Rules of the road

I could feel the brush of the bumper against my left leg. The motor’s buzz overwhelmed my ears. And the car’s silver hood briefly flashed in my eye before it came rushing by my side. My road bike suddenly felt flimsy next to the fast moving vehicle, and a yell escaped my throat as I pushed the skinny tire onto the loose gravel of the shoulder. Struggling to keep my beloved carbon frame upright and fearing damage to it as much as myself, I briefly glanced up, looked into the passenger side window and had the biggest shock of the entire experience.

A most familiar form sat behind the wheel of the rogue automobile. There, undeniably, was the woman who had committed to have and to hold, in sickness and in health, through long disappearances on roads, slickrock and singletrack, misguided cycling vacations and endless acquisition of parts labeled Shimano andCampagnolo, ‘til death do us part.

With single-minded determination, my wife pushed the car forward, never giving her wedded husband a glance as he struggled on the brink of two-wheeled disaster. Through the back window, I caught a glimpse of my three-year-old daughter, Skyler, waving with a wide grin splitting her face. Through the tint, she seemed to mouth, “Bye, bye Daddy,” as the car zipped down the road. I grabbed the brakes and skidded to a halt.

“Wow, I must be really deep in the dog house,” I mumbled to myself, certain that the new cyclocross bike I had yet to confess to Rachael had shown up in my absence.

Luckily, my secret was still safe after I’d completed the loop and returned home. I stood by, completely stunned, as Rachael walked up and planted a large hug around my waist. “How was your ride?” she asked tenderly. Skyler giggled in the corner. My daughter had been the only one to actually witness my moment of terror. My wife had never even seen me.

I spend a lot of time on the backs of my three bikes. Just ask my two saddle sores–Lenny and Harpo (named after comic greats on the off-chance I might get a laugh out of them someday). These two twins are partly a product of riding 10 to 12 miles back and forth from the house to downtown, usually clad in Carhartt canvas. I’ve observed this ritual at least four days a week, every week for the past three years. On Fridays, I reap the benefits of editing a weekly paper and am usually putting a polish on Harpo and

Lenny with long miles on singletrack. The skinny tires give the pair their final long work-out at least once a week. This circle repeats itself ad infinitum.

I love riding, but also give thanks to the universe for seeing fit to supply mankind with telemarking, skate skiing, flyfishing and the peculiar game of golf (even though I shudder at the thought that I’ve developed this cruel addiction). The combination keeps things mildly interesting.

Anyway, during those many long moments off the golf course and in the saddle, I’ve experienced true ecstasy, honest agony and more than several close calls with cars. Large dumptrucks, Winnebagos, a school bus, a Cadillac Eldorado, Porsche 911s and my own car have all made attempts to “share the road” and its shoulder with me. Prior to the recent close encounter with my family, I approached this struggle between piston and pedal with a cavalier attitude, too easily breaking out the loud voice and at least one of my fingers during those desperately close moments.

What Rachael and Skyler taught me that day was something a friend had tried to share with me years earlier. “Cyclists need to remember that they are extremely small,” he said sagely.

With only a few exceptions, including the beer bottle I once caught between the shoulder blades, motorists somehow miss the bright lycra and the marvelous speed we’re working so hard to generate. Those of us in the saddle are all but invisible to many eyes. The truth is, nobody really wants to tag a cyclist. People either miss us completely or don’t realize how close they’re getting.

For the record, I did take a deep dive into the dog house when that new cyclocross frame showed up. But I think I’ve adequately explained the superiority of titanium over aluminum. I’ve also placated the missus by offering her sharesies and a trip down the silk road once autumn gives way to early winter.

I’ve also been slowly mastering the ‘Virtue of the Small’ as I make my way around the backroads of La Plata County. So far, I’ve enjoyed marvelous results. It’s been years since that fateful beer bottle and months since my wife and child mixed things up for me. These days, “Bye, bye Daddy,” is gifted with a hug and a friendly wave each time I climb into the saddle and pedal out of the driveway.

-Will Sands



In this week's issue...

January 25, 2024
Bagging it

State plastic bag ban is in full effect, but enforcement varies

January 26, 2024
Paper chase

The Sneer is back – and no we’re not talking about Billy Idol’s comeback tour.

January 11, 2024
High and dry

New state climate report projects continued warming, declining streamflows