Friday Group Ride #221

Friday Group Ride #221

I didn’t ride with Jonathan on Sunday morning, as I normally might, so I wasn’t with him at 6:30am, flying down a hill out in Lincoln, the Garmin showing 30mph, when the deer grazing on the verge just behind a tree got spooked by the sound of Jon’s whirring free wheel and darted into the road. Later, Jon’s wife asked, “Did the deer squeal or look at you after you hit it?” And Jon said, “I screamed before I hit it, and then I was sliding on the pavement. When I stopped and lifted my head off the ground, the deer was gone. I have no idea what the deer did.”

AugustBucks2011With his shorts, jersey and vest all torn, his helmet dented, he rode home, tufts of the deer’s fur still stuck in his shifters. By the time I ran into him (not literally) later in the day, he couldn’t express much beyond the vague details of the crash and a lingering incredulity that it had actually happened. The angry red patch on his thigh, another on his opposite shoulder, a chunk missing from his elbow, the aforementioned fir, all suggested it had though.

I told him that I was sorry for his road rash and was glad he hadn’t sustained any more serious injuries. I said I was sorry for the deer, too. But….holy shit….what an amazing story to be able to tell.

Karl tells this great story about the day, in his teens, that he was zipping along on a summer bike tour, fiddling with his two-button Avocet cyclo-computer and feeling like a real pro with his Greg LeMond aero bars, when he plowed headlong into the back of a Geo Storm. His fork bent so far back he couldn’t turn the bars because his front wheel overlapped the downtube. He put his teeth through his lip, and since there was no back up car for the tour group, he had to push his bike to the emergency room. He rode the rest of the tour with stitches in his face. He had to.

KuiperFor myself, probably the weirdest thing I have seen is 1972 World Road Race Champion Henne Kuiper riding one of my bikes through the New England countryside, chatting amiably and acting more or less like any old schlub who likes to ride bikes, albeit one who jousted with Merckx and Hinault and Zoetemelk in his heyday.

On the one hand, there was the blood-chilling anxiety that something would go wrong with the bike, and I would be responsible for the injury of a legend. On the other hand, there was the giggly fan-boy thrill of spending the day with one of the all-time greats. Very weird. Very fun.

You might remember this story from Padraig, too. Weird enough and well-enough written to win an award.

This week’s Group Ride asks, what is the craziest thing that’s happened to you on the bike? When have you been extraordinarily lucky or unlucky? When have you seen the wholly unexpected? Were you riding or watching? How did it change the way your ride or the way you think about riding?

Top Image: Benjamin Werner

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  1. Bill Hart-Davidson

    I know it’s not unproblematic to say so, but a few years back I was on a smallish group ride with Chris Horner & Levi Leipheimer. The ride was in connection with a fundraiser for the American Diabetes Association, an event for which Nissan was a major sponsor. And because 1) we were near Detroit, and 2) because one of the Nissan bigwig executives was a cyclist and 3) Nissan was a named sponsor of RadioShack that year…well, I guess strings were pulled. Before the ride, those of us invited were not told who would be there. We were invited because we had raised a lot of money for the event. The invitation said be at the LBS at 7:00 to ride with Radioshack pros as a special thank you.

    I showed up and was stunned to see these two elfin figures wandering around in their kits like the rest of us, waiting for the ride to roll out. Less than two weeks prior, they’d finished 1,2 in the Tour of California. In another week, they’d head to Europe to ride the Tour. All told, there were maybe 40 civilians on the ride, not including a small group of guys kitted out in new Nissan colors. This was a local team drafted to escort the pros and, after a brief 6 mile loop at a casual pace, to force a selection that would keep Levi & Horner in the company of folks who could hold a line and maintain order in a group. I’d ridden with one of the guys who told me where it would go down, and I made the select group, suddenly finding myself in a typical group ride with about 10 people, two of whom happened to ride their bikes for a living. They were clearly at work, doing a gig for their sponsor, but they were also just normal guys on a ride that day. Calling out the potholes while joking about road conditions in Michigan, admiring each other’s gear, and talking about cycling.

    The weird part for me is the sense I got, bombing through a beautiful wooded section of the Waterloo recreation area in Washtenaw county, that what was for most of us a ridiculously rare recreational opportunity – doing the very thing that pro athletes do with those very pro athletes you watch on tv doing that thing – was a day at the office for them. And not an unrisky one at that. I found myself on more than one occasion thinking “for heaven’s sake, don’t halfwheel Levi Leipheimer a week before he goes to the Dauphine!” It was profoundly odd to be aware in that way of what was going on around me.

    I didn’t then and don’t now deify these guys. My eyes were unclouded about their transgressions. But seeing them there, doing their job like that, not hesitating to follow my wheel even though I’m a Cat-Nothing from Mid-Michigan…seeing them as regular guys on a group ride, well that wasn’t too bad.

  2. spiff

    Wow, where do I start.
    After 25 years of riding there have been close calls and bad moves, as well as brushes with fame. I’ve gone around dicey corners only to be chased down that someone has crashed on that same corner, or stop to warn about a bad section and then hearing the sound of a bike slide off the road. I’ve had a friend bump me on an easy ride( broken collar bone). Another friend ‘s swag bag caught his front wheel sending him into a slow-mo flip, I still smile when he tells the story.
    The most fun I’ve had on my bike was when my 2 club mates and I chased down Lance and his peloton at RAGBRAI 2006. We where on the side of the road in this small town as they went buy, and Jed says “lets chase him down”. So, we did. 3 miles later there were 20 of us but we 3 did all the work. We caught them in the next town calling out “on your left”. We passed them and kept going. After slowing down for a stop sign Jed asked if we passed Lance. Lance was on the left of his wheel, so Jed kicks it up and we take off. We didn’t see them again tell the finishing town. Man, that was fun.

  3. Gene

    I was doing a cerebral palsy bikeathon in New York’s Central in the mid 70’s when on each lap I noticed this pretty girl sitting on a blanket by herself. I stopped at an Italian cart and bought 2 ices and rode up to her. She was about to leave but I convinced her to stay and talked her into a date. Long story short, best sex I ever had. Does this count?

  4. Al Pastor

    I’ve had near collisions with deer numerous times. Frequently enough that a week or so ago when a deer jumped across the road, i had the presence of mind to yell out Doe! ala Homer Simpson.

    Scariest time though was when I was doing a tri in Marin County. I turned a corner going reasonably slowly, uphill and a young buck jumped right in front of me. I had visions of being impaled. He was deciding fight of flight skittering away on the blacktop. Thankfully I was able to stop in time, he decided flight and got enough traction to bound across the road.

  5. SHG

    Many many years ago as a junior (way back in the early 80’s) I went to a racing camp in Taos New Mexico. The camp consisted of us juniors as well as some paid pros one of which had just won the women’s Tour de France. August company for a teenager like me at the time.

    At the camp we were staying at altitude up the mountain at the ski valley and every day we descended to start our training rides. A nice long 10 mile descent that is pretty fast with a few interesting turns. On one of these descents we were coming around a corner and my Avocet computer said we were doing 42 mph when the guy in front of me sat up, jumped and allowed me to hit a large rock that had fallen off the cliff above. I crashed, slid off the side of the road into the gravel and had a very large amount of dirt/gravel/sand embedded in my left buttock.

    I’ll never forget what happened next, this lady Tour winner slid in the gravel up to me, told me to pull off my shorts. I did it in my daze and she began to very pluck the larger gravel from my rear end. I was just a teenager and was so embarrassed and horrified that I will never forget it. She was very kind to me as I had just taken her down as well. My savior’s parting words before they put me in the ambulance were “next time you see a rock in the road….don’t hit it”. Those words have stuck with me ever since and to this day 30 years later make mountain bike riding a real challenge for me when a large rock appears in my path.

  6. Jimmy

    Bunny hopping a mountain lion cub climbing out of a ravine onto the road I was descending. It spun onto its back, getting a grease mark on its belly from the chain around the big ring, then back onto its feet before escaping from under my bottom bracket with a growel as my wheels came back to the ground. Wearing only a faded yellow Campy hat for protection I feared less luck against its mother and TT’d the next few miles before the adrenaline wore off and I asked myself, “what the F just happened?” for the rest of my ride.

  7. backofthepack

    I was riding through a forest preserve about 20 years ago. A squirrel tried running across the road in front of me. Both he and I realized too late that he wasn’t going to make it across in time. As I reached for the brakes he started to turn around, but not quick enough. He jumped, and ran up the side of my front wheel, somehow stepping on the spokes, jumping over the fork, and continued down the other side before running to off to the side of the road. Thank god for 32 spoke wheels! I almost thought I imagined it except for the looks on the faces of my 4 riding partners. How that squirrel didn’t end up in the middle of my wheel causing me to go head over heals is beyond me

  8. Walt S

    I was really an inexperienced cyclist back in the 70s (yah, I’m old) and decided to participate in Bikecentennial, a ride across country to commemorate the 200th anniversary of our nation. Our group had started in Astoria, Oregon, and on this particular occasion, we were camped at Jackson Hole, Wyoming. The next day was Saturday, and we were supposed to pick up mail in a small town about 70 miles away. That presented a small logistical problem. Since it would be Saturday, the post office would close at noon.

    What to do? I volunteered to get up early and ride solo to the town so we could all get the much anticipated mail (we had been riding approximately for one month at this time and had covered about 1800 miles). I figured I would need to get up by 4 a.m. to make it to the post office before noon. When it’s important to get up for some reason, I don’t sleep well for fear of oversleeping. I groggily woke up, didn’t have my glasses on, looked at my watch, and realized it was almost exactly 4 a.m., and that I had better get moving. The bike was basically packed the night before, and so I started off under a full moon for my destination down the road.

    And I rode and I rode. Everything seemed surreal in the dark. Any time a vehicle would be coming down the road, I would move to the opposite side to make sure I wouldn’t get run over. I rode up a very long mountain. Strange, it wasn’t getting any lighter out. I figured I had ridden approximately 40 miles and decided to take a break. That’s when I looked at my watch and realized that I had made a grave error. You see, my watch did not have numerals, with only phosphorescent markers to help tell time. Instead of getting up at 4 a.m., I had actually gotten up at 12:20. Remember, this was way before digital watches. Nothing left to do but keep going. When I finally made it to town, it was too EARLY to get the mail, so I slept on a picnic bench until the post office opened. Quite the adventure I will never forget!

  9. Curt Fischer

    I guess I would put this in the category of “wholly unexpected”. I was on assignment in France for most of the Summer of 1992 (I’m a photographer) and had planned to take a break from work to ride in the Alps for 10 days with Peter Stock, a dear friend and cycling buddy from Marin County, CA. So I met Pete at Charles de Gaulle and set out for the Annecy area, which I happened to know well. It is cycling heaven, in my opinion. Well, it rained in heaven –a lot. Every day. Sitting in the hotel looking out the window is not fun. Descending cols in the rain is not fun, but it is better than sitting inside. We structured our rides like this: if we start the ride when it’s not raining, even momentarily, and we get caught in the rain, its OK. We ride. If we start in the rain, it’s miserable. As we all know, when it’s raining hard and you’re out there hammering, it must look uncomfortable beyond belief to people snug in their cars as they pass. On one occasion, we are on a rare flat section of highway, enveloped in a world of mist and water and blurred vision, and one car in a line of passing cars pulls up next to us, slows down, and the elderly man in the passenger seat raises his fist in the universal symbol of strength, and shakes his fist slowly, smiling and, no doubt wishing he was young enough again to be out there with us. I’ll never forget him. One look, one brief shared moment is enough to last always. I love that guy.

    After a few days of unrelenting wetness, we decide to head south in the hope that we would find sun, and we did in the Vercors, a plateau area just west of Grenoble. Beautiful landscape, Everything you could hope for if you’re on a bike. We find a little hotel/old people’s home in St. Nizier du Moucherotte – the tiny town is scarcely more than this one hotel. We set out the next morning for a day of discovery. Pete and I rode without knowing exactly where we were going – it actually didn’t matter – it was great riding in every direction. Turned out to be a spectacular day of cycling and weather, and near the end of the day, we turned onto a tiny road that wasn’t even on our map. It did have a small white sign that said “Villard de Lans 20” which we knew was the way home. These were the easy last miles of the day, and we’re just chatting and enjoying the quiet world we’ve found, when we see a rider approaching. Even from a long way off, there was something about him that stopped our conversation. He seemed….familiar…and then he’s on us, and it’s Owen Mulholland! Owen, our fellow Marinite and long time friend – one of the great founts of cycling knowledge, Tour de France history, an author of cycling books He is a joy for any cyclist to know. We met him completely by chance – no, by miracle – on this tiniest of roads in this small corner of France. Well, there was an outbreak – an epidemic of hugging, thigh slapping, yelling and laughing. We met for dinner that night with a tour group he was helping to guide, and with many languages swirling around the table, told our story to whoever would listen.

    The exclamation points in our lives.

  10. Les.B.

    My favorite ride is to grind westward across 30 miles of mountain highways and back roads in the Santa Monicas. At the far end I descend Deer Creed Road to Pacific Coast Highway, which I take back to my starting point in Santa Monica. But that part of the ride is just transportation; at that point the fun part of the day is behind me.

    The 30 mile ride back on PCH is a hilly route, nothing like the mountains, but enough to tease my sore muscles and tax my weary mind.

    Riding the west side of PCH is tricky, as beach-goers’ cars jam the parking lane. And traveling this part of PCH I always keep a keen eye out for car doors opening, cars pulling out, people stepping out from between cars, dogs running out…. The beach hazards.

    Riding the west side of PCH, even in broad daylight I keep two bright white flashers on the handlebars, beaconing out to whomever might cross my path. That may have been what saved me on this occasion.

    So I’m doing a fast descent, and this Prius passes me, then pulls over and abruptly stops in what would be the bike lane, next to the car parked at the curb.

    I hit the front brake too hard and the back wheel rises. I regain control, and in that millisecond I have to decide between braking as much as possible to mitigate my meeting with that flat back end of the Prius, or swerving into the traffic lane, or trying to fit between the Prius and the parked car.

    And in that moment the Prius drives off as abruptly as it had stopped.

    Was the driver alerted by the white flashers in her rear view?


  11. Dawn

    I lived in Spain up until about a year and a half ago, and two experiences stand out in my mind…

    a) The Castilla-La Mancha regional government marked a series of nature paths throughout the region in 2003-2004, and most of them, while not mountainous, were mountain-bike-able. A friend and I decided to do some exploring and took a wrong turn somewhere, and ended up staring down a handlebar-tall turkey who looked like a ball of pillows and had an attitude problem. Every time we tried getting away from its owner (who didn’t know where to get back on the path, but was determined to ask us into his shack for a beer.) I had no idea that turkeys could run fast or be so pissy.

    b) About three months later, a buddy came over from Minneapolis to bike from Madrid down south, and in a little town a couple hours east of Seville, we happened to pass a municipal park full of mean-ass motorbikes; apparently there had been some kind of annual biker gathering organized there. The entire trip had been a washout: the rain in Spain didn’t fall on the plain – it fell everywhere that year, violently and in great quantities, and about ten minutes after we passed the biker gathering, a big front of black clouds – and I mean BLACK – drifted over the pass we were supposed to go over and brought with it the biggest curtain of rain and hail I’d ever seen in my life. We turned tail and with very contrite faces (and bikes – me with an over-Ortlieb’d CX bike, buddy with a Bike Friday), approached the big, burly biker working the main tent, and asked him very nicely if they’d mind if we sat the storm out with them. For the next three hours, it was a constant flow of soft drinks, beer, ensalada campera, grilled chicken, hot dogs, heavy metal and photos, and offers to set up our tents under the main marquee tent once the strippers had finished at 2AM. Bizarre, but great fun.

  12. John B.

    I was on a century group ride out of Miami down to Key Largo. On a very narrow two lane road leading into the Keys. We were running a double pace line. My partner and I were on the front and had just started to peel off after a long turn just as a Sea Otter scampered out in front of us. I jammed on the breaks skidding sideways just letting him slide inches in front of my wheel. If we hadn’t peeled off when we did, we would have collected a large group of riders in the ensuing crash.

  13. Duncan

    I learned you can’t mix fixed gear road training and cross-country mountain-biking within 2 days of each other, especially after a hard day at the office…riding through the Somerset levels, around 7:30pm, head not really in the right place for riding fixed, I hit some rough stuff on top of a bridge over a drainage ditch and did what mountain-bikers do: I stood on the pedals. At 20mph. On my fixie…One big crash, some decent road rash, broken collarbone, ribs and a punctured lung later, I ended up in Weston General Hospital for six days. Still have some pretty good scars. Sold the fixie but was back on the bike via the turbo very quickly….

  14. shoreorthopod

    Squirrel suicide. These buggers are just bad decision makers. Back in college I had just taken delivery of a new bike (carbon/ti with bladed spoke wheels). I was back home at my folks and took it out on some well know and favorite roads. I was bombing down this descent (mid 30’s) carving some nice turns when I see this squirrel 5 seconds down the road. The little guy (thank god he was small) comes across the road and I think great… he is going to clear, then the little rat sees the car coming up the hill and double backs. This was concerning but no problem. As he doubles back I bunny hop… unfortunately the squirrel jumped too. That is when things slowed down significantly. The little furry thing goes into my front wheel and gets jammed into the spokes and rotates thru until he hits the fork. Mind you, I am still airborne. Bike touches down and front wheel locks (er, jams). Brain says this is not going to end well, so I commit to the best wipe out possible. Then all of a sudden the squirrel gives. Not to be graphic but there is this splatter and then i see something fluffy shoot out to my left side. I then have this really unstable front wheel that is making a thump with each revolution until another large gray fluffy thing flies over my right should in a relatively perfect parabolic arc and as I look under my arm backwards lands on the windshield of the Camry behind me. Gross, and I have no idea how I kept it up thru that. When I got home it took four hours to clean all of the fur off of the bike. And they guy in the Camry was pissed. It was one of those moments you wish someone else was around just to see how crazy the whole episode was.

    1. ScotJ

      Last Thursday I thought I was going to have the similar experience. I was going downhill @45 mph, when a gray squirrel ran out in front of me, and he stopped in on the exact line I was going to take. I knew braking would not do me any good (I’ve know 3 riders who credit crazy squirrels for their broken collarbones, so I will not brake for squirrels), so I tried to take a line to just miss him, and it worked, I missed by about 2 inches!

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