But as I surveyed my stable of 73 bicycles (it's more of a hoard, but "stable" sounds nicer), I realized that I did not own a single gravel-specific bike. How could I possibly complete a ride that included some gravel without a gravel bike? Upon realizing this, I cried despondently in my garage for a couple of hours, underneath the tennis ball that tells me when to stop driving forward. (On a side note, I can't tell you how many garages I ruined before installing that ball).
After I was all cried out, I returned to my bicycle hoard in hopes of finding a suitable bike for this ride. But which bike? My commuter with the cyclocross tires?
|Yeah, it's pink.|
So what about the rigid 29er?
Now to the uninitiated, the above may seem like they are all bikes and one might be as good as the other. But you guys get me, right?
Ultimately, my eyes settled on my "son's" bike. It's a cyclocross bike, set up for road riding. I mean, clearly the bottom bracket is too high, and the brakes aren't discs, but I was willing to stomach the embarrassment. With a few tweaks, I might be able to ride on gravel without dissolving into dust. And really, what's better than a long ride on a bike with recently swapped mechanics? What could go wrong?
So, I pulled the bike off the hook and started changing stuff. I swapped the wheelset to fit bigger tires and put a 42 on the front.
|The only thing I can see in this picture is the rusty cable retaining bolt. Excuse me while I go out to the garage for a minute.|
|Of course, after this photo, I retaped the bars and swapped the saddle for good measure.|
|Peter, proving that he's my kind of people. Photos courtesy of Athens Bicycle here.|
|Peter demonstrates the use of jersey pockets while Joey surveys the crowd|
|Joey demonstrating the proper way to lift a cat.|
There were a lot of riders, over 100 in all.
|That's me in the blue|
Can you spot all the COMBO members in these pictures?
And then we were off. I was out front early, feeling cheerful that I was so easily climbing the first hill, unlike the poor, misguided masses who were riding mountain bikes (really, everyone else - why am I the only one who gets it?).
And, of course, within the first half mile, I flatted. The back tire got a "snakebite" flat, which isn't really due to snakes. Fortunately, Peter and Joey were sweeping from behind, and my friends circled back for me, so pretty soon, there were like 10 guys circling my bike, mini pumps in hand (whatever image that conjures up for you is your own issue).
On a side note, have you ever had too many bike mechanics on hand? I have repaired many, many flats in my life, but in this case, I just stood by and watched (same).
But when we got the wheel back on, the tire had a small runout, where it didn't seat properly in the rim. And remember, I had zero clearance left.
|Zero clearance, Clarence.|
Later, I let some air out of the tire and rode that way for a little while. Seemed to seat the tire better, and the buzz was reduced to a low intermittent hum. I rejoined my group, like an old Eskimo that the village had hoped never to see again.
We rode on for a ways, chatting and generally enjoying the hills and sunshine until we reached the start of the mountain bike race.
|I showed up, eventually|
Le Mans start (it's French for "the mens"), meaning that you left your bike on the ground and ran for it at the whistle. Given my overall lack of fitness and fortitude, I decided (along with a few others) to wait by the downhill end of the "the mans" start, to see whether there woule be any good NASCAR style crashes. (If you ain't rubbin', you ain't racin'!) There weren't.
So, I mounted my now-inappropriate cyclocross bike and joined the mountian bike race already in progress. I only crashed once!
|The bruise on my knee proves I'm a badass.|
When we reached the end of the mountain bike race, there was an assortment of awesomeness awaiting us, including sandwich fixings, chips and salsa, cookies and candy, and most importantly:
All in all, an amazing ride with good company, good food, and good beer. What else can a man ask for?
Your beer pairing for this ride:
|Jackie O's Hop Ryot|
Jackie O's Hop Ryot. This is a rye malt IPA. The rye malt makes it smooter, almost creamier than most IPAs, despite the hops load. Smooth, not bitter. Floral finish. Just the perfect thing for those early Spring sunshiney days!
Also, I love Jackie O's. This is a older brewery that has survived and is now riding the wave of craft beers to new levels of success. We can finally get Jackie O's in Columbus! Good on ya!