Bike builds hardly go the way I expect them too. There is always one thing that doesn’t work, or something that is missing and needed, which sends me to some parts bin, digging for something that will work. Somehow it was different this time.
The only hitch was that we got a later start than I’d hoped for, but I’m learning to let it float and not get too stressed about what I can’t control, the time someone wakes up in the morning being one of them. I’m capable of building my own rig, but I’m also slow, and sometimes its best to let someone who can move quicker take over.
Justin had mounted nearly everything, and we just needed to run the cables and set that shit up. We caught up while he cut the housing and I struggled to mount a pair of Challenge tires that were living up to their name and by twenty after one we were walking over to the carts for some food and by two we were finally on the road on our way to meet Tym.
I’d come down to Portland to pick up a new bike, built with parts from my old bike, but also to hang around, ride and remember the roads I love so much, not in some gauzey distant vision, but in a tactile manner, feeling their turns, bumps and contours.
Justin and I forged our friendship through repeated attacks on weekly rides up NW Saltzman. Sustained nearly vomit inducing big ring attacks that often left us little recourse but to lay in the patch of grass where the road meets NW Skyline and transitions back to pavement. Its now the ride we do everytime I’m in town.
We meet Tym at the NW Thurman gate to Forest Park, opting for a longer section of dirt and goat head sized chunks of rock. Strava has a record of nearly every trip through this part of Portland, but those trips are also in my legs and – if you’ll pardon the new agey dip in narrative – my heart. Portland is my spiritual home – if such a thing can exist for a person without faith – as it is the place where I was awakened to the person I can become, even if I’m not there yet. Something that never would have been discovered had I stayed in Cleveland.
It’s winter, and the road through the park is mostly mud that squishes under our tires, but doesn’t bog us down. We take turns riding at the front, never pushing to the pace, but with more effort than it will take six months from now when we are fitter.
I’ve been sitting back listening to Justin and Tym lay into each other, playful verbal attacks substituting for the two wheeled variety, I take over the pace making after the Leif – Saltzman junction. I’m not sure if the pace has upped or not but as we work our way further into the fog above Portland my upper body starts to bob with my pedal stroke. The effort is clear, and ugly, but so fucking good. Not from a stylistic standpoint. Not from a rules standpoint. But from the standpoint that I am someone out for a bike ride with his friends. There is no “do I look pro?” There is no front. Well save for a small one.
My helmet is 200 miles away, forgotten in the rush to pack and catch a bus. My hat is backwards, with the brim pointing toward the clouds, my jersey is a new wool over black shorts, and I’m on a full steel bike with my friends in tow. I feel like an old school gregario, bringing his leaders up the climb. I’m OK with that front. That feels like my role.