Today I woke up very stoked, knowing that I had a women’s group ride to look forward to this morning. I’d love to brag that we got at it bright and early, but a chilly 19 degree morning didn’t exactly do wonders for our motivation. Days warm fast once the sun comes up, though, and by 10 we had hit the trails.
There are tons of trails in Durango and it’s hard to know where to go without a local to give you the straight skinny on the singletrack. Last time I ventured out on unknown trails by myself I ended up choosing a still-gooey route and subsequently had to push a bike with 20 extra pounds of mud all the way up a mountain. It’s always a plus when you don’t have to repeat experiences like that.
I was the only expat in the group but only one of the women really knew her way around, so I didn’t feel too out of place – but naturally my new status as a geared-bike-riding singlespeeder made me a little trepidatious. In the parking lot I eyed my companions’ geared bikes and for a small moment considered giving myself permission to use my shifters. For some reason, though, I’m super obsessed with my singlespeed project (have you noticed?) and I quickly rallied to fulfill my vow of riding in one gear. We took off on the trails, the other girls spinning to warm up and chatting as we climbed. Me, I was panting and sucking wind right away. I even had to de-layer within the first ten minutes although it was still quite chilly out.
Singlespeed riders have always annoyed the crap out of me. Most of them have some way of letting you know they’re riding a singlespeed, like a sticker or a T-shirt, just in case you don’t notice that they’re a badass singlespeeder. Yes, this is my second blog post in a row about singlespeeding, why do you ask? I still think those shirts and stickers are stupid, but I see the need for riding companions to know why you’re riding in such an annoying and invasive way.
I told the girls at the trailhead that I’d be singlespeeding (as a courtesy, not for bragging – I think. It does seem like singlespeeding gives you a little bit of a right to brag, I admit), but I told them that to pre-excuse myself for falling behind and needing to take breaks. Little did I know that when you’re climbing on a singlespeed, you just don’t get to fall behind. You have two options – hammer or walk. When you’re climbing, you pretty much need to be standing up out of the saddle and mashing as hard as you can to keep your momentum. If you stop – you push. When you’re riding behind geared riders and climbing a lot, you end up running up behind them and sucking onto their rear wheel while they spin up the hills. I don’t know why this is necessary. If one can regulate one’s speed so that they’re climbing basically stuck to someone’s back wheel, why can’t one regulate their climbing speed so that they don’t get that close to their companion in the first place? I don’t get it, but it seems to be an unexplainable yet unavoidable phenomenon because there I was, climbing five inches behind my friend’s back wheel.
The times I’ve ridden with singlespeeders (or anyone faster than me, really), this has really pissed me off. I HATE having someone ride right behind me when we’re riding for fun. So I was mortified when my friend asked pointedly if I wanted to pass her. I said no, that I was fine, and she responded with a blunt, “you’re breathing down my neck!” My friend has a very thick Georgian accent so this was even more hilarious in real life. So, I backed off by a wide margin, embarrassed that I’d done exactly the same thing that had made me so annoyed by other riders in the past.
I was also a little mortified when our ride’s leader pulled over on a downhill so I could pass. She didn’t say anything, but I know that it was because my damn annoying Shimano XT “best brakes on the market” (NOT) make the loudest, most irritating noise one could imagine. I’m pretty sure my friend dropped back about 100 yards so she didn’t have to listen to those brakes shriek and grind.
So today I was “that person” on the ride. The annoying one! The one with all the issues. At least this time I didn’t have to stop for pee breaks and feet-falling-asleep breaks and must-de-layer breaks like I did on the first and only “group” road ride I’ve gone on since I got here. I wonder why no one has invited me on road rides since?
The brakes have been a problem in the past – they so distracted the rider ahead of me in a race last year that he lost his concentration, crashed, and then yelled at me. That time I thought it was kind of funny; I mean, he could have just gotten out of the way. But on a recreational ride, it’s not cool to intimidate anyone, and nothing spells intimidation like (even inadvertently) riding up behind someone’s back wheel and panting like the love child of John Henry and a freight train or riding your screaming brakes all the way down a descent.
I’d like to say I learned to compensate but basically my companions just figured out that I’m hopeless and annoying and made me go out front. I guess that was the best solution, but even so with my special needs, we all finished the ride together, having been sure to regroup often. I am very pleased with the personal success of my singlespeed project, as I’m known for making personal goals and then ditching them, knowing that no one cares about them but me so I can back out if I want to. The singlespeed project is sucking me in though, so I’m happy to have survived my first ride with geared riders; bikes, bodies, and relationships intact. I understand a little more about why singlespeeders are so damn annoying, but I suspect that’s not going to make ME any less annoying as I work on this project. It’s definitely not going to make me wear some douchey t-shirt though.
And I’m still going to be irritated if anyone else rides up on my back wheel. Singlespeed riders, you are annoying as hell! And with that, I’m going to be extremely self conscious if I ever post about this project again (I might overcome it, though).