Poverty vs. Posh

A day removed from the Mount Wash practice ride, I hopped on the Langey and headed out to Todd’s house. I figured if he was home, I’d have him take a quick look at my new cranks; if not, I’d just keep on truckin’ and loop back toward Manchester. Of course, I get to his house and he’s AWOL. Which is no prob, I just turn back and start motoring along.

I wasn’t really sure what I wanted to do today on the bike, effort-wise. I was still kind of wiped out from Sunday, and while you say you’re gonna take it easy, no ride on the 16 is truly easy. Even still, I was doing my best on the ride back home to keep out of the puke zone. I was plotting my return route, aiming to pick up a pretty good climb near the end, and so I resolve to tackle it at a somewhat recreational pace. Nothing crazy, since crazy was just two days ago.

I get to the intersection of the climb, and I check behind me for traffic as I think about merging into a turn lane. No sooner do I turn my head than I see another rider come from out of nowhere and pass me as I let up slightly. As always, I take inventory: well-sponsored jersey, Pinarello Prince with Mavic Ksyrium ES wheelset. Small guy. Don’t know how long he was behind me but he had to be wondering what to make of a guy wearing a worn-out pair of hand-me-down riding shorts, a neon green sleeveless jersey, and a bike with one gear.

We exchange hellos at the stop light and turn up the back side of Mammoth Road. He is running slightly ahead, but as I approach the climb, his pace is just too slow for me to keep momentum up with my gear. There isn’t much of a shoulder up this road but I have to pass him anyway, traffic be damned, and I give him a the same line I give most riders I do this to, just to let them know I’m not being a jerk about passing them. “Sorry man, but I gotta go; I only got one gear”.

He was of course surprised, and I explained that I was riding a singlespeed. This was all no big deal, and then before I know it we are absolutely wailing up this climb. Side by side. I am silently giving it almost everything I have as we exchange pleasant chatter. I try to glance at my heart rate monitor and I think it’s somewhere above 180. It hardly matters because I’m not giving up an inch. I don’t know anything about this guy except that his bike costs about $9,000 more than mine and has 19 more gears.

“How long you out for today?” he asks.

“15 miles or so; nothing crazy. I just did Mount Wash on Sunday” I respond.

Talking at this pace and not sounding like you are on the verge of vomiting up your internal organs is a whole other challenge in itself.

“Yeah I did too” he replies. “How long it take you?”

“I did a 1:34. How ’bout you?”

“1:18” he says.

Now it’s on for sure. My guts are ripping out but I’m going to hang with this guy the entire climb. As the grade starts to level off, I keep the pace up, and the only thing keeping me going is the sight of the top of this hill. I know we’ll be there shortly, and I can let up on the downhill, since I can’t really pedal downhill anyway.

As we crest the top, I tell him “Well, this is where you lose me, since I can’t really make any speed down the hill”. Which I can’t; when you have one gear, you top out pretty quick down hills. It was an excuse to be sure, but also a fact.

“I’m in no rush” he says, sticking alongside.

Thanks to the descent I get a few seconds breather, and we dig right into the next climb. This one is nowhere near as long as the first, but it hardly matters. I’m still here, but I’m mashing the pedals just to stay on his wheel. I’m still in the red, and definitely fading. I dig in with everything I have to keep alongside him. Mercifully, my turn to Smyth Road is approaching on the right. I usually could stretch the ride out another few streets but today I’m cooked. “This is my turn – see you in 4 weeks!”.

We part ways, and I finally get to breathe again. All over. I’m not exactly sure what I just did, but I’m completely spent. Not the ride I planned on today. But you tend to run into people for a reason. Who knows what this one was. I’ll figure it out.

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