Apr 2, 2009

I Saw a High Wheel Bicycle!

Riding High

I was on my lunch break, about to cross Sutter Street at Kearney, when I spotted him- it was a guy with a high wheel bike! Now the only high wheel bike I'd ever seen in person wasn't even a real bike. It was just the high wheel bike sculpture in Davis, CA- my old college town and bike capital of the nation.

The guy wasn't riding the bike, but he was wearing a helmet, so I know that at some point he was going to ride it. It was really beautiful and authentic, painted black with a leather saddle. It was a moment where I once again realized I need to carry a cheap digital camera at all times, or maybe finally get an iPhone.

I wanted to catch up with this man, and ask him all the obvious why? and how? questions, but somehow he disappeared into the crowd ahead of me. How you can disappear while walking with a high wheel bike is beyond me, but he did.

Man atop a high wheel bicycle, sporting a handlebar moustache
(not to be confused with
moustache handlebars)
TIME Magazine archives

Vintage Racing

The sight of the high wheel bike got me thinking about the early days of bike racing. We may cringe at the idea of today's pro cyclists and their doping scandals... but drugs have been part of the sport since its onset. I am in no way advocating this, but it is a surprising fact. How else did those guys stay awake for six-day races in the velodrome? It wasn't about electrolyte supplements- it was about coffee laced with cocaine.

Below are photos from the Tour de France circa 1920s. Don't try this at home.

Sharing a smoke on the way to the Champs-Élysées

Stopping for a pint

The Three Bears

So I should write about last Saturday's ride. It was The Three Bears plus some extra mileage and a short climb up Rheem Boulevard in Orinda. I actually handled this ride well, and the weather was spectacular- warm enough to ride sans arm-warmers. I was even wishing I had worn shorts.

But, there was one thing- I had some digestive issues for most of the ride. I think it started the night before, and continued to the morning. It's something similar to Runner's Trots, which I will not get into here (but you can click on the link if you're curious). Just the name sounds gross, so you can only imagine. In any case, I had stomach cramping and vague nausea for the first half of the ride, and thankfully this dissipated by the time I had to climb The Bears.

The Three Bears are so named because they are three moderately difficult hills along Bear Creek Road. First there's Mama Bear, more of a straight, gradual climb. Then there is baby bear. There are arguably two small hills after Mama, and it's debatable as to which one is Baby. In any case it's a short climb that's not too severe. Papa Bear is last, and is the most steep at about a 7% grade. The descent off Papa can get really fast, and I had to feather my brakes the whole way. Against popular opinion, I find Papa Bear easier than Mama. Maybe it's because I'm already warmed up by the time I climb it?

Finally, just to rub salt in the wounds, there is a little menace of a hill called Goldilocks. You have to make quick-and-dirty work of this 9% grade bump in the road.

If there was a lesson to be learned on this ride, it is the importance of treating my body well and carefully watching what I eat. There is nothing worse than stomach discomfort paired with physical exertion. Your body just can't perform as it should.

A flat part of Bear Creek Road
from http://www.inl.org/bicycle/routes.html#bearcreek

1 comment:

  1. I miss the bears. I should visit them soon.