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06/21/2009: "Roadside Manners"
Had time for but a short ride today, so I rambled down Jefferson to the beach and thence, of course, to the Bridge at Playa del Rey. The tide was high, the sky clear, the water a hard and lively blue, and plenty of folks were out on bikes in all manner of colorful outfits and every sort of bike, from the generic full-carbon Red Sports Car Analog through fixies and on to recumbents and cruisers. Everyone seemed pretty relaxed and happy.

But, as Monty Python says, "Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

Sure enough, soon there appeared a fellow curiously attired in what seemed to be a skin-tight armor comprising overlapping scales of the logos of exploitive corporations--no doubt amulets designed to confer the strength and domination of overweening authority on the bearer. He was riding portentously upon a rolling billboard constructed almost entirely of petroleum byproducts; he was tall and thin, with the bitter primness of a disillusioned and vindictive Jesuit; and he was trailing two cute little Asian lassies who fulfilled the roles of timid Acolytes.

Judging from other mystic symbols they bore, I suspected them to be of the Order of Absolute Lycrism, a sect I have seen in action before. The surly whippet and his pups stopped in front of where I lazed against the parapet of The Bridge. And he began to Instruct them.

Though I have been putting on big miles for some forty years, I learned much about what I myself was doing wrong all that time, just by listening attentively.

I learned, for example, that it is a Venial Sin to unclip your left foot when you stop; you must ever and only unclip the right foot, either because the left ("sinister", in Latin) foot belongs to the Devil, or because you will inevitably suffer a chainring tattoo. Also, you apparently cannot turn your bike around by picking it up and shuffling in an awkward semicircle if your right foot is clipped in.

I glanced hastily down at my right leg--for I have unclipped the Proper Way only two or three times in my life, when the Luck of the Fixed Wheel put my left pedal up at the limit line--but I was relieved to find no Mark of the Beast there. But there is no doubt such a fate awaits me: one of the acolytes described how she once received a chainring tattoo on her face while lifting her bike onto a "car rack" (whatever that is), no doubt because she had unclipped sinfully and the Devil had just been a bit slow on the uptake.

I learned also that the proper way to wait astride a bike when it is stopped is not, as I had erroneously thought all these decades, merely to stand up and let the bike lean on one of your legs. No; apparently the Proper Way is to sit with your butt-crack on the top-tube--even though, with contemporary sloping top tubes, this puts you into the posture of a spawning frog.

I admit I wondered if this wasn't a perversion that had crept into the lonely and impotent life of a Priest of Lycrism--a very strict sect, after all--but I dismissed that thought as a Temptation to the Sin of Doubt, planted by Satan himself. I resolved to practice this pose henceforth, no matter how much it hurt or how much ignorant mockery it might draw from other road users.

At least I did until the Priest uttered a statement that shattered my new-found and no doubt delicate faith.

One of the Acolytes was very very small (I overheard her mention that she rode a 41cm. frame), and she confessed having trouble reaching the brake levers when in the hooks. This apparently is a Sin, for the Priest immediately prescribed a rite of painful contortions, involving splayed elbows and radically twisted wrists, to enable her to caress the Holy Brifters properly.

In my pathetic ignorance, I interrupted to let them know that nearly every component maker offers compact brake levers for people with small hands.

The Priest turned upon me with a snarl, and said, "Hey, we're not trying to sell brake levers here!"

I immediately looked around me, but saw no shelves or counters that a mercenary Satan might have suddenly caused to materialize.

Sad to say, it was thus the Priest himself who sowed doubt in my soul. I thought to myself, "Hm, do you fit the rider to the bike, or fit the bike to the rider?"

That was all it took. I fell into a morass of casuistry, and within seconds I found myself deep in Sin. Indeed, I actually thought to myself, in regards to that noble Priest, that he was "full of shit."

i was saved only by a couple of Angels named Bob and Ted, who stopped by to admire my Bottecchia and talk about happy sensible matters for a while--sweet miles we had ridden in the hills or by the beach, and the love of bikes.

When I looked up next, the Priest and his Acolytes had disappeared!

Since it was obviously the presence of Angels that had driven him away, I realized I had been wrong, and that he had been the Devil in disguise.

I felt sorry for the trusting Acolytes, and could only hope that they too would be saved by Angels in good time.

The ride home was made all the sweeter by my narrow escape.

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