Ride Report: The One Where My Bike Decides that the Gutter is a Good Place to Be

Tuesday, September 13, 2011 |

It was a beautiful summer day and my boyfriend and I had just finished building up my new road bike, Moon Flower, the Hippy Love Child Bike ("love child" because she was the product of my vision and Boyfriend's mechanical abilities, i.e. he did everything). We decided it would be unjust not to go for a ride, so I slathered on some sunscreen, we grabbed some Clif bars and water, and we were off.

Moon Flower is my first road bike, one that we have practically brought back from the grave. Back when we were still looking for a touring bike for me there weren't many (affordable) options that included all the necessary braze-ons and such -- until we encountered this 1988 Schwinn Voyageur (the year I was born -- it must be fate!). After we bought it and I rode it around for a while, I knew in the back of my mind that it was much too big for me, but it seemed that I could make it work somehow. So we got it powdercoated and added different components to try to make it fit. The result was a beautiful bike that intrigued and inspired me to ride fast and far.
Look how fast I go! You can't even see me.

It was a very nice change from my Raleigh -- to be able to climb hills (or rather, in the Land of No Hills, overpasses) and have a decent range of gears to choose from. It was especially fun to pretend I had any ability to go fast. One thing, though, that was supremely different than the Raleigh was that it was much harder to navigate traffic on it. The brake hoods felt a mile away, and the new (old) 45mm stem I put on it made the bike twitch if I even thought about moving. Luckily, our time amongst the cars was not long on this ride.

We eventually found a bike path that we had heard about but never ridden, the San Gabriel River Trail. As the name would suggest, the trail runs along the San Gabriel River all the way to Seal Beach, and goes an impressive ways inland in the other direction. It's not always the most scenic trail in the world. The extent of development along the river had led to it being restrained by a concrete flood control channel. Otherwise, the natural process of the river "snaking" along the landscape and flooding each winter would effect the surrounding development. The Control of Nature by John McPhee is a great book on this subject, and we won't go into my feelings on it right now.

We passed the Long Beach Water Treatment Plant along the trail. The combination of the Fallout: New Vegas-like surroundings and the pipes pouring green foamy liquid into the river made for a strange scene. Contrastingly, an adjacent portion of the river featured palm and willow trees working their way through the concrete and bright white storks flying between them.
It wasn't long before we reached the ocean. Even though I live so close to it I am amazed every time I see the ocean and smell the air.
The trail ends at the aptly named River's End restaurant, a spot my family and I had gone to before. It felt different getting there by bike, a bigger sense of accomplishment ("My muscles brought me here! My muscles!").
After dipping our feet for a while in the extremely warm water we turned back. On the return trip I felt a supreme lack of energy, though I trucked on as fast as I could as I didn't want to slow down Boyfriend (though in reality he doesn't mind at all, I still feel bad for being The Slow One). I could tell that my seat wasn't adjusted right and was putting a lot of pressure were there shouldn't be. My hands hurt, despite the biking gloves I was wearing, and it was a struggle to keep them on the tops of the handlebars, let alone the hoods. My neck was sore from keeping my head up.

We eventually got off the trail and were about to enter an area with traffic. I took one last opportunity to stretch my neck out. In the back of my mind I knew that I was taking a little bit too long to stretch, and that I was headed in a direction that may not be best if I was at all interested in staying upright. But my neck hurt so much and just needed a little bit more time to stretch -- and before I knew it I hit the curb and was on the sidewalk.

I quickly got up. Nothing hurt too bad -- and then I saw Boyfriend's surprised face and the blood running down my leg. I started to cry -- not from pain, but the shock of falling off my bike. We sat on the curb and he poured some water on my wound. I found more than a few bruises already starting to form.
There was a fire station right across the street and we decided to see if they had any hydrogen peroxide or the like to clean out the cut on my leg. We found a nice, and slightly confused, firefighter who let me rinse out my cut in the bathroom. He seemed less than impressed by my wounds, and explained that he got a similar gash from his mountain bike pedals on a ride once.

After we thanked him and left, we got back on the bikes. I felt an adrenaline rush from the crash and entered traffic with a renewed energy boost (nothing like gouging out your leg to wake you up!). We made it home, cleaned out my wounds once more, and showed off my cuts & bruises to my family.
This is from a second crash a week later, but you get the general idea.

I felt super hard-core to have taken my first spill on a bike and survived. Of course, I didn't know that I would crash again a week later on Moon Flower, leaving me couch-ridden with a sprained ankle and some serious road rash, but for then I was one bad-ass biker.


G.E. said...

I love the name of your bike! It makes me smile just reading it.

I've also been there on the "too big" bike rides. My neck was always killing me too. I really loved the bike (despite it's ugliness to most), but ultimately, had to let it go because I was tired of being in pain (mine was a mid-70s Raleigh Super Course). I hope you're able to find a way to make it work.

Also, I couldn't help but appreciate your statement: "Even though I live so close to it I am amazed every time I see the ocean and smell the air." When we visited Cali this past summer, I was reminded of all the smells I was so used to when living there. The beach has a wonderful smell (at least I think so), and I miss it horribly. I also miss smelling fruit in the grocery store. Because everything is shipped frozen here, we don't get those wonderful smells.

Hope your wounds heal quickly!

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