Humility while bicycling...
I posted this sales ad to craigslist recently for a set of cyclocross tires for sale. The post is about a biking trip I did in the fall.
Cursed 700 cc cyclocross tires from Mordor - USED once - $50 (Asheville)
These tires represent the worst bicycling mistakes of my illustrious 35+ year cycling career and I can no longer bear to have them in our house. I fear the worst - that they are cursed. I am now convinced that these tires were cast from the bowels of Mordor themselves.
My neighbor asked me if I wanted to join her on a 60 mile training ride up Mt. Pisgah linking up on FS Road 5000. There were so many reasons to do it: it would be fun to grind some gravel with her, my wife was working, I could try cyclocross on my 29er with the fork locked out to see if I liked it. All my friends have gravel grinders and love it. It seemed like such a good plan, but this idea has been the single greatest mistake of my lengthy bicycling career.
I quickly went to my local bike shop and carefully selected the Clement MXP and PDX as the optimal solution. I threw them on the counter and whipped out my credit card. "Do you need the wider tubes too?" I replied, "Won't my regular road tubes work?" He nearly succeeds in suppressing his laughter, but I see through his thin veil of judgement and he explains that when the thinner tubes are over inflated, they are more likely to puncture. "Oh that's right," I exclaim, feigning that I already knew this. So I am now down over $100.
Of course, stupidly, I tried to put the tires on my road bike. "They won't fit, but you should try," said my neighbor. "They won't fit, but you should try," said the guy at the bike shop. Guess what? THEY DIDN'T FIT. But I tried. Mind you, it's pretty hard to put on brand new road bike tires. (Despite all my riding experience, I actually never have gotten a flat while riding. I'm not counting that tumbleweed in Texas with HUGE spines on it that I hit, but that was a fluke. A really nice German guy stopped to help me change the tire and used a screw driver as a tire lever and stabbed himself in the hand. He tried to conceal the wound from his wife with his thumb and I've never seen blood spurt out quite like that. But I am trying to change a tire in the living room, not Texas, you know?) So I waste 35 minutes the night before in the sweltering heat trying the impossible. My wife asks, "Are you having some trouble there, honey?"
So then I put these tires on my 29er. Of course when I am "done" I notice the directional arrows that I ignored and immediately imagine the front tire disintegrating on a 55 MPH Parkway decent that leaves me paralyzed but capable of having the thought "Why didn't I switch the tires after I saw the directional arrows?" So I spend another 30 minutes switching the tires on the 29er.
It may not sound like this, but I'm not a noob. I have done three large rides of over 500 miles unsupported in my years. I have done century rides on consecutive days hauling 70+ pounds. As a teenager, I rode up Mount Mitchell every year. I draft. My road bike is a 1984 Tomasso (not a Tommasini, mind you) with Campagnolo Super Record , down-tube shifters, a double ring, and Columbus steel tubing. I judge the triple ringers, but only slightly. I love road and mountain biking and am in better-than-average physical condition for a 39-year old male. On every ride, I eat a balanced diet and only bonked once. (That was in Texas also, but there were extenuating circumstances.)
So the next day we begin to ride up the Mt. Pisgah highway. I think it climbs about 4000 feet in 10 miles. I know what you're thinking. That's the exact same slope as Mount Doom. I felt good at the beginning, but the tires felt heavy. I tried to keep up with our neighbor, a woman 15 years my junior, but couldn't do it. "Are you drinking enough water?" she chirped, as she sped off. I was alone for a bit in the middle of the ascent, but then began to hear some other riders coming up behind me. It's ok, I told myself. They have carbon fiber. And more spandex. No problem. It's a hard climb. We were cordial in conversation and I rode faster with them, but when the road got steeper, I was dropped. At this point, my goal was to maintain airspeed and avoid a stall. But then I heard another rider gaining on me. YES I thought. Someone to help me. A motivator. It was Mike. He said he was an educator. I asked where. He said at the school of life. Mike was wearing blue jeans and demoing a bike from Goodwill in Candler until noon. I wanted to cry.
Somehow, I made to Mt. Pisgah. There our neighbor continued on and I lay in the grass and took a nap. I had to ride home before we even got to FS 5000, so I didn't even use these tires on the stupid gravel, for which I bought them.
I look at these tires and see so many things. Perhaps you will buy them from me? Please? When I look at them I see:
- Clement 700 cc cyclocross tires
- the nubs that aren't even worn off
- my looming 40th birthday
- high quality rubber
- my own ineptitude
- a curse
- less than 40 miles of wear
In case the tubes are cursed, I am also including them.
Of interest to me and hopefully at least one other person