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A "blue collar" cyclist's adventures from the saddle of a bike.
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Salsa Cutthroat: What a Strange 200 Miles it's Been
Fresh out of the box and out of my basement I was more than eager to get started on my new Salsa Cutthroat. I'd committed to commuting to and from work each day for a solid week of "shake down" rides. Each day would consist of a 50 mile round trip journey broken into obviously two sections of riding. Typically, the early morning rides are the most enjoyable as I tend to see more animals, get some dark miles in, and deal with less cars. The after work ride is more stressful, mostly due to traffic.
I started the week thinking about the performance of the bike, the fit, and the comfort. I ended the week wondering what the hell happened out there.
The flag in front of the school I work at gets a lot of looks from me throughout the day as the wind seems to always be on my mind. Will it help me in the beginning of my ride or at the end or depending on how you look at it, will it hurt me? Well, I happen to live next to a huge lake called Superior and when the wind comes off that giant it tends to be strong and COLD. This past week will now be known to me as the week of wind. Leaving work at the end of the day proved to be a breeze (no pun) as I cruised comfortably at 25 mph, being shoved along by the hand of mother nature. However, when I finally made my turn to head back home, OMG! This situation stayed put for the whole week, 20 - 30 mph winds. I know there will always be wind, but sheesh!
I love seeing critters on my rides and as I mentioned above it's usually in the wee hours of the morning when I get to have a little chat with my friends. Things were looking up when I rolled out in the dark on Tuesday morning. Not two blocks from my house I saw two eyes looking back at me. "That's not a dog" I thought as the 4 legger skitter skattered through my head light. "Oh, it's a fox" was my next thought. "Hey, little buddy, how ya doin'?" I asked. His ears perked up while he watched me roll by. A glance over my shoulder brought a smile to my face, there he was trotting along behind me. I guess he just needed a friend. Eventually, he peeled off and went back to his fox business. Things were pretty quiet in the animal kingdom for the remainder of the ride until the unthinkable. The sun now higher above the horizon of the big lake and I was mixed in with the hustle bustle of all the steel boxes heading to their respective parking lots. Up ahead something was down on the side of the road and it had fur. Immediately, I was bummed as I hate to see a critter meet their fate on some busy road. The colors of this particular fury beast struck me as different. Ugggggh! It was a kitty. Some of you may know that I am a cat lover. Clearly, it had just been hit by a car moments earlier and I won't give details as to how I knew that. I closed my eyes as I rode past, I couldn't bare to look. Across the street was a small SUV pulled over, damage to the underside of it's plastic molding, and a driver texting on a phone. "At least the driver stopped" I thought. It was upsetting to me for the rest of the day. Shook up, I pedaled up the big hill leading to my school when a tiny mouse darted across the road in front of me. He was a cute little guy and he seemed pretty intent on what he was doing. Once I reached the spot where he had disappeared into the grass he popped out again. He seemed to give me a little look as I passed. I wondered if possibly the spirit of that cat had somehow landed in that little mouse. I guess I hoped it did.
Duluth is a great cycling city, but unfortunately some who live here have not yet received that memo. I've experienced angry drivers many times, but what happened to me on the afternoon of the "kitty morning" was one for the books. As I rolled toward a stop light a junky truck pulled up next to me with it's passenger window already down. An older man then proceeded to literally scream at the top of his lungs at me through the entirety of the stop light, mind you every 10 seconds or so he would flip me off while screaming. I stared blankly at him, in shock while he unloaded what seemed to be all the anger he'd been carrying his whole life. It was as if he was ramping up, it was getting worse as the seconds ticked by. I began to wonder if he was going to have a heart attack right there in his driver's seat. At the pinnacle of his rage a thought raced through my head, "Is he going to shoot me?" That sounds crazy has I write the words, but that's how angry he was. Eventually, the light turned green and with that he flipped me off for the 12th time and gunned the engine, his truck sputtered, faltered, and eventually spit out a cloud of blue smoke and clunked away down the road. My adrenaline now pumping like I had just been in a 6th grade fist fight I attempted to ride on like all of that didn't just happen.
Less than 15 minutes from home when I noticed something flashing past on my front tire. Most likely a road salt stain on the rubber. Then, the cracks in the road weren't hitting as hard, the steering was feeling weird. My front tire was going down. I pushed harder thinking I could make it home before the rim bumped the tar. It wasn't to be as the tire seemed to let out one final big exhale. A tack, probably from the bulletin board at my school had found it's new home right through my tire and into the tube. Before the rim could touch I pulled over, checked the time on the gps and told myself, "let's make this a quick one". It wasn't quick and my hands were frozen solid, remember the wind? 13 agonizing minutes later and I was pedaling again.
The last 50 miles or the last commute was uneventful and for that I was grateful. It gave me time to contemplate my week on the bike (so far). I guess, my final thought on it is this...What the hell?
The good news is the Cutthroat is dialed in and built for comfort as well as speed. A great bike to be sure. I can't wait to see and feel all that it has to offer. This Sunday I plan to knock out a 100 miler in order to get some real "all at once" kind of time on it. Soon, I will be taking her out on a short bike packing trip. I can't wait for what that adventure has to offer.
See you out there,