The Kindness of Strangers

I went for a little ride after work today. It was fucking hot. Scorching in the city. Over 90 degrees in Emeryville, which is really unusual. I saddled up around 6pm,. It had cooled off somewhat, but the sun was still beating down on me. I took two frozen water bottles with me, but it wasn’t really enough. Within 45 minutes, they were both warm. I headed over to Lake Merritt and wound my way through the Oakland hills to Montclair. It was a killer. I got lost, ended up on some unnecessarily steep hills.
About 10 miles and one hour into the ride, I hit Joaquin Miller Park and it got really steep. I don’t know the grade, but it’s enough to get me out of the saddle for most of its 5.7 miles. I think I would have made it to the top, but I’ll never know, because right near the summit, my chain seized up and I toppled over. Lucky for me, I was only going about 3 miles an hour, so breaking my fall with my hand was no big deal.
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It always sucks to go over. It’s stunning in the moment just before you crash when you realize that you’re going to hit the pavement and there’s nothing you can do about it. It all happened so fast, there was no way to clip out. I was just along for the ride on the machine.


People are so nice in the East Bay. Just after my crash, a woman stopped to see if I was okay. She probably witnessed the entire embarrassing event. I told her I was fine, and she moved on. Then, as I was checking out the bike to see what the problem was, another guy stopped and asked me if I wanted to use his phone. But I don’t have anyone’s phone number memorized. In the information age, I’ve lost the ability to remember anything. And I don’t know why, but I didn’t have my phone with me. So no calls.
Back to the bike, I knew immediately I was fucked. The rear derailleur was bent in half and the chain was totally jammed. I tried for 5 minutes the get the chain loose, but only managed to snap the motherfucker in half. All I wanted to do was get the thing loose so I could glide down Joaquin Miller and back down to the flats. Not sure what the fuck I’d do down there since it was closing in 8pm and even if I did come across a bike shop, most likely it would closed. And now, without a fucking chain and without my fucking phone, I was stranded.
As I was riding up the hill, I passed a couple sitting the by other side of the road working on their mountain bikes. I didn’t know if they were still there, but they were really the only thing between me and a miserable 10 mile walk home. I tried to ride the bike down, but the derailleur kept banging against the spokes, so I had to walk. Again, lucky for me, the couple was still there trying to fix one of their bikes.
I told them what happened to me. They took pity—I mean serious pity and the guy, Colin, drove me to my doorstep. How cool is that? Perhaps he wouldn’t have done it if he didn’t have a problem with his own bike that he couldn’t fix, but maybe he would have. The fact is, he did and he did, and because of some guy I’m likely never to see again, I’m home writing this instead of walking through some hideous section of oakland in my bike gear and probably getting mugged or having the shit kicked out of me. Aren’t strangers great?
Now I hope I can get the bike fixed by the club ride in Saturday. It’s down in San Jose and it’s supposed to be 100 degrees. Fun! Fun! Fun!

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