June 23, 2011


22. naked bike ride

so. this is the second year the world naked bike ride has appeared on my birthday list. last year, two things complicated the item's completion: 1. I spent the whole day at a horse show, and didn't get home until about an hour before the ride; and 2. I didn't have a bike. I could have borrowed one from Scott, but I just wasn't that motivated to go.

I have a personal philosophy that an item can't go on the list more than twice (I don't even like to put them on the list that second time) so I was pretty hell-bent on making the ride this year. plus, I've been cycling more, and I have my own bike with its own cushy gel seat.

saturday was kind of a bike-related clusterfuck. on friday, I intended on biking over to the shop where I'd dropped my car the day before, and then potentially spending the day biking around. I spent a great deal of time loading my rack trunk with all the necessary items, but discovered as I began wheeling the bike out the door that it had ANOTHER FLAT. frustrated beyond belief, I instead had to walk the four miles to the mechanic.

on saturday, I asked scott if he'd help me with the bike, since he's been cycling for most of his life and has a crapton more experience than I do with bike maintenance. he suggested that it was likely that whatever caused my first flat probably was still stuck in the tire and therefore had caused the second. I decided to see if I could puzzle it out and to get his help if I needed it. I stripped the tire back off, took the tube out, and inflated it. when the leak didn't make itself known right away, I filled the bathtub and stuck the tube in it. the leak was a pinhole at about the 7:00 position on the tube. when I compared the tube to the tire, I discovered a TINY EFFING THORN still embedded in the tread. victory!

also, frustration. A THORN? seriously? man up, bike.

so, I pulled the thorn and took a photo of it for posterity.

then I changed the tube, put the wheel back on the bike, and inflated it. I had checked prior to inflation to make sure none of the tube was sticking out from beneath the tire, but unfortunately I'm a noob at these things, and did not think to check during the pumping process. I hit the right PSI, uncapped the pump, and screwed the valve. then I went to spin the wheel to make sure it was in correctly, only to find that it stuck in one place. I went around to the hub side of the tire and discovered that the now fully-inflated tube was sticking out of roughly 20% of that side of the wheel. just as I thought "oh god, gotta unscrew the valve," the thing exploded in my face. I was close enough to it that the powder it was coated in sprayed the lenses of my glasses.

then I went and cried in the bathroom for ten minutes.

after that I had one remaining spare tube, and abandoned the notion of changing the tire myself. when scott got home I asked him to do it. then the pump was acting squirrely. we tried a CO2 pump, which wasn't working properly. we couldn't find a hand pump. my hand pump is missing a valve adapter. finally, we unearthed a working CO2 pump and pumped the tire up enough that I could ride to the meeting site. we figured we'd borrow somebody's pump when we got there and finish the job.

we biked through downtown to get there, which for me was a harrowing experience, seeing as how I am still getting accustomed to sharing the road with cars. and it was dark. and my tire was squishy. when we got there, we found some guys with a pump (they weren't yet naked) and started inflating the tire. immediately scott made a sad face. the valve had punctured the tube and I had YET ANOTHER flat.

we hobbled the bike over to a fence and tried to work out what to do. scott made his way into the crowd in hopes of finding someone who would give me a spare tube, but eventually it was clear that I was stuck with my flat. it was nearing 10 PM and most of the crowd, by this point, was naked. I was standing with my bike leaning up against a fence, crying. it was the culmination of what had been a trying few days with my bike. i could have hurled it into the willamette.

eventually, they set off without us. we began the trudge back home. scott offered to let me take his bike, and to walk my bike home so that I could go on the ride (he came along more to share the experience with me than because he particularly cared about bike riding naked). I couldn't take him up on the offer because we didn't have a backpack, so riding his bike would mean having to ride back to his place naked, alone, at the end of the ride. at 11 or 12 at night.

about half a mile back I was still really despondent and was beginning to think I might consider riding back naked, which is technically not a crime. he suggested that we could walk back home, grab his other bike, and meet up with the crowd. so we began power-walking through the crowd. at one point, my rack fell off the back of the bike. I had to just grab it and keep going.

by the time we got back to scott's, the group had already crossed back over to the east side of town. I had an idea of the route from last year, but there was no guarantee that the ride would follow the same path, and this year's route hadn't been posted. we swapped bikes. have I mentioned that I've never before, ever, in all my life, been on a road bike? scott has three bikes: all road bikes. but, you know, whatever. I had scott adjust the seat all the way down -- it was a "boys" frame (straight top tube) and I've also never ridden one of those, so I wanted to know I could put my feet down if I needed to.

we took the bikes downstairs and began chasing the ride. I struggled to figure out how the hell you ride a road bike. goddamn, people, you lean so far over! the pedals had toe clips, which I was both too afraid and too inept to use -- I was afraid to have my feet attached to the pedals, and I also couldn't keep the pedals rotated long enough to get my feet in them. so I just pedaled with the clips hanging upside down.

we couldn't agree on which route to take and ended up following what we believed to be directly behind the ride, which was my idea -- the reasoning being that the riders couldn't be going THAT fast and we could likely catch up. we crossed the river on THE SCARIEST OF ALL BRIDGES and then cut eastward, hoping we'd ride up alongside them. we biked all the way to 39th -- where the ride turned southward last year -- but still didn't find them. then we had to bike along the sidewalks of 39th for blocks and blocks. there was no sign of them anywhere. traffic was proceeding as normal. occasionally we'd pass another cyclist and I'd call, "see any naked people?" but nobody answered in the affirmative.

we cut back westward and finally, about a mile from the start, I spotted the flashing police lights that were, with any luck, the same lights that were trailing the parade of riders. we cut over to hawthorne, and then biked like mad down the hill in hopes of catching them. but we were stuck in the regular traffic that had been clogged behind the closed course, and had to follow normal traffic patterns.

in the end, despite our best efforts, we reached the ride only after it had pulled into the finish. in frustration, I took off my shirt in the middle of the road, so I could at least say I was naked, momentarily, at the naked bike ride.

I am reluctant to call this item complete, since I didn't actually ride in the event and since I still REALLY want to do it (and am REALLY sad at how things went down). but since we sincerely could not have tried harder to get there -- and did, in fact, at least GET there -- I'm going to cross it off, with an asterisk. it probably won't go back on the birthday list, but it's still on my heart's list of things to do.

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