True cliché: Cyclocross bikes are excellent

Must have misunderstood the phone message mission description, somehow under the impression that we’d load up bikes, drive to the distant trailhead, do the mysterious on the map long loop, back in the truck and then call it beers and lies time. Sure, yeah, I heard him when he said we’d be on road bikes to test the limits of the format or somesuch foolishness, “there’s likely to be, um, some walking,” but that’s normal with Craig, he’s a demented lunatic. Last time around I was irritated, though, Speedplay cleats plugged with sticky mud, so I cleverly contrived to use mountain bike pedals and shoes; once you’re that far, well, then there’s the normally dormant in summertime cyclocross bike with chubby tires and better dirt clearance on the fork and rear triangle, so, whatever, okay he’d be on his Seven — he’s still a good person, honest — and I’d not be on the Look, but one that appeared enough like a road bike so as to earn fewer but still some maybe style points on an excursion that would be witnessed by no one. Plus I hate loathe abhor walking sections, so I was going to ride all of those instead.

First perception that something was awry when Dukes shows up at the coffee shop in regular fauxpro kit, none of the little details that signal that we’re off to do a different cooler ride like in a Rapha video. He frowns at my rig but says nothing, Craig rolls up decidedly not in a truck. I try out a few searching and diplomatic whatthefucks?, we’re evidently riding an hour to the venue, I resist their encouragement to go home and get another bike, rolling now.

Strangely fine in the paceline, they feel sorry for me, and when all hell breaks loose on Dutch Hill — this is where the weak are left behind during Tuesday night world championship rides — I’m most of all noticing that nothing is different from the race bikes, not any slower, though, alas, not any faster, either (and second of all noticing that one can notice the absence of difference, which you might have thought is nothing and therefore not noticeable). I can tell that they’re irritated, yeahwellbut and another thing about that out of place thing, which will only grow when we leave the asphalt, cross that questionable wooden bridge and then they’re walking up the babyhead ruts moss covered rock broken culvert loose climb and it doesn’t look like anything to think about so I ride up it. Or pedaling full tilt on abandoned New England road rollers. Or on the way home again on pavement, we’re battered now, been in the woods for hours, Whitcomb is behind us and we’re high speed descending the Hairpin Turn, weaving through less agile Harley’s. And for sure the damned 30mm Michelin Jet’s with 60 lbs of pressure should be Way Worse, but they’re not.

Fast road ride, I lost virtually nothing, but on broken dirt almost flat out mountain biking I gained a great deal. Which is, of course, what the cliché says, but everyone still thinks it’s a wishful exaggeration, the kind of thing you’d say to your neighbor who wants to get one bike to ride “…on the road mostly maybe on a fast club ride, with some occasional trails but not serious mountain biking.” But you wouldn’t be entirely serious because you really fantasize that every quality of terrain calls for a special bicycle. Well, next time I say it, I will be.*

*No, for all that, I’m not going to rush off and sell the road bikes. Fashion isn’t everything, but it’s still a lot.