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BOBness in Paradise

This article, in its original form, appeared in the final edition of the Bridgestone Owner’s Bunch (BOB) Gazette, in 1994.

What is the most frustrating thing that can happen to a cyclist?

I think one of them is being forced to walk. One weekend, late in the summer of 1994, I had that experience.

Since my weekly mileage had been rather low, I felt the need to push myself, and went on an 80-miler. I left my Nob Hill apartment about noon, made my usual stops at Il Fornaio on Union Street for paninis and at City Cycle (across the street) for Gu while on my way to and through the Presidio to the Golden Gate Bridge. From north end of the Bridge, I dropped into Sausalito and rode through Mill Valley, then climbed Camino Alto to drop into Corte Madera.

By then, the weather had warmed due to the Bay Area’s lovely microclimates, so I took off my arm and leg warmers and stuffed them into a jersey pocket.

I worked my way through Fairfax, around Nicasio Reservoir, through Samuel P. Taylor State Park, and several small towns you haven’t heard of unless you live in the Bay Area, and eventually reached what is locally called the Paradise Loop, around the peninsula that forms Tiburon.

That day, Paradise proved to be anything but. It was almost 6 o’clock, and the fog was starting to roll back in, so I reached back and discovered that my my arm and leg warmers had disappeared.

“Not a problem,” I thought. “It’s a short loop. I’ll finish before it gets really cold.”

Climbing the first short hill on Paradise Drive, I began to hear a “tick-tick-tick” noise coming from my rear wheel. After stopping and looking vainly for the source, I hopped back on my bike and continued on. A few miles later, I was riding a flat.

“Still not a problem,” I thought. I whipped out my spare tube, wrestled off the tire and replaced the tube, and off I rode, discarding my old tube. A mile or so later, I had another flat.

I know, I know … it’s never a good idea to discard a punctured tube, especially not mid-ride. And no, I didn’t just toss it on the side of the road … I threw it away in one of the garbage cans at the end of a driveway.

“This could be a problem,” I thought. I remove the wheel, wrestled with the tire again, and removed the tube. I had forgotten one of the cardinal rules of flat repair and didn’t check my tire for sharp objects. This time, I found a wire embedded so deep that I had penetrated the tube twice. The “tick-tick-tick” noise was the wire hitting the brake calipers as the wheel turned.

I patched both holes, replaced the tube, and off I rode.


“This is definitely a problem,” I thought. Again I removed the wheel, wrestled with the tire, and removed the tube. This time I was looking at a valve stem partially torn away from the tube. I was 20 miles from home, with no spare tube and a useless patch kit, and I was at least 5 miles from payphone (this was in 1994, before the now-ubiquitous cell phone).

I took off my shoes and socks and started walking.

Mmmmm … barefoot walking on asphalt, when it’s in the 60s and temperatures dropping by the minute. FUN!

Around 7 o’clock, it got foggy and windy. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, after several people passed without a second glance-even a few riding (gasp!) Bridgestones-a guy on a titanium wonderbike (again, still a relative rarity back then) rolled by and asked if I needed help.

“Yeah! Gotta spare tube?” I shouted back.

“No patch kit?” he asked. So I told him what happened.

“Hmmm,” he replied. “I only have spare sew-ups. In a pinch you can stretch one on a clincher rim, as long as you’re careful cornering. Want to try it?”

At that point, I would have tried a mountain bike tire and a Band-Aid if there was a chance it would get me home. He gave me a brand-new Vittoria CX, which we stretched over the rim. Sure enough, it worked, and off I rode.

While heading up the other side of the Tiburon Peninsula on my way back towards Mill Valley, my saviour passed me going the other direction, turned around, and joined me.

“How’s it holding up?” he asked.

“Pretty well, so far,” I replied, so we continued to ride and chat for a while. I promised to send the tire back to him, and eventually we went our separate ways.

At this point, I had been out for about eight hours, had three flats, and had lost a layer of clothing. The Bay’s famous fog and winds were out in full force, and I couldn’t face the climb back up to (and then the ride across) the Bridge; luckily, I still had time to catch the last ferry from Sausalito back into the City, and made it home without further incident.

Who was my benefactor? His name was Chris Cameron, then an advertising director for Mountain Bike magazine.

Sure hope he doesn’t mind having his name put out there, some 13 years after the original incident; and I wonder what he’s up to these days. Still riding, I hope.

I’ve always felt that BOBness is an attitude, not limited to cyclists, and is definitely not acquired just by joining the Bridgestone Owner’s Bunch or becoming a member of Rivendell Cycle Works.

To me, a BOB is a person who understand there are more important things about cycling than just the latest equipment (or the rejection of same) and training times.

Cycling is not about racing; it’s not about how quickly you can climb your local mountain; it’s not about how far you can ride; it’s not about fenders and 32mm wide tires and matching Carradice bags; and it’s definitely not about what kind of bike you own, be it lugged steel, aluminium, titanium or even carbon fibre.

The most important thing about riding a bike is simply that … just riding. As individuals, we shouldn’t let magazines (not even the Rivendell Reader) dictate our attitudes about equipment.

BOBness is part of the psyche; part of the soul

Among other things, it’s a willingness to help a stranger without expecting any more than a thank you in return.

In my opinion, Chris’s actions that late summer afternoon in 1994 epitomize this attitude.

Recent experiences in other parts of my life make me think back to that day; and one thing that I’ve come to realize is that there was almost an almost Zen-like (or at least my interpretation of Zen) quality I once had towards bicycles; a quality I’d like to rediscover.

I’ve been giving some thought to resigning my position with my current team, to just going back to riding for enjoyment. When I joined the team 3 years ago, it’s because the attitude was of having fun … riding bikes and drinking beer; and it really didn’t matter how we did in competition. It seemed for a long time that there was a slot saved in second-last (or NQDFL) for a Cutthroat rider.

These days, I’ve lost my joy of riding. The team is doing better at races, people actually train, and it seems like much of the fun has gone out of it, especially for me.

For the past couple of years, I’ve not ridden my bikes much at all … a lot of which has been due to dealing with various life issues, such as depression and divorce, but also because it just isn’t as fun as it once was …

Most of the time I do ride, it’s by myself; because I don’t have to worry about holding people back, or the ride turning into a mini-race.

There is a time and a place for racing, but does racing or training to race have to be a part of every ride? I don’t think so …

On the other hand, I know people who totally reject racing as well … for them cycling is still all about the equipment, but in the opposite direction of the racers; cycling is about fenders and bags and wool and seersucker, or about fixed-gears and brakes (or no brakes).

And it really shouldn’t be about any of it … or it should be about all of it.

Oh, I’ll still ride cyclocross (since what I do can’t really be called “racing”), simply because it’s such a blast … and I love that the Utah Cyclocross series is a situation where I can have a positive impact by helping make it possible for those who want to race to do so.

No decisions about the team just yet … just a long ramble.

Addendum: Call me a hypocrite if you will, but despite all the above rambles, I still think that recumbents are sick and wrong.