Reason Not the Need

It all happened so fast.

When it finally happened.  For weeks we have been discussing our own “pandemic cleanup” instincts.  We identified a few items of furniture: a tray table, a child crib used by grandkids who are now going on 14 and 12, and some of the bikes in our garage.

Twin tube bike like Jane’s

Of the latter, I’ve heard it quipped that the correct number of bikes to own is one fewer than will cause a divorce.  In that case, it’s the number 5 in our marriage.  And Jane also had her own bike—entirely unused for more than a decade—hanging on the garage wall.  It was an old style frame that she’d had since childhood, a nice red “girl’s bike,” meaning it had clearance for a skirt, which it was assumed that any female would want to wear while cycling.  The “diagonal tube” was not a single tube at all, but two thin tubes that split to go on either side of the seat tube and converge with the seat stays and chainstays to support the rear axle.  The gears were shifted by two levers on the handlebar stem.



Bianchi Squadra, how I fell in love with thin tires

As for my bikes, I gave up riding anything except the Jamis Coda Comp after my prostate cancer in 2015.  I had put on enough weight to make riding the Trek 2.1 problematic, as well as the old classic Bianchi Squadra, a beautiful pink road bike of Andrew’s painted to match the leader’s jersey of the Giro d’Italia.  The Trek and the Bianchi may have become off-limits at present, but they are keepers.  My own older bikes, a Fuji SE and a Specialized Hardrock, had seen many miles of road in the years I’ve had them (1995 for the Specialized and 2003 for the Fuji).  I estimate that I logged a total of at least 15,000 miles on them, and aside from the Bianchi they were my only rides until the Jamis (2004) and Trek (2009).  I later tried fixing up the Specialized as a “commuter bike” to run errands and go shopping, but that usage never became a steady part of my riding habits.  But the Specialized and Fuji were old friends.  Upright posture, steady handling; in my younger days, when I was 55 or so, I could on occasion wring out a 16 mph ride to Herndon and back on the Specialized.  Old friends, in their relative klunkiness they absorbed a lot of sweat and strenuous effort, and got me ready to fall in love with thin tires when I inherited the Bianchi.


Fuji SE, old friend now departed.

But no 81-year-old who seldom gets on any bike anymore needs five bikes.  And when our newest ride, a 2019 Audi A6, came on the scene, the bike rack on that side of the garage made parking precarious.  So the discussion was about which bikes to jettison.  Jane’s, the Fuji, and the Specialized drew short straws, as did the motley collection of backup wheels, tubes and tires hanging on the bike racks.  But that was idle “some day” talk.  After checking haul-away prices, we tried to give away the furniture: the old, weathered, but elegant colonial tray table, my parents’ double bed for the last 13 years of their marriage with antique posts and old-wood headboard, the newish and lightly used crib.  No takers.  And I mean NO takers.  Not in the NextDoor neighborhood website.  Not by the curb with a “FREE for the taking” sign.

And then this week the electric lawn mower died.  The on/off switch, precariously linked to an orange handle that had to be held in, started cutting out in mid-mow, thanks in part to the fact that the silly fragile plastic handle broke and had to be taped together to make the machine run at all.

The new Black and Decker 20” electric mower was ordered Monday from Home Depot, and delivered free by FedEx so quietly on Thursday that only a text message told us that it was in front of the garage door.  No tools needed for assembly, except a box cutter to cut the carton for a rollout.  And so yesterday morning we folded up the old mower and put it by the curb with the trash.  Having done some research we realized it might not get taken away; the trash company, in an apparent conflict of interest, also runs a trash hauling service, and for $225 and up they will haul off a number of items.  Used to be they’d do a special pickup of one item for $35, but no more.  So when they passed by and left not only an empty barrel but a dead Homelite mower, we knew the time had come.  Most junk haulers will not give a quote or define their rates online, so we expected some phoning would be necessary.  Yet shortly after leaving our info online with a local referral service, we got a call.  The guy wanted a relatively reasonable price for the whole lot: crib, bed frame, mower, three bikes.  And he could be there in 35 minutes!  Crisis!  But no doubt we’d facilitate his schedule.  We pulled the bed out of the basement so he wouldn’t have to go in the house, put everything else out front, and then I raced off to the grocery store because it was the window of time to pick up our order.  When I got back less than 15 minutes later, the truck was in the driveway loaded and ready to leave.  About five sentences of pleasantries, in which the hauler said they were nice bikes and I agreed, saying just new tire tubes and de-rusted and re-oiled chains would make them fine again, and then our erstwhile possessions had been hauled away.

From first online inquiry to completion of the transaction had taken less than two hours.  No time to get sentimental or have second thoughts.  And I am glad that now all five of our rides—the Trek, the Bianchi, the Jamis, the A6, and the A3—have ample spaces of their own.

But it’s the abrupt end of an era.

©Arnold J. Bradford, 2020


Tour de France: Courage and Respect?

Egan Bernal is a young Colombian cyclist who won the 2019 Tour de France at the age of 22.  This year, however, he dropped out of the Tour, immediately before the beginning of yesterday’s most difficult “Queen Stage” 17, from Grenoble to Méribel Col de Loze, featuring an uphill finishing climb of over 20 km, with some sections near the end rising above a cruel 20% grade.  Bernal came into the Tour with a bad back, but was nevertheless designated by his team, Ineos, as their primary contender for overall victory.  The team had designated two former Tour winners, Geraint Thomas and Chris Froome, to the Giro d’Italia (begins October 3) and Vuelta a España (begins October 20) respectively.  When he left he was in 16th place, trailing the race leader, Primoz Roglic, by 19 minutes and 4 seconds.

Bernal won last year’s Tour on a kind of fluke.  He was among the contenders for overall victory at the beginning of Stage 19, a route with a big climb in the middle and an uphill finish.  He attacked on the big climb and was leading the race on the descent when it was neutralized.  In the valley between the big climb and the finishing uphill route, heavy hail and rain had produced landslides that made the road impassible.  All riders were assigned times for the stage based on their position at the time the race was neutralized.  So Bernal vaulted into first place overall and did not lose ground on the single remaining contested stage of the race.  Typically, had the neutralized stage been continued, he would have been attacked on the final climb by other contenders who were saving their strength for the final push.  That is what actually happened yesterday on a very similar route; the breakaway leaders were caught and passed on the last uphill by the group of strongest riders.

Egan Bernal

Egan Bernal Riding the Tour de France

Bernal’s back injury this year is not to be trifled with.  He went to the Tour to see how well he could hold up, and he found out he couldn’t.  But the question of whether he should have pulled out remains.  Despite his protests to the contrary, it shows a certain disrespect for the race.  The attitude conveyed is that since Bernal was no longer a contender for overall victory, his presence didn’t matter.  He had better things to do, namely prepare himself to win one or two remaining races this year, perhaps even one of the remaining major Tours.  Why struggle at the rear of the race (dubbed the “autobus” and consisting of sprinters and others not in overall contention)?  Why be there to assist teammates?  It’s somewhat reminiscent of the attitude of erstwhile champion sprinter Mario Cipollini, who would win three or four sprints during the first week of the Tour and then pull out before the mountain stages began.  “Altitude sickness,” as it was sardonically called.  He used the Tour, and provided both sprint skills and a flashy personality, but never once finished it.  He’s still seen more as a flashy rider than a great Tour champion.

So Bernal’s now 23 years old, and he already has a compromised relationship with the Tour.  First he won on a fluke with a neutralized stage, and now he and his team have pulled him out early.  He has yet to complete a full Tour de France, and he has yet to win a regular Tour while racing against the best in the world.  Let’s hope that next year he can demonstrate who he really is, for better or for worse.

©Arnold Bradford, 2020.