Man of Steel

Hero of the trail award for this week goes to Mark. I don't know Mark's last name. But he saved my ride Wednesday night.

I know. What's the big deal? I'm only a beginner. I run the orange loop way faster than I ride it, for Chrissakes. I walk my bike so much over rideable stuff that I ought to put it on a leash and rename it The Fluffy Little Poodle.

Surely it can't mean that much to me. Surely it's not so much of a ride spoiled when a beginner's saddle fails, dislodged from its brackets, leaving her pushing her bike a mile back to the parking lot, pausing every five minutes to try everything to jam the saddle back on, trying to convince herself it's safely rideable, on the prettiest fall night in a long time, with perfect dry trail and barely any leaves fallen, when she's been riding road for weeks in a disciplined effort to get ready for her long ride commitments.

Surely someone who's only had, say, 20 rides on her mountain bike can't keenly feel the disappointment of losing out on the 21st ride. Friends, I have never wished to be young again until now. I wish I could be young again and on trails every single day. Maybe that is what differentiates humans: we are capable of sincerely feeling disappointed by physical impossibilities. Ah well. On we go.

I'd been dreaming of this ride. And even with the tree smacking going on that day, I was riding better than the last time I was out. Confident, aware of death grip when it started to seize up, not clutching at brakes (hence the increased tree smackage)... throwing momentum at uphill roots, and for the first time seeing and riding skinnier lines to avoid bashing a rock or two. Every ride, a few feet more of the rocky stuff looks like invitation instead of hyperventilation, and I ride through more stuff without the feeling of barely controlled panic. (I cannot WAIT to get back out to the river trails.)

I am starting to enjoy the ride, not just for the fact that I'm doing it but really, awesomely, the riding itself. When I ride, not just hanging on, but learning how to move me and the bike. Until that is I go slinging myself around a tree trunk and throwing the bike down sideways with me still on it.

That's when my saddle seat popped off the bracket. How? How?! HOW???!!! See, the seat fits onto two steel prongs on the back and over the metal nose on the front. If you put the seat onto the prongs, there is NO WAY to force it forward over the nose. Physically impossible. If you pocket the seat over the nose, there is NO WAY it will stretch backward and fit over the prongs.

This is where Mark comes in.

I wheeled the bike into the parking lot at the same time Mark pulled up in his truck. He looked like he might be an MTBer. He looked relaxed. More than that, he was very tall and looked like he might be godawfully strong.

"Hey, 'scuse me... I don't want to impose on your ride time, but I wondered if you might have the hand strength to help me out with this?"

Mark inspects the saddle. He checks it against the brackets and notes the seeming physical impossibility of what has happened. "Um," he says. "Um. I can't figure out. This doesn't look... Wow. How the heck did this happen?"

I am the last person who could tell you. But I am getting used to hearing people say this about The Poodle (sorry, bike, you are stuck with it now).

Mark is nothing if not ingenious. He has some 4x4s in his truck bed. He lays one out the bed of the truck and lifts the saddle bracket onto it. I put all my weight on the 4x4 and Mark presses down on the bike until... yes... until he manages to bend steel with his bare hands. So the saddle will fit onto the bracket again. And so I can ride in the remaining hour of daylight.

"Dude, I could kiss you!" I say. He looks disconcerted by the possibility. Well, I can look a bit of rough trade I suppose. I will amend. In case you are reading, Mark — dude, I owe you a beer.


Mark said...

Glad to do it. Thanks for the props.