Cycling down a long descent northeast of Galena, Illinois, I thought I was going slow enough to be safe coming into a thirty-degree curve ahead. I was wrong. At the moment when my bike and body started to angle across the 20 mph wind coming through a gap between the trees, the tires of my Specialized bike gave a small shudder on the pitted asphalt. I’m not a fan of such feelings. The bike wobble accident from nine years ago that resulted in a broken clavicle and a near-death experience keeps me from doing crazy things on the roads these days. I’d rather go slower than crash.
My wife was no fan of the harsh winds either. She was forced to rise out of aero position on her triathlon bike in order to keep control of her Trek when hard crosswinds drove against our bodies in the open sections of the ride. It was far safer to ride with hands on the bullhorns and give up a little speed than to place all weight on the arm rests.
The five-mile section heading straight into the south wind was truly tough going. I just concentrated on keeping a smooth pedal stroke and ignored how fast or slow I was going. At times the wind stood me up as the bike shivered right or left. I was moved to laugh out loud. That was the best strategy of all. Just laugh at the wind like the character Maximus advised in the movie Gladiator:
“Death smiles at us all, all a man can do is smile back.”
We’d gotten a little lost early in the ride when we missed a turn marker at five miles. Three miles up the wrong road we turned back, adding six extra miles to the total ride. After 52 miles of total riding, and facing another ten miles straight into the wind on open roads back to the start, we elected to “sag” it back to the starting line. We’d already climbed more than 4000 feet during those miles on the road, and the wind added plenty of resistance when we weren’t riding uphill.
In other words, we’d gotten what we wanted from the ride. A great workout and a safe journey through the ups and downs and sideways too. That explains those smiles in the photos. The wind smiles at us all. All a man and woman can do is smile back.