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Get out of the Dirt

We have a Surly retreat coming up where we are packing up the bikes like donkeys and riding southwest to camp out, drink tea and wax-poetic about bicycles for a few days. I was onboard when the idea was tossed out but also intimidated.

I’ve always had a negative view of road bikes from my time working in shops. The skinny wheels and gnarled bars make me feel uncomfortable and confined. I like to ride where I want to ride. I do not want to be limited by a skinny bald wheel. It’s not my thing. Nor do I want to spend half an hour squeezing into skintight kits and adjusting my aerodynamic bits just so I can get on my bike. This was the idea I had of road riders. Skinny tires, skin tight crayola puke clothing and lots of high tech crap were required to successfully ride on a road for any number of miles.

The thought of riding 35+ miles loaded down with a bunch of avid riders who do this type of riding on a whim, made me nervous. So I decided to make an effort to get as much road time as possible before our trip. Rain or shine or severe winds as it were. I shall ride.

Riding to and from work regularly was helping but I was still able to stay within neighborhoods and take paths off of the street to make it into work. The big game changer was a ride into Lowertown St Paul for drinks and eats. It was a 20 mile loop and included climbs and city street riding. I had never ridden more than 16 miles in a day and never in the dark.

I prefer to ride in street clothes and shoes. So I wasn’t too geared up when I set out for my ride. Here is what I had:

  • Jeans
  • Cotton long sleeve shirt
  • Shoes
  • Cars R Coffins Sox (RIP little coffee shop)
  • Knog Frog Strobe white LED
  • Nathan LED Safety Strobe red light
  • Lock (last minute addition I almost forgot and that would have sucked)
  • Surly Long Sleeve Wool Jersey
  • Old canvas messenger bag
  • Shimano windbreaker 2 sizes too large that I found in my basement (I had left my jacket back in Surly land and winds were kicking at 26 mph+)
  • Old Fox helmet
  • Trusty Cross-Check

All stuff I had lying around mostly. I had to buy the lights because my last set had disappeared probably 7 or 8 years ago.

I set out with a 26 mph headwind and pushed my way towards the city. I got lost, I went down steep hills, climbed steep hills, road through parking lots, on sidewalks, on bike paths, on roads, in bike lanes and on some dirt just cause.

I had a blast. I showed up and rewarded myself with fancy beverages and good eats.

I was pumped to ride home as the headwind would now be a tailwind and the 2 size too large windbreaker would now be a sail instead of a drag.

I rode much more road on the way home. My lights worked great. The weather was nice. The streets were actually quiet. I had to flip my bike for a quick chain fix but other than that my ride was smooth and uneventful.

I wasn’t even winded when I returned home. The next day I wasn’t even sore. I feel ridiculous now thinking I was worried about riding 20 miles of climbs and city streets. I honestly think you would too if you tried it. This was nothing epic. Nothing extraordinary. It was a hell of a good time.

My friends that do not ride heard about my little trip and were shocked to hear I did that. It amazed them. It would have amazed me too. It seems so far, until you do it. Then it’s not far enough.

Jules's avatar

About Jules

It's Christina's job to determine how Surly should seek attention to its products and itself generally. This is no mean feat but she’s patient, has a highly nuanced ability to conform to the moment and she wears a smile every day. This last fact used to be cause for hope, but recently she revealed that when she’s anxious or stressed she tends to smile and laugh a lot. Uh oh.

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