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Saturday, February 04, 2012

Super Fly

I fucked up not putting on my rain suit.

Generally, the thing makes you decide between being hot and wet or cold and wet. Mostly you have time to decide 'hot' when it actually starts to rain.

Today, as I left the house, it was thundering but the pavement was dry. About half way across Kansas Avenue, the skies opened up in an Old Testament way.

I was instantly soaked, and the rain suit doesn't do much good when you're already a drowned Mardi Gras float. Cold, wet weather is the one kind I don't really enjoy riding in, so I decided to try catching a Max.

I pass Max stops on my bike all the time, and they have a little display telling you when the next bus will arrive. Problem is, a lot of the time those arrivals are forecast to be over twenty minutes out. An express bus is definitely an improvement over traditional routes that stop block or two, but I can typically match the pace of these lumbering behemoths by just riding at a steady ten miles per hour.

As I settled in, I realized I felt like I was on vacation. When I visit New York or Chicago I don't even think about cars or cabs, I just get a pass for the transit and go. Especially in a place like Manhattan, you're not going to get anywhere significantly faster than with the bus because the taxis are all stuck behind buses. Since I haven't ridden the bus here much in the past twenty years, that jostling ride in the company of strangers has strong leisure associations for me.

This was only my second time putting my bike in the ridiculous bike-on-bus racks. They don't look that secure to me, and I had all kinds of anxiety the first time I put my bike on one. But surely I'd have heard of it if lots of people's bikes were flying off.

Then, on Brookside Boulevard, I heard people saying, 'Whoah!' and 'Wow' and looked up to see my bike sail up in front of the windshield and disappear for a split second before reappearing to land about 30 feet in front of where the bus came to a stop.

I was too freaked out by this to even get mad. A part of me didn't really believe I had just seen my bike describe a parabola as tall as a city bus. I just picked up the bike and re-loaded it, asking the bus driver if there as some step I had forgotten.

No he said, I was loading it right. How often does this happen, I I asked.

He said it was the first he'd ever seen it happen. He thought maybe the wind had caught it, but the panniers weren't on it, and it's a steel frame bike. I think what caught it was a perfect combination of inertia as the bus came to a stop and the road dipped abruptly.

I was also too freaked out to notice that I'd lost a couple of flashers and the AAA batteries from a flasher that managed to stay on the bike. Probably $30 or so worth of lights and batteries, so that sucks hard. And I couldn't tell for sure if anything else on the bike was compromised, but it's high time I get that Surley frameset fleshed out anyway.

I don't think I ever really blogged about that frameset; it was a real find Corinna made at a swap meet, a lightly used 2007 Long Haul Trucker frame and fork for less than a third of what they cost new. It's my size, the fork us uncut, it's exactly what I wanted to replace the bent Diamondback I've been pushing my luck on the past fifteen months or so.

I've got a great crank to go with it, a Sugino XD2, 24-36-48; I've got some parts on the Foolkiller that can come over. That's more than a slight upgrade from what I've been riding, and that's part of why I haven't finished building the bike.

Having my bottom bracket cup fail on the way home, stranding me about half way between work and home (that was the first time I put my bike on the rack of a Max) I decided I was fed up with crappy worn-out components. Like the plastic cups most bottom brackets are retained with. Which doesn't mean I have the budget to do Phil Woods bottom bracket and retaining rings, which are about as bomb-proof as things get—but cost as much as I paid for the frameset.

It's probably time to just finish the build with whatever parts I can get. It's still an upgrade from what I'm riding and I still love my Diamondback so much I photograph it on occasion. If it didn't have a bent frame (from when I ate a grate, not from flying off the Max), I wouldn't even be thinking about retiring it.

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