January’s already in the books, but before we get ahead of ourselves, how about a look back at some of your favorite bike moments from 2013? Big thanks to all of the ARTCANK faithful who took the time to reflect on and write up their favorite cycling memories from 2013.
Andy Thieman (@andrewthieman)
“Want to ride 100 miles tomorrow morning before work?”
That was the text I got from Ryan Carlson on July 22 at 10:00pm. Four hours later (at 2am) in the pitch black balmy summer pre-dawn, we met up in Wayzata, MN. We rode west, through the misty rolling roads, north of Lake Minnetonka. Right down the centerline, we rolled. No cars. No sound. No city lights. Just headlamps and a shadow-casting full moon until the sun finally popped over the horizon. Somewhere south of Minneapolis, we took a wrong turn. What started as a century, ended as a 120-miler. I was late for work. It was perfect.
That moment when, through the puffy clouds of my own exhaled breath
I see the lights of Downtown Minneapolis on the horizon ahead and the full moon above me in a cloudless sky and
I feel the chill in my fingertips and the wind in my face and the road unrolling beneath me and
I hear nothing but the wind in my ears and the sound of my tires spinning on the pavement and
I taste the last beer I had at the party I just left and
I smell a beautiful, crispy fall all around me.
We rose early in Crescent City, grateful to have slept indoors instead of in our tents for the first time on the trip. The head start was essential, because the longest climb of our journey thus far was waiting for us just outside of town, and we had to make it over the pass and out of the redwoods by 10am. Willy, being the wonderfully ridiculous human being that he is, had a phone interview scheduled, so he needed to get beyond the woods if he hoped to have any sliver of cell reception.
As the climb started ramping up in intensity, and I acquainted myself with my granny gear, I watched Willy rise up out of his saddle and start to hammer until he was out of my sight completely. Nothing like the prospect of future employment to inspire you to crush a climb, I guess. I wouldn’t catch up to him again until, after what seemed like hours of spinning methodically up through the belly of the forest, I finally crested a rise in the highway and came out into a clearing. There was Willy, pacing a roadside turnout in his bright red shorts, phone pressed to his ear, ocean backdrop just beyond him. Success.
When three friends and I set out to traverse the Pacific Coast by bike, we were all floating in the uncertain realm between graduation and employment. It’s only now, months later, that this particular scene really resonates. An ocean vista and an interview. A taste of things to come, gently interrupting the picturesque present moments that defined our lives for those three weeks in September. Oh, and by the way, he got the job. Congrats, Wilbur.
Dmitry Gudkov (@gudphoto)
With the roll-out of Citi Bike, 2013 was a huge year for New York City cycling. My Bike Story is that I was lucky enough to be able to cover much of this history with my camera. In May I made my first #BikeNYC portrait with a Citi Bike, and it was of Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan. Later that month I photographed Mayor Bloomberg showing off the new bike share bikes at the official launch press conference. And I ended the year by asking mayor-elect Bill de Blasio to pose with cycling activist Laura Solis and her yellow single-speed. 2014 promises to be a pivotal year in NYC’s movement toward better bike infrastructure and safer streets, and I can’t wait to do my part in documenting it.
Charlotte Fagan (@womanonawheel)
It was late May, and the fields of Germany were finally thawing. I was visiting my friend Sarah, and we went for a ride outside Bonn, Germany, exploring the countryside. Or that was the plan. Somewhere on the way back we got lost and couldn’t find the bike path. Finally we saw the path on the opposite side of a field and started biking towards it. At the end of the field there was a big puddle separating the field from the path. I looked at the 10-foot wide puddle, and thought it was nothing more than that, and bravely began pedaling across. As I rode across, the water gradually rose until both my feet were underwater. Half way across the ‘puddle’ (POND) I dismounted to find myself mid-thigh in water, and Sarah behind me laughing so hard she almost pissed herself. I went on a lot of bike rides in 2013, but that one was the wettest and the funniest.
Low Kling (@greaseragmpls)
Pick just one moment from the past year?! Grease Rag had its fourth birthday, I traveled to PDX and MKE to ride bikes, and got in some solid Full Moon Rides ending in fires and snacks! All great, but the literal HIGHEST moment (6,719.2 feet) I had this year happened on my trusty road bike in the Montana mountains. Going to the Sun Road in Glacier National Park is one of the country’s most scenic highways, and I highly recommend climbing 30 miles to Logan’s Pass, and then zooming down 20 miles into St. Mary’s. The climbs are doable and the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Bring sandwiches, and take your time.
Patrick Murphy (@BikeThinker)
“That doesn’t sound like an adventure.”
Legs be damned, Karl was right.
The plan for the previous night was for a group of eight friends to explore the off-road offerings of the Minnesota River bottoms by bike, drink some beers around a bonfire and head back home to Minneapolis. We excelled in all facets of this plan, except making it home.
After a friendly encounter with a pair of officers of the law, the most delicious bag of Doritos in recent memory and more than enough mosquito bites to go around, five of us determined it best to retreat to my parents’ house in a nearby suburb, for one reason or another.
We wobbled in a little after 4:00am, and suffice it to say no one was feeling great when we woke up a few hours later.
I figured we’d just call for a lift, rather than ride 20+ miles hung-over in the August heat. But Karl, a bike luminary in Minneapolis and all-around mensch, was having none of it.
We smelled like bonfire and looked like hell, but the five of us decided to keep the good times rolling. We wound up taking the scenic route home, riding some gravel, bushwhacking and stopping to cool off in a creek along the way. All fueled by a breakfast of pancakes and leftover boxed wine from the night before.
In May of this year I started talking to a girl on Instagram. It was just your usual conversation at first, and then we started to talk more and more and started to like each other. In June, she came from Michigan to visit me in New Jersey. She came out for 4 days, and it was awesome.
Less than two weeks later, I sold my car, packed up my stuff and moved to Michigan in the beginning of July. I decided to go completely by bike when I moved out here, due to the bike friendly communities and abundance of bike paths. And I wanted to challenge myself to go a whole year without a car. I applied for a job at a bike shop in the area, got an interview, got the job and was able to continue doing what I love! Then I became involved in helping with the group rides on Thursdays and just getting to ride my bike more and more, every day. I picked up a CX bike to handle the weather year round and am riding to work every day still. I get to see new sights, experience new riding conditions, find new routes, wear crazy masks in the cold, meet new people and push myself as a rider. Yes, I’ve fallen in the snow due to ice, but I absolutely love it and just laugh, brush it off, and hop back on and keep on pushing forward. So this year started a new journey for me, that will carry me into 2014, and I look forward to what is ahead!
Suzanne D (@soozed)
I love to wake up early on Sunday mornings and ride into downtown Chicago. For a brief moment in time, these streets—most often the domain of skillful bike messengers, weekday commuters, and hordes of taxicabs—are mine and mine alone.
At this time of the morning, the city feels like a Hollywood movie set. The lifeless, empty buildings seem unreal, and I often think if I peeked through the windows I would see wooden boards holding up each façade.
The city is completely different before everyone awakens. It’s peaceful and quiet, disturbed only by the occasional rumble of the El trains and the rhythmic hum of my tires on the pavement.
I ride down the center of these streets, like the lone surviving hero in a post-apocalyptic Hollywood movie.
Just a girl and her bike, left to save the world.
Ryan Kragerud (@MrBikeNight)
In 2003, I started Longmont Bike Night in Longmont Colorado. Like Boulder and Denver’s cruiser rides, ours is a festive cruise through the scenic neighborhoods of Longmont. But, what sets Longmont Bike Night apart is that ours is a 100% family cruiser ride. Why is this awesome? Because our ride is 100% of the 60% everyone in the bike advocacy world is trying to reach.
Bike Night makes riding bikes fun again, for everyone! Families of all sizes, ages and abilities ride together on Wednesdays between mid-May and mid September.
2013 is a year I’ll never forget. Beginning in January, I met the love of my life, Lindsay, and for four months we had the best time of our lives with no care in the world or worry. Come May, little did we know our world would be tipped upside down with my diagnosis of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. Though I couldn’t mountain bike during treatment, I always talked about wanting a fat bike. One week after my completion of treatment (10/21), Lindsay surprised me by unveiling that she’d conspired with my family friends since August to purchase a fat bike frame complete with the funds necessary to build it anyway I liked.
Amy Bergquist (@alb68)
I’m more of a runner than a biker, but last summer, while training for the Twin Cities Marathon, I had a dicey shin splint and had to replace training runs with biking for a while. I normally run before work, when it’s dark, but my bike doesn’t have lights. So instead I created a NiceRide circuit around Minneapolis. It was a game of “beat the clock” to try to check in to the next station before my 30 minutes were up. How amazing to bike along the Mississippi, Minnehaha Creek, Lake Nokomis, Lake Harriet, Lake Calhoun, Lake of the Isles and the Cedar Lake Trail as the sun slowly rises over the city!
Even fast on a bike is slow enough to see (and hear) things that we otherwise would miss: catching the glimpse of a fox near the Crow River on a Sunday morning distance ride or near the Mississippi River on an weekday evening commute; overhearing a heated argument near Como Lake that involved a chimpanzee dressed as a child; the simple pleasure of red and gold leaves standing in relief with an early November dusting of snow; and, of course, biking places with or to meet friends.
My story is an abridged gumbo of encounters I have gladly experienced, all while pounding pedals. I’m an average guy, easy to be missed in the crowd. That is, when I have absolutely no choice other than walking (walking, ewwwwwww!). The minute, nay, the millisecond I straddle the saddle, OMG am I ever popular. Seemingly every individual I roll near is, again, seemingly genetically pre-disposed to stare at my sweet biker ass. I’m sure all you fellow Trekies, Fujistas, Schwinners, and every make and model enthusiasts know what I’m saying! Is it the provocative posture? The sultry romantic allure of health consciousness? Indeed, all of these things, and more! Hearing thousands of strangers comment about romantic encounters with hot cyclists is, just, magical…
This fall my husband and 4-year-old daughter started cyclocross racing. In October, my family biked up to Theodore With Park in Minneapolis for her first race, and my husband’s second. We loaded up “Sweet D,” our Surly Big Dummy, to the max with a cooler of food and drinks, a thermos of steaming hot coffee and my daughter’s newly customized non-princess bike.
I was finally feeling good after almost four months of not being able to ride. My husband and I had ridden the Almanzo back in May and were transforming our yard into a garden, which aggravated my already nagging back pain. This was a pretty significant ride for me.
We made it to Theo Wirth after a “slight” detour that tacked on an extra three miles, which seemed more like ten with all the kids and gear. Because of this, my husband missed one of the two races he hoped to ride in, but we were there with plenty of time before the noon kids race. My daughter, who had been practicing writing her own name, signed the race forms herself.
My husband gave her a little pep talk and some pointers before her race.
As I was taking a photograph of her out in front of the younger kids I realized I was going to have to run along with her because of the difficulty level of the course. There was a significant hill (for a 4-year-old) and some barriers she’d have to go over.
She made it down the hill without crashing into the woods or falling and headed straight for the barriers. Her bike weighs a ton, so a couple of the guys riding along with the kids helped her lift it over the barriers and she ran it a little ways and hopped back on. She finished the race in last place, and I couldn’t have been more proud.
Best adventure ride this year began & ended at Psycho Suzie’s in Northeast Minneapolis. We picked our way down the river to Harriet Island by way of paved trails & streets, but also took any rabbit trail we came across that looked like it led to the riverbank. We discovered a bunch of rogue trails, the biggest trees ever, a weird log teepee in the woods, a really random swing by a graffiti covered bridge, and other wonders. At one point we ran out of trail and had to hike it up the bluff on a rickety steel staircase, and hoist our bikes over a locked iron gate. Adventure!!!
2013 was a busy bike year for my friends and me. After a race, and over hot wings and drinks, we decided to start an all-ladies urban biking group in Denver (The Denver She Devils). What we didn’t know is that our little idea would turn into a movement. Not only did we form a bike club, but we formed a race team. A team that gained national sponsorship and allowed us to race in the country’s largest all-ladies urban race (Babes in Bike Land) Traveling cross country to race was one of the most amazing things we’d ever had the pleasure of doing. We had a blast racing and met some amazing people from across the country that we’re lucky to call friends. And to think it started with three biking chicks in a bar made it all the more memorable.
Dena Driscoll (@bikemamadelphia)
2013 was a year of bike memories for me–the first year I rode in snow, the first year I rode 41 weeks pregnant and the first full year of Kidical Mass Philly, amongst other milestones.
I somehow convinced my husband that in 2013 we should buy an Urban Arrow box bike, as it was great way to carry our children. My husband fell for the idea as much as I did, and at 38 weeks pregnant we bought the bike.
I had a successful VBAC that resulted in the birth of our baby girl at the end of April. Exactly 5 weeks after, we strapped her car seat in, and I took her for her first ride.
The experience of watching your newborn being lulled to sleep by the movement you produce while riding a bike is powerful. I felt strong and happy, which in the early postpartum stage can be rare. Taking that spring day’s ride slow and steady was healing both for my body and mind. That ride sealed the deal that this bike would give my children a lifetime of memories.
Jessica Grimsley-Mounts (@jgmounts)
This past year was my first year on a bike and one of the most transformative years of my life. I count it as no coincidence. Already a runner, I started riding the hilly country roads near my house. One thing led to another, as often things do, and I raced in my first triathlon in June of 2013, my second in July, and third in August, even earning a couple podiums in my age group.
Every mile I spend on my bike reminds me of how much I’ve changed. Because of my bike I’ve stepped forward into a lifestyle change that has had a positive effect on my family and me. I’m a stronger person because of my willingness to embrace the suck of a tough ride, the grit that it takes to crank out the big gears, and the courage that’s required for me to head into the unfamiliar territory of cycling and triathlon. I know that I face challenges in my daily life differently than I did a year ago, and it all started with a bike ride.
Elly Blue (@ellyblue)
When you’re barely feeling well enough to get out of bed, it’s not usually an ideal time to ride a bike. On Christmas Day this year, my date was up to neither. But the holiday spirit was strong with us. I set up a reclining lawn chair on my bike trailer, he hopped on, Ruby the service dog hopped into his lap, and I pedaled off with them in tow, headed to a matinee. Usually when we travel this way, jaded Portlanders don’t take much notice. But on this warm Christmas day, the streets were filled with multiple generations of visiting families taking walks or playing catch in the front yard. Everywhere we went, at my snail’s pace, people stopped and waved and even cheered. It was like being in the smallest parade of all time. The movie was terrible, but by the time we got home we couldn’t stop smiling.
Powderhorn 24 (PH24) is a community event, held for 24 hours in the summer, around the perimeter of the Powderhorn Neighborhood of Minneapolis. It’s a race for some, a ride for others and a viewing spectacle for many more. Riders can join-up in relay teams of two to six or they can brave the entire 24 hours solo. The goal is simple: make that Powderhorn loop as many times as your feet, mind, rear-end, and shoulders will allow, hit all the bonus neighborhood stops along the way, and have ALL of the fun!
This year was PH24’s third year, and it was the first year that I took on a role of organizer rather than racer. I was one of the crazy solo-flyers for years one and two. The first two years brought me a sense of accomplishment that I had never felt, and I wanted to help this year to bring that to some new riders. As much fun as having a saddle between one’s legs for 24 hours is, it was also nice to have an excuse not to compete. I did, however, hop on the bike for about 150 miles of loops during this year’s race for fun between my volunteer duties. Why not?
Planning a race is difficult, but planning a 24-hour race with several checkpoints and seventeen bonus stops is downright grueling. Despite the weeks and days of stressful notes, emails, phone calls, meetings, packet prep, registration chaos, and checkpoint setup, getting to watch the determined faces of exhausted racers was incredible, and it was even more rewarding because I had been there receiving the cheers and praise myself the past two years. When it was finally finished and cleaned up, I fell in to the most delicious, comatose sleep of my life. I considered it my prize for winning at volunteering.
Jo Holtan (@bikeablejo)
This year, my blog, Bikeable Jo was born.
Since I started cycling two years ago, my trusty Saracen, the streets of Edinburgh, and I have been inseparable. Encouraged by friends and the untold bikeable stories of the city, I created the blog Bikeable Jo, and it has undoubtedly changed my life.
What I love about Bikeable Jo is what I love about cycling.
On my bike, there is an openness and intimate connection to the city and others making their journeys. It’s the same with Bikeable Jo. I’ve met amazing people (who just happen to cycle), hopefully encouraged others to find their bikeable confidence, and most overwhelmingly, felt like I’m part of a pretty cool community.
Here’s to another year of #bikeablegood.
Earlier this year, our awesome employee Vanessa spotted a shady character walking away clumsily with a bike twice his size. After confronting the man, it became clear that the bike had just been stolen. Vanessa reached for her phone and upon threatening to call police the thief reluctantly walked away from the ride.
We reached out to the San Francisco Police department bike theft handle @SFPDbiketheft and provided the officer with information on the bike.
Two days later, we received a Tweet. The victim had filed a police report and was looking for his ride.
Within an hour, officer Friedman arrived to recover the stolen bike. We discussed bike theft in San Francisco and the efforts that are being taken to curb the issue. We’re grateful for the program that officer Friedman has kicked off and happy to know that it is having an impact and bringing the cycling community together. We hope that this initiative will find support and transition into full-fledged anti-bike theft task force.
Another one for the good guys!
July 1987 – Channel 4, I’m 13 years old and sit captivated in front of the television waiting, listening. Phil Liggett starts to almost scream his commentary as a figure starts to emerge. It is, of course, Stephen Roach fighting back to limit his losses, pursuing Pedro Delgado to the summit finish at Le Plagne. The day he made sure he didn’t lose the tour.
From this point on I was captivated by all things cycling and the many emotions it evokes – Competition, Aggression, Passion, Beauty. I joined a small club and my journey began.
Years later at 39, I am still cycling to keep fit and enjoy the social side that cycling brings. In fact, I met my wife whilst on holiday cycling across the Atlas mountains in Morrocco.
12 months ago, however, I was forced to rest due to chronic tendonitis in my Achilles, which rendered me on crutches. It was the second dose that year and I needed an answer. I did a bit of reading and a mate recommended going to see Tour de France Legend Adrian Timmis for a bike fit. It turned out my cleats were wrong and my saddle was too high! This was causing me to overextend on each turn! Bike fit complete, some physio, rest and rehabilitation and I was back on my bike this time in my new position.
Some 5,000 miles later, and I am still riding well. I had literally been making it up for 25 years, my bike fit was a revelation!
At around this time I went to a presentation by rising star and frame builder Tom Donhau. He makes some beautiful bikes, and in particular, I liked the one he made for the Rapha Continental project. This sparked a new idea. To take my bike fit a stage further. I decided to go and see legendary frame builder Brian Rourke close by in Stoke on Trent. I figured he has measured the pros, and that was good enough a CV for me. Plus, as a kid all the top guys in my local club rode and raced his frames, and I had always wanted one.
Brian and Gareth were awesome and spent the whole morning with me to resolve my position. The only downside was the six-month lead-time.
My spec for the project was to build a year-round bike that was fast and my own version of a Rapha Continental bike built for the beautiful lanes of Staffordshire where I do most of my riding. I did not want a “winter bike” I figure that when you “only” do 100 miles a week on average why ride a low spec heavy bike between October and April! I also wanted to prove that a steel bike can be light, made to measure and not break the bank, and that you don’t need a carbon frame to build a quality, light responsive bike.
Carlos R (@RetoCarlos)
5 Takeaways from my 30 Days of Biking 2013
700 kilometres. A record beating April getting over endless, awful weather. Not to mention that I used to be one of those whose cycling season started at the same time as the Giro d’Italia.
Zero “cliptastrophy“, no falls, zero panic and little anger moments thanks to drivers when riding Asturias’ roads. Should it be me and my…
Zenclist attitude: find and become oneself on a bike. It’s all about posture, breath and attitude. The right posture, pushing the ground with your knees and heaven with the head. The right breath, slow, strong and natural as a door that opens and closes again and again. The right attitude, your mind wandering free, letting the miles pass and leave only a trace of sweat and thirst. A pointless practice? Ego killing?
A cow on my bike, a potato raincoat, a kidyclist ride,… too many stories to remember and lots of talking about cycling and bikes.
New friends, found at the 30DoB community and joyfully sharing an unconditional love for bicycles. Susana, Raul, David, Patrick, Rachel and many more. With some of them I’ve already shared some pedalling here in Asturias. Sooner or later, I will meet the rest of the bunch on the road.
Wolf Simpson (@2_Wheeled_Wolf)
I set out in 2013 with the goals of improving my cycling, improving the health of my leg, and hopefully, getting off my sticks. Must say the year had a bumpy start, with a seemingly never-ending winter. I was out in that snowy weather on my bike, enjoying the fact I could easily get about on two wheels no matter the weather.
Got myself in the papers for a blog I did about the farcical works on potholes on just one road.
Then I did another 30 days of Biking where I finally broke the 25-mile barrier in a single ride.
Then in May I finally managed to move to Colchester to be closer to my beloved–it proved to be a blessing in so many ways, as it opened up opportunities I didn’t have before.
For starters, I got myself into volunteer work with Re-Cycle to help improve my legs though the cycling in Colchester.
Two-thirds of the way through the year I was happy with that I’d achieved, but it was only just warming me up for October/November. For starters in October, I finally got off my sticks after 20 yrs of dependency on them.
I decided to put pressure on Job Center to get help to return to work, and managed to impress with an opportunity. I started a part-time job in November. It’s hard work, but I’m loving it and slowly getting back into a work routine again. And my leg is still continuing to improve!
Myrna Mibus (@myrnacgmibus)
Seldom would a ride with mosquitos, mud and a flat tire be considered a best ride. Yet, a laughter-filled trail ride last June was just that.
From a guy who just bought a mountain bike to one who raced the Tour Divide, a spread of riders took off for the trails from our gathering point at Milltown Cycles in Faribault, MN that night. We soon hit single track more challenging than any I’d ever ridden. Early on a steep uphill stopped me in my tracks. One rider, too close, decided to pass and rode ahead.
Talking, riding, laughing, we twisted through the woods on single and double track. Had I known the ride would be so challenging I would have stayed home. But at the back of the pack we had a blast, and I forgot to be scared.
At a stop to regroup I noticed a hiss. A flat. Dozens of mosquitos slapped, lots of help changing my tire and we were riding again.
As we neared the end of our ride, I realized that with all of the challenges, this ride could have been one of my worst. Yet, because of the laughter and fun people, it was my best.
Almost back, mud puddles begged me to ride through them. Smiling at the prospect of finishing off the ride in mud-splattered style, I obliged.
Aaron Keller (@KellerofCapsule)
He came by to visit with our group and rode the first day of our SmartWool trek to the Outdoor Retailer Show.
He was quiet. Seemed like a nice guy. There was something funny about him, though. He was human.
He wasn’t evil. He also wasn’t a superhero. He was just a guy talking with some passionate riders about bike technology, the outdoors and a recent ride across Iowa (RAGBRAI). It all seemed rather ordinary to me.
How does this matter to the world of design and brands? Well, that is a curious and compelling question.
We all know the controversy. You may be angry with him and that’s your right, but what I know is this: He is a living person, and as human beings we are asked to forgive our fellow humans who wrong us. He will experience hardship for a long time as a consequence of his actions. He climbed to the highest level the sport of cycling has ever seen, so his recent fall must seem like skydiving without a parachute.
Can the Lance Armstrong brand recover? Time will tell, but I think so. Brands tend to gain asset value slower than the stock market and they also tend to lose value faster. This is the reason Martha Stewart was able to spend time in prison and still rebuild her brand. The Armstrong brand and portfolio has value. Lance just needs to refocus his passion and intensity on a new mission. Perhaps his global fight against cancer could be a renewed effort.
From this writer’s perspective, that is why I have and will cheer for Lance. Despite his flaws, he has used his power for good. A generation of people affected by cancer will benefit from the awareness and resources Lance has generated. And a world without cancer is something we can all cheer for.
Charles K. Youel (@ARTCRANK)
In 2013, 198 riders competed in the 100th Tour de France, and I made my first visit to Paris.
Over the course of three grueling weeks, racers covered more than 2,100 miles, riding the lightest, fastest most technologically advanced bicycles ever built. In seven days, I managed to roll up all of about 25 miles on various Vélib bicycles, which weighed as much as a blacksmith’s anvil but had the distinct advantage of being just as durable.
In the Tour’s 18th stage, riders climbed more than 6,000 feet up the Alpe d’Huez, not once but twice. The best I could do was chase my pal Chris up the Rue de Something Or Other in Montmartre, wishing for a gear that didn’t exist and questioning the wisdom of the third cocktail that had seemed like such a good idea less than an hour before.
On the Tour’s final day, sprinters dashed around the Champs-Élysées at speeds topping 30mph to claim the last treasured stage. I braved the cobbles and dodged exasperated Parisian drivers in rush hour traffic to catch a glimpse of the Arc de Triomphe. I, too, was left breathless by the experience, but mostly because I was choking on exhaust fumes.
My bike rides in Paris were not epically long or remarkably fast. I struggled with navigating streets that changed names more often than Lady Gaga changes costumes, trying to follow signs and directions in a language that I can barely order coffee in. But every turn of the pedals brought a smile to my face. Paris seemed impossibly dense as I first took it in, looking down from the steps of the Sacré-Coeur. But the city opened up to me as I rolled down Place de la Concorde toward the Seine, doing my best impression of the unflappable calm projected by the city’s cycling denizens.
I will never wear the maillot jaune, claim a stage victory, or stand atop the podium. But I’ll never forget riding along those same storied streets with the feeling I’d won something.
Dear reader, If you’ve made it this far, enjoy this epic final post from Keith in Denver:
If you have a short commute, as I have, two miles each way, perhaps you sometimes wonder, like I do, whether your time would be better spent traversing the distance to work on foot. The bicycle ride each way is so inconsiderable, sometimes I can’t recall even having made the trip. This is no boast, I assure you, as I don’t think myself to take the commute to work very seriously, at least, not in the “training” sense that many of my peers do. I prefer to ride lazily along and gaze at trees and buildings, waving at people I see along the way. Perhaps that is why my recollection of trips to work is always blurry, because my mind goes blank as I firmly focus on the moment and the things around me. Perhaps that is why then, one day, I decided to make a detour on my way home from work, to extend my journey. For it was on this day that I made a discovery so stupefying, had an adventure so unlikely to be believed, even by close friends (who brushed off the account as another one of my tales), that it has remained in my memory so vividly that it stands out as the only commute to or from work that I can actually remember.
It began on a December night in Denver, Colorado, where I currently reside. Being December, and being Denver, is no guarantee of wintry temperatures or snow. Nevertheless, the bike shop, in whose employ I am, truncates its hours to correspond to the waning light and waning service that is our plight during this time of year. We had just endured a warm snap of temperatures in the fifties, and when I say we, I really mean, “I”, as I am certain I am the only one in the city who found the climate to be unenjoyable. At this time my beard was quite large, indeed, and I was well prepared to wait out a long, brutal winter. My preparations hither had been for naught, but as 5:30 in the evening approached, and I applied myself to the closing of the business, I stepped outside and felt a wind from the north blow on me in such a way, I will not say it was comfortable, for at the outset it struck me like a missile from a child’s slingshot, and my brow furrowed involuntarily and my face contracted at the insult. Again, I must stress that my beard was very large, indeed, and did me a great service to this end. I would not say I was comfortable. The wind was an unfamiliar, cruel one, but I settled into a bodily equilibrium that was adequate, set my face westward, and with a resolute disposition, determined to myself that I would ride further this night to spite this northern enemy.
With bags packed, mittens snugged around my hands, and toes in the stirrups, I made revolutions toward a different route than I normally take. It was then that snow began to fall. At first, flakes of cotton floated towards the warm Earth, and seemed to me to be quite benign. As I passed one mile from my place of occupation, the cruel wind lashed out once again, and it did not let up. The snow’s composition changed in kind, became harder, not sharing the size and consistency of hail, but rather, hard and white, yet lightweight like shot. At this point my visibility was much impeded. Feeling the road’s conditions worsening, I dismounted quickly and relieved my tires of some air pressure before continuing onward. My progress was slow going, and I found myself gritting my teeth and cursing my determination to take a roundabout way home. But, I reminded myself of my task and my will was not to be broken. I rounded a corner as I adjusted my heading from due south to southwest, and I entered a neighborhood with which I was not much familiar.
Now, here I must make an aside from the story to clarify a point. It is not easy to get lost in Denver, Colorado, a city that has characteristically logical street layouts. In fact, I will say it is not easy to get lost, truly lost, in ANY city. But you must understand, that in this veritable blizzard was I, and so poor was my vision, that I had lost all sense of direction, north, south, east, or west, and were it not for gravity itself, I would nary know what was up or down, either. If you can imagine, then, a total white-washed field of view, in which the cold lashes skin like a foreman’s whip, and pedaling a trusty steel companion over who knows what curbs, rocks, rivets, roots, and all manner of things that aren’t smoothly plowed streets, then you have some sense of the debilitating blindness with which I rolled slowly forward, and you can then also understand the absurd magic that occurred next, when a gargantuan, monolithic shape loomed forth, blocking my path.
‘Twas some kind of building. But it was not a building I had ever seen before, there, or any other place in Denver, Colorado, or the world for that matter. It was a building, it seemed to me, out of place and time. It rose out of the white deluge several stories, and stacks, chimneys, or parapets, I do not know, rose even higher than the building’s considerable height. A great wall surrounded it and its campus, upon which were several smaller stone buildings, I guessed them to be perhaps servants’ barracks or quarters for the groundskeeper of this enchanted estate. Lastly, I noticed an ominous, wrought iron gate that led down a majestic path to the oaken door that I supposed to be its front, and a warm light shone from inside the building and illuminated the white territory just beyond its borders. The storm had become so fierce that I was desperate for some asylum from the abuse I was receiving. I made to circumnavigate the premises and found that the wall was unbreachable at any point. There was clearly only the single entrance or exit, although its sight frightened me as much as I was worn from the storm.
Nevertheless, I chanced an approach to the gate and called out, but heard not my voice but the roar of the wind, which swept it away. I called out again in vain, took the iron bars in my hands and shook furiously. The storm, as if in retort to my desperate anger, threw a gust of wind and snow with enough force to blow me down. I toppled off of my bicycle and landed, my face down, in the snow. I scrambled back to my feet and regained my bicycle underneath me, retreating behind a nearby hedge for protection. Looking back to that portentous castle, I could no longer see the warm glow cast by it onto the snow. I made a large circle to try to get bearings on the castle once more, but whether by the storm, some enchantment, or my own ineptitude, I could not find the castle!
I did not desire to linger long, as the cold had by now infiltrated even my mittens, and I can honestly say the only truly warm place on my body was my chin and lower cheeks, for my beard was quite large, indeed. Nevertheless, the abrupt appearance, and abrupt disappearance of this magnificent structure in the north Country Club neighborhood of Denver, Colorado, was to me quite an enigma, and I maintained some curiosity about it, wanting to understand its secrets despite the storm. But as I squinted into the white squall, I remembered my determination to ride home this way, and thought I should continue on my way, lest I become a victim of this terrible storm. I made a vow to return to the site of this apparition, turned myself toward where I imagined the west to be, and resumed my commute homeward. The storm seemed to subside the closer I got to home, and the last mile was quite clear in the sky so navigation was not a problem for me. Seeing my own house, with its own warm glow beaming through the windows, I was much relieved. I made my way inside, put some water on for tea, and immediately made an account of these bizarre events.
As happens frequently in Denver, Colorado, the cold that blew down from the north lasted only a handful of days before the snow melted, the wind warmed, and weather was, by the popular viewpoint, quite pleasant again. I several times ventured out in this clear atmosphere to the area I imagined the enchanted castle to be, but had no luck in finding it. I combed the streets up and down, systematically, hoping to once again stumble across it, but I never did. I still do take the long way home from work, but it is in the vain search for some adventure that will be memorable.