Friday, April 23, 2010
What Happens When Girls on Bikes Can Beat Boys on Bikes
There isn't a commuter on the road that I can't over take if I try. Most of them are on gigantic heavy mountain bikes with fully treaded tires wearing the least aerodynamic clothes possible. It's not hard. There was just this one time on Pembina Highway with a 30-plus km/hr wind behind me that some young strong guy on an ancient ten speed and no helmet, feet in running shoes and traps, took off at a red light and I couldn't keep up even at 47km/hr. He eventually cut between a bus and a line of traffic and I draw the line at potentially getting killed. Race over. You win.
So today, as I rode home down Berry, minding my own business, I didn't think too much about passing the guy on the mountain bike with slicks, wearing jeans and cycling bull-legged like there was no room in there to tuck his knees in (or at least, so he thought, -- that's foreshadowing by the way). I had been BLOCKS behind him and I caught up to him while riding at recovery pace. I have a rule for myself for my commutes, now that they are only 10k and I am not so pressed for time: No faster than recovery pace. I've done enough damage to my body going all-out under unnecessary circumstances. Save it for race day. So when I passed him just before the stop sign near Silver, I didn't think anything of it.
I carried along on my merry way, recovery pace, and sometime just before Ness, I noticed there was a shadow of another cyclist behind me, and perhaps a little heavy breathing too. A glance over my shoulder told me it was my friend Mr. Jeans.
Now don't get me wrong, I like when I can beat the boys. I have always liked when I can beat the boys, but I found this curious. I caught up to this guy without any difficulty at all when he didn't know I was there, and here he had been sitting on my tail for the last half kilometer or more. Something curiously fishy was going on here. Something that seriously reaked of male preening and ego.
At the lights at Portage Avenue. I stop close to the curb, unclip, and sit and wait. It proves to be a long wait -- long enough for me to contemplate rolling myself over to the crosswalk and press the button to request to cross. I don't because more interesting things are happening behind me. My friend has also stopped about 10 feet back and far off to the left. Ah. Pole position. There was a car behind him. I turn to see if this car has its signals on to indicate which way it is going -- left, meaning I am not in its way. Mr. Jeans, however, is.
When the light turns green, not needing to clip in, Mr. Jeans sprints cutting off as much of that turn arc as he possibly can (and probably pissing off and blocking that car that was behind him also turning left). Now with a tail wind behind him, he's cooking it down Portage Ave tossing little glances over his left shoulder the whole time. Me, needing to clip, and NOT in race mode, am slower to get started. I am gaining on him just as I reach my turn. He goes straight, I turn and I say good bye and good ridence to what is clearly a testosterone motivated act of prowess.
So I head on down behind the government building, down the ramp through the condo parking, under the St. James Bridge and down Wolesely. I am just reaching the entrance to the path when I see Mr. Jeans also heading to the same path from off St. James Street. He's just taken a different route and he's cutting me off at the pass.
At this point the question needs to be asked.... has he seen me on this route before? I don't recall seeing him before on the road on my commutes but he wouldn't exactly be the kind of rider I would pay attention too. He wasn't a REAL cyclist. Where's the spandex shorts? The team jersey? The clipless pedals? The fingerless gloves and the bad farmer's tan? Did he know I was going to turn at the government building? Did he know I would end up on that path? One has to wonder because the route he took to the path would certainly not be the most efficient route. It wouldn't be the quickest either unless you were deliberately cooking it with the wind down Portage Ave just to beat a girl. Frankly, the last place I want to be riding at 5:30 at night is on Portage Ave. GET ME OFF. The one block I do is enough.
I give way and let him on the path first and the whole time, his head is doing the little twist to glance over his shoulder, no joke, probably about one glance every 3 seconds like he is being chased by an axe murder. I am full-on amused now. I also know what I am capable of. I've already won this race. I passed him like he was standing still without even trying way back on Berry and I got his goat. I got his goat good. There was no way he was going to let a GIRL, a SPANDEX laiden GIRL none the less, on a SINGLE SPEED BICYCLE overtake him.
I'm sure you can see my eyes rolling all the way through your computer screen.
But he is kinda in my way now. And he's pretty slow on this path and there is that short steep uphill at the end to turn onto the footbridge so I am hanging back because I know this dude is fatiguing is not strong enough to power up that little bit of hill as fast as me and, if I am too tight on his ass, I will be right in his back tire. And sure enough, I read his abilities correctly, even hanging 20 feet back, by the time I hit the top of the little hill and make the turn onto the bridge, I am right on his back tire. We both get held up on the bridge by other slow cyclists, dog walkers, and random derilicts, but at the down slope off the bridge, he tucks like a pro and and kicks up dust behind him at full speed, once again doing those little neck spasms that cause his head and eyes to glance behind. I wonder if he even knows he is doing this?
We both slow as we get closer to Wellington. I can see through budding leaves that there is a stream of cars coming close to where we need to cross. I prepare to stop. I'm already twisting my ankle to unclip. I sense determination in the pedal strokes of Mr. Jeans, screw those approaching cars, says he. I will risk it all to beat this chick. And without much hesitation he is gone.
I skid to stop in the gravel. As I said earlier. I draw the line at death.
I wait for about 8 cars, cross, and enjoy the wind behind me as I ride East. I am nearly running out of gear. My last sighting of Mr. Jeans is just before I turn on Oak street. I've gained on him but he's still a block ahead. His body is in a full twist now taking a good long glance over his left shoulder as he rides off into the sunset.