Friday, January 20, 2017

Bicycles Go Slow in Key West, Except This One.

Bicycles in Key West are a fixture of the landscape. Even when they happen to be moving, they often seem fixed in place. The riding is slow, nobody wears helmets, and the percentage of tricycles is enormous. Trikes gained traction, I presume, because at these speeds, a bicycle will simply fall over. None of this means that bicycles are inadequate transportation. They are incredibly popular here for that use. Coaster brake hubs run bone dry for decades; baskets are a deteriorating matrix of rust. This speaks volumes about the power of bicycles. This has nothing to do with how I ride.

I was cruising down Roosevelt to go check out some music. I had a jar in my milk crate - formerly containing pickled beets - now in the service of red wine. Frugal and friendly, I rolled down the bicycle path, pretending to be slow and local. Then a golf cart passed on the roadway, and I could no longer be contained. So I stood up and pressed on the pedals. I gained momentum and jumped off the curb. I rocked the Hoopty with force as I cranked up the speed. I measured my timing and prepared my approach.

The golf cart contained a vacationing family. Mom and dad were up front, looking like tourists, and two daughters faced backwards behind. They were both in their teens - one younger, one older - and it appeared that they doubted my power.

I maxed out the middle ring, spinning furiously, then I sat down and shifted to big. I pulled my left bar-end shifter straight up to the stop, and lowered my cassette gears about two cogs. I was now in position to win. I was gliding at the pace of the golf cart - they had gained some distance, but their speed was topped out. That's when I stood up to pedal again. I was now gaining speed, and my cadence increased, and I pressed the right shifter down to the stop.

Now in top gear, I threw the Hoopty side to side and leaned out over the handlebars in full sprint. I was happy I thought to pad my jar-wine in a hoodie, because the sprint would have smashed the glass.

I quickly reached a speed that would overtake the golf cart. Now it was time to sit down and lean. I rested my forearms along the northroad handlebars, and gripped the curves gently with my fingertips. I pushed back on the seat and flattened my back. I lowered my head and became a rocket ship.

I was now gaining quickly, so I began to coast, and did not need to pedal for a considerable distance. I tucked in my knees, and became more aerodynamic, before lifting my head to see mildly alarmed girls. I came within fifteen feet of the golf cart, then ten, then five while still coasting. At this point I sat up and began to pedal, keeping pace easily with the dumb little car. I smiled and waved and the girls looked relieved, and waved back with big happy smiles.

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