Road biking terrifies me and not for the reasons that it should. I know I should be worried about traffic and careless drivers, but it’s those long downhills that keep me on the edge of my saddle. They scare me to death. The speeds are so high, and road bike tires are so skinny…I can’t help but imagine the worst case scenario every time I’m in the midst of a long, fluid descent. Did I clamp my axle down when I changed my tire? What if I hit a patch of gravel or sand at this speed? What if a squirrel darts in front of my wheel? What if I come around a blind corner and hit a bear? What if the yellow paint in the center of the road is wet? What if it starts raining?
I’m scared of a lot of things, ranging from the mundane (planes) to the ridiculous (planes falling from the sky and landing on me while I’m walking my dog), but eating shit on a road bike descent is at the top of my nightmare list. I’m perfectly willing to charge full speed down singletrack on a mountain bike, but put me on pavement with skinny road tires and V-brakes and I practically crawl down the mountain. My worst fears came to fruition on a ride this week.
I was white-knuckled surviving a three-mile stretch of speedy downhill that drops into downtown Asheville, cruising at a cautious 25 mph (some bikers take the mountain at twice that speed) when a wasp flies inside my jersey and starts stinging me repeatedly. Classic man versus nature scenario here, and it was such a random act violence that I had never bothered to worry about the situation before. The first sting hurt like a mother—right on my chest—but then he started buzzing around and stinging me more. Meanwhile, I have to hold it together because if I panic, I’ll lose control of the bike and end up skidding my face down the asphalt at 25 mph.
So, I squeezed the shit out of my weak V-brakes, grimacing through the pain until I could pull over to the side of the road and flush the wasp out. Little bastard stung me again on his way out of my shirt.
Naturally, I headed straight for the bar after the ordeal and ordered Innertube, a lager from Asheville’s Burial Beer Company. Burial is best known for its artisanal take on saisons and IPAs, but Innertube is a straight forward, summertime, lager. Clean, crisp, no gimmicks…it’s like drinking a Coors except, you know, better. I pounded the beer quickly and ordered another, and another, my hands shaking a little less with each can.
The bright side is I get to add another “worst case scenario” to my list of phobias. Thanks nature!