprocket based upon the gear inches I use most frequently on my Boulder. For the majority of riding this works out well. There is, however, a pretty good jump between the “normal” gear and the .75 low gear that takes some getting used to. I’ve also discovered that if I stand to climb in the low gear, I’m getting a little tire rub on the fenders. This means I’ll either have to find a way to add a bit more space between tire and fender, change the tires to a slightly smaller diameter… or simply not stand to climb.
That’s ok. I seldom stand for most of the year. After two wintry months spent mostly on a trainer I’m still getting my hill legs back. Once they are, I won’t worry about standing.
Coming upon the lake, I look for and find the entrance to a system of paths that follow much of the southern lakeshore line. The parking lot at the trail head is filled with cars on this nice day but I don’t worry much about running into people. Most folks will hike a mile or two and then with a “Whew! What a workout!” will turn around and head back to their SUVs, there to drive off and reward their efforts with a bag from McDonalds. The majority of the path is lonesome and belongs to me, the loons and geese, a heron or two – and the first big ass snake I’ve seen this year. It’s perhaps six and a half feet in length and as big around as my wrist. (Maybe even my forearm, now that I glance down at my pathetic limbs for a comparison.) A momentary glance and I know it is a water moccasin; it’s head is up but – disdainfully – never even bothers to glance my way. Stretched nearly all the way across the path, it also shows no sign of giving way, and I circumvent things by way of the grass. I have no desire to disturb Mr Cottonmouth.
At some point I grow hungry. I stop and lean the Raleigh against a large tree at the end of a cove. In Ireland I learned to carry a bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, and smoked salmon. (Oddly enough, in Scotland I carried Guinness. I’m sure my Irish forebears grimace and shake their head at my ignorance and lack of thirsty priorities when I was in the homeland.) Here in Missouri, I’ll have to make do with a bottle of water and a spinach and chicken sandwich.
Which is ok, really. And it sure beats peanut butter crackers.