The plan to take the O.G. to work was pushed off from Monday AM to Tuesday AM thanks to a screaming bout of ankle pain that lasted about 16 hours, starting Sunday PM at about 9:00. So I took a sick day and while in a Motrin haze, decided that Tuesday would be just as good a day to put in about 48 hard miles on the fixie. Wife of Rouleur said "you are nuts!" but I thought she was talking about riding a good distance on the O.G. Little did I know...
Oh, the ankle? Nevermind. It was only a little sore. What could possibly go wrong with that during the ride?
On the way out to Bowie in the car this morning, I heard a snippet of the weather forecast. "Hottest day of the year... mid to upper 90's." I disregarded it because I know better, and nobody is telling me shit, right? Fortunately, I did pack two water bottles rather than the usual single.
The ride in was fun, and mostly uneventful. Sure, there was some interesting stuff, like hitting 35MPH and 180-some RPM on the steep hill at the end of Good Luck Road. But the ride was generally pretty easy because the hills on Rhode Island slope up gradually as you ride south, which makes them nice on a fixie.
They're exactly the opposite on the way out, and I had a number of epiphanies about riding the fixie long distances in tough conditions.
First, forget about the 48 miles thing. A fixie pulls about 50% more work out of you than a geared bike, and my legs sure feel like they rode 70, rather than 48.
Second, it was 95 out according to a number of bank thermometers and my cycle computer. On Rhode Island - a dark black tarmac, stuffed with 6 lanes of traffic, and big buses belching hot diesel smoke - it was probably 105 degrees. It was like an indian sweat lodge except without the solace of peyote and cool dreams, though admittedly avoiding the urine drinking was a +1 in favor of the bike ride.
Third... man, them are some long hills. Rhode Island is steep if you're northbound, and by the time I hit the big summit, I was gasping and it was hard to turn the pedals over. It was bad enough that a woman with her two young kids heard me gasping, gave me the hairy eyeball, and clutched her children closer to keep them away from the lycra-clad pervert.
The Rouleur Reacts Upon Cresting Rhode Island at 18th.
"I'm comin' Elizabeth," I said out loud to myself at one point. Near 100-degree temps are not optimal for fat men climbing hills on bikes, it seems.
Fortunately, I could coast down the hill to Mount Ranier...
Oh no I couldn't! Trying to spin 150 RPM down the hill after blowing my legs on the uphill made me realize: "Jim, you're a shithead." It made no sense to ride that bike today. There's no such thing as easy coasting on a fixie. It's all work.
Fortunately, I had cleverly frozen two bottles of water in the office fridge. I figured they'd melt as I rode, providing me cool water until I was at least past Lanham.
That was another bright idea that didn't exactly work out as planned. The front bottle was lukewarm and entirely melted by about 4th Street, Northwest; the back bottle was entirely melted by about 14th Street, Northeast. Turns out, the only thing that seemed frozen was my brain after I got up the big hill past route 201...
But make no mistake: the fact that the bottles were warm and filled with tap water that smelled like a cross between moldy Accellerade, soap, and armpit, and the fact that I was apparently suffering from some type of brain meltdown, did not stop me from guzzling the spit-warm water. It did not even slow me down.
So it was really hot at that point and I had the jersey unzipped, showing evidence of my bad eating habits to the entire world. I did not care. Nor could I tell whether the waves rising up off the pavement were heat distortions, or the first signs of a stroke. I did not care about that either. I just wanted to get the ride done.
How hot was it?
It was so hot, there were no joggers. Not even the transvestite jogger who is usually out when I'm riding through. There were other people on bikes, but they were the kind of people who ride bikes because they had no choice - no car, no Metro money, no options.
These people all looked at me like I had brain damage.
After an hour in that heat, I probably did.
Despite the strange heat, there was at least one familiar happening. This recent immigrant guy on a nice older 10 speed - I knew he was recent because his clothes were definitely not American in origin - decided to show me a thing or two, so he started hammering up Rhode Island. Which was cool because 21 or 22 is the maximum comfortable cruising speed. Mr. 10 Speed was going marginally faster than me, bobbing and gripping the handlebars with a death grip, swaying all over the road...
That's right. Different neighborhood, different language, different culture... same Pathlete behavior.
It is truly nice to know, truly edifying to discover, that riding like a jackass isn't limited to any particular demographic group, but that it's a scourge that cuts across racial, ethnic, economic and geographic lines. Why, look at Mark Cavendish, and the guy who just had to pass me today no matter what! That realization restored my faith in humanity, right there on the spot...
It worked out okay in the end. As I headed down into Bowie, cloud cover at least reduced my radiant heat problem, and a few dribbles of rain teased me. The O.G. and I got back to the car, and boogied the last couple miles home, where I took as cold a shower as the water supply of the Mean Streets of Crow-fton would permit.
Did I get anything out of it? Other than a couple highly variable workouts, some major efforts on a few hills, and a new condo in the same neighborhood as Heat Injury, probably not.
But I definitely learned a lesson today. That lesson is... I should try riding the fixie a bit further, all the way from my house. Hey, if 48 was *that* easy, 62 should be nothin'.
Well that, and if you're going long on the fixie, take your time doing it. There's no bailout option on a long fixie ride, you'd best save enough leg to get you home under your own power.