The Cyclelicious blogger recently wrote about trying to rip off a piece of dangling handlebar tape while riding in a peloton.
I was dumbfounded that someone else had done something that stupid. It also gave me a great deal of comfort. Misery loves company.
Here's the dumbest things I've done on a bicycle. I'm sure many of you will find that you're not alone…
1. Inappropriate handlebar tape removal: While coasting down a hill in Del Puerto Canyon near Modesto, I tried to yank off a piece of tape flapping from the handlebar. The abrupt change in direction sent me over the handlebars and helmet first to the pavement. The bike's momentum didn't stop and it flew over the top of me with one foot still strapped in the pedal. I ended up with a gouge in my hard plastic Bell helmet, rash on one shoulder and two elbows, and a groin so sore I could only take baby steps for a week.
2. Bunny hop on slick pavement: Another time in Patterson (at the foot of Del Puerto), I came upon a fallen palm frond which I decided to bunny hop. I'd never tried this before. The pavement was slick from drizzle and a light coating of silt. I cleared the frond but the bike slid out from under me and I hit the pavement. A passing car saw me fall (I was on the shoulder), hit the brakes, did a complete 360 on the same slick silt, and sent a roadside garbage can flying. The woman then rolls down her window and asks if I'm OK. I thought she was going to shoot me!
3. Peeling off layers: Cycling up Del Puerto (it seems I did a lot of stupid stuff there) I stopped to take off my Gor-Tex jacket. I didn't have any easy way to carry it to the top, so I hid it — with my wallet in the pocket — among some boulders. When I returned an hour or so later, it was gone.
4. The Uncola is undigestable: The first Graffiti Century in Modesto included a ride up (you guessed it) Del Puerto Canyon. Instead of sports drinks, the sponsors (Elks, Lions, Moose?) had cases of 7-Up at the rest stops. In the bright sunshine at the top of the climb, I drank a nice, cold 16-oz bottle. By the bottom of the hill my stomach was cramping, my legs felt like rubber, and I rode the last 25 miles one pedal stroke at a time.
5. No spare, no pump: When I first started riding again in the late '70s, I never carried a tool kit. Picking up some glass on my first ride out of Annapolis, I had to walk all the way back to the Murphy Mart, buy an innertube, and use a quarter I got as change for a tire iron. Pumped it up at a gas station, of course.
6. Zero tolerance: Having had too much “sports drink” at an office softball game, I took off in the dusk for a bike ride on a familiar loop around the outskirts of Annapolis. No headlight. No taillight. Just reflectors. I sobered up about halfway out when I realized I really couldn't see the road anymore.
7. Take the new bike out for a spin: I replaced my old heavy Fuji for a light Cannondale just before a Wine and Cheese Century in Riverbank (CA) one year. Except for the fact they both had two wheels, I discovered over the next 100 miles that they had no similarities in terms of fit. My neck, chest, shoulder and back was extremely sore after the ride.
8. Loosen toe straps before stopping: On a Hekaton Classic put on by the Valley Spokesmen in the Dublin, Pleasanton, Livermore (CA) area, I availed myself of a huge buffet at the lunch stop. Five miles later I coasted to stop at a light, forgot I hadn't loosened my toe strap, and tottered over onto my side. Some kids in a car that also had stopped at the light started laughing. Can't blame them.
9. Borrowing a tandem: I knew this guy had problems with this tandem when I rode on a single with his family in Bike Virginia. I borrowed it anyway the next year so my son and I could ride the Cycle Across Maryland. We only did the Mini-Cam (three days). On that last day, the chain broke (we fixed that), something slipped in the bottom bracket causing the big sprocket to rub the frame (the mechanic didn't even know what happened, but he got it to work again); and the rusty front gear cable broke so we finished the ride in our granny.
10. People can hear you talking on a bike: On this same CAM, the cops had redirected the cyclists to the right side of the road at the bottom of a hill before a left turn. That just seemed counter logical, which I announced to my friend and anyone else who was interested in hearing me pontificate about riding with traffic, etc. The cop standing in the hot sun at the intersection found my comments so interesting that he proceeded to lecture me and the other 20 or so riders in the group about the do's and don'ts of cycling. A lot of it was wrong, but I got the message about doing what cops say, if it makes sense or not.