one day you wake up and you’re gay
June 3, 2006
When I first got into biking (we didn’t start calling it “cycling” until much later, we were way too grungy for that), I called road bikes “10 speeds” and thought of them as something kids used. I’d had a Fuji 10 speed as a teenager back in Minnesota, and used it to ride to work bagging groceries at Super Value and for my daily commute to the local park to play basketball.
I started riding for real around 1990, during the beginning of the American golden years, with Ned Overend, Julie Furtado, and Tinker Juarez. Yes, I know those people aren’t dead yet, and even still compete, but at the time they were the only names I knew in the professional cycling world. Lance Armstrong was a name some guys in the shop would mention, but usually only to say what a jackass he was and how he was all talent but no brains. But those dirt riders . . . well, let’s just say I almost named my first child Julie and my next two kids Ned and Tinker. I didn’t, but I thought about it.
You know how some people have lists of “possibles” or “exceptions?” As in, a list of famous people, where if you could, you know, have or do them, no repercussions, you would? My list in the early 90s began and ended with Julie Furtado. And no, I don’t have any Star Wars toys still in the box.
But the thing is, all the riding I did for the first half decade or so was on dirt. One guy in Provo who sometimes hung out at the shop (the shop went through some iterations, from Highlander, to Gourmet, to Franks, but it was the only shop I knew that had a “lunch” crowd, and regular time trials and derbys during the day, out in the aisles.), what was his name? He made pottery. Anyway, I remember once heading out for a ride and asking him if he wanted to come. He said he didn’t ride dirt, just road. He might as well have told me he was a mermaid. He did do pottery, after all.
Russel Wrankle, that was his name. Anyway, he said he hated having to drive to a ride, and on the road, he could just start riding from wherever he was. But to me, that just meant he rode more crap. Starting from home is just that much more crap, if it’s on the road. See, I used to ride any and all dirt. Buff and banked, rough and off camber, washboard, stunts, whatever. I just loved dirt. We would finish a trail that had been nothing but baby head rocks and 6-inch deep dust, and I would whoop and holler and say “that was just super, really, just super.” I actually bought a t-shirt from that store in Moab, that just sold red dirty t-shirts.
Do you see where this is going? You do, right? I now ride 80 or 90 percent of the time on the road, I shave my legs because I like how they look shaved, and I love the idea of just getting on my bike and riding out the driveway. And I don’t really want to ride dirt unless it’s primo dirt. I still ride about once a week on the dirt, but rarely alone, because dirt seems to me to be about riding with buddies. I mean, I like riding with people on the road too, but, well, I’m babbling now, aren’t I? Let’s just move on.
The very first road ride I ever went on was the Alpine Loop in Provo, 40 miles, 4,000 feet of vertical. I was on Jeremy’s light green Bianchi, with Mavic ZAP shifting. I LOVED it. You put your head down and climb hard until blood comes out your ears, and on the downhill, you get over 50 mph, pass cars, and get a rush that just doesn’t come on dirt. I bought a road bike very soon after that, did some local crits, and maybe a century or two here and there.
The transition has been long and slow. In fact, it only really occurred to me this morning that I was a roadie first, a mountain biker second. You know. As in “Letting the days go by . . . This is not my beautiful wife . . . How did I get here?”
But one day you wake up, and you know how to how tall Bettini is, and you’re surprised to find out Michael Rasmussen and Cadel Evans used to race on the dirt. I’m not sure how to feel about all this. Remember when Lance Armstrong was going to race some dirt for Trek? I was all excited, thinking, he’s going to be like one of “us.” Well now I think of him racing on dirt as being like one of “them.”
I will now light myself on fire.
But not until I get back from my lunch ride with Brad. We’re riding from Hogle Zoo, up Emigration Canyon, down to Little Dell, and up East Canyon and back. It’s my favorite ride in Salt Lake. I love the road. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.