Monday, January 7, 2013

Thank You Sir May I Please Have Another 22,927

Something's in the air...
Remember when you were eleven years old and it was Saturday morning? Your mom made you a sandwich which you threw into your backpack along with a jack knife, some matches, some rope, and other essentials, you climbed onto your bike and headed off on a day-long excellent adventure with friends to the great unknown. It felt a little risky and just a tiny bit illicit. And it felt a lot epic.

That's how it felt yesterday riding The Crazy Train.  It reminded me why I love bicycles and cycling. Ever since I could ride two wheels, the bicycle has meant freedom and adventure.

Not that cycling 40 years later is any less fun, but it can get predictable. Yesterday's ride was different. It was put together with the wide-eyed abandon of an eleven year old, and it brought me straight back to those wonder years on a bike. Straight back.

"Don't be a dumb ass and please
don't sue us."
It started as it usually does, with the 6:00 am alarm on Sunday. Sneaking out of the house without waking the family, picking up a buddy or two and heading somewhere to ride while the world sleeps. When we arrived around 8:00 am the atmosphere was electric. The rising sun softly lit a light rising fog. A couple of dogs romped in the distance and a cyclists was riding a wheelie across the snowy field. A steady stream of bikes kept rolling in and the crowd quickly grew to 150 riders gathered in the parking lot chatting, laughing, fiddling with bikes, snapping pictures. One young hipster had a cigarette hanging out of his mouth (I don't recall if he finished the ride or not).
First stop. Cheers.
Tangent: At registration I got #52. I turn 52 in March. I took that as an incredibly awesome sign. I was right.
A megaphone broke the silence as one of the organizers climbed onto a pickup tailgate to give the pre-ride briefing. The usual stuff about maps and route markings, post-ride awards ceremony, and the obligatory speech about being safe. Then he summed it all up in ten simple words. Profound words. Words to live by. He said "don't be a dumb ass and please don't sue us." The crowd roared. The ride now had a decidedly campy, slightly illicit feel. We were eleven years old again.

Urban Industrial Wasteland. We
don't find many of these at
Marsh Creek.
Then with the charge to "follow the guy wearing the Octoberfest jersey!" a crazy train 150 strong left the parking lot. There were a couple of bumps and lurches as we left the station but within 10 minutes our heart rates were up and the train was chugging along smoothly, more or less, over and through:
  • Frozen doubletrack mostly through abandoned industrial parks and along old railroad beds. This was the even playing field where every cyclist was at an equal advantage (or disadvantage).
  • Muddy singletrack with stream crossings, log overs, punishing climbs, and an ample supply of greasy derailleur choking mud. Watching some of the cyclocrossers get all tangled up on the logs was immensely entertaining and fat tire bikes ruled in the considerable slop.
  • Just enough pavement interspersed throughout the ride for the roadies to draft and beat us fat tire riders down, remind us that a 27lb bike with big soft knobby tires and upright geometry is no match for the road. Occasional ice covered pavement sections helped to pump up the pucker factor.
  • Railroad tracks. Three sections of relentless kidney-pounding railroad ties with an occasional narrow railroad trestle (no railings or guard rails of course) to break the bone-jarring monotony.
With this many riders and the challenging conditions, it was no surprise there were many mechanicals. Mostly flat tires and busted rear derailleurs resulting in quite a few single-speed field-conversions. Ours came at about mile 30 when we gave Angela (racer for Bicycle Therapy) a hand with her conversion to the sounds of Ozzy Osborne's Crazy Train blaring from a smartphone.
Crazy Crossing. We would spend
much of the day riding down these
tracks instead of across them. Ouch.
Tangent: We finished in under 5:30 at which point I had consumed two turkey sandwiches, two packages of peanut butter crackers, one package of shot blocks, one small package of fig newtons, one beer, one soft pretzel, one hundred ounces of water, twelve ounces cup of lemonade, and a pint of chocolate milk...and I was still hungry.
22,928 pedal turns of suffering without having any idea of what was around the next turn was the brilliance of this ride. And hours in the saddle gave me plenty of time to appreciate the Crazy Train challenge: "The terrain calls for you to ride three different bikes, but you can ride only one. Choose wisely."
Tangent: I know it was 22,928 pedal turns because I stuffed a pedometer in my sock before the ride.
The Heckle Pit complete with hash tag
Thank you Kirk for throwing this idea out there with enough time to make it happen, but without enough time to get cold feet, and thanks Mark for taking the plunge, I could/would not have done it without my DB wingman. And of course thanks to Lone Wolf Cycling for sending me back in time.

The story of the original Crazy Train


“Like dogs, bicycles are social catalysts that attract a superior category of people” 
     -- Chip Brown

"Keep riding, Nancy. It's just water and dirt." 
     -- Huck And Roll

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