It sank in quickly with all the finality of the Apollo 13 mission. The objective now was to get home safely before the chain gave up completely. I take it as a sign of maturity that the three of us immediately grasped the seriousness of the situation.
As we rolled back to the intersection with Logie Trail both Slate and Daniel made it clear we needed to give the descent respect. The road is steep, patchy in places and, on this day, slick with wet leaves. In many ways it reminded me of Tunitas Creek Road on the 2nd with the addition of traffic.
Slate led and rapidly pulled away as I modulated (meaning reefed) the canti brakes on his cross bike to keep my speed manageable. And did I mention Daniel had NO brakes. I knew he had at least a wafer of rubber left in the calipers because to that point he hadn't produced any sparks but apparently the wafer was complete rubbish because I gapped him even quicker than Slate gapped me. Ultimately he must have been snowplowing to keep from plunging over the side.
The more I get to know Daniel the more I believe he does these things deliberately as creative devices to improve the narrative. No one goes out to Otto Miller without brakes unless they've got a story board in their head.
Things got cold again and by the bottom my hands were cramping from all the braking. Slate rode up from the corner to meet me and thought about going higher in search of Daniel but we ended up sitting for a minute or two until Daniel freewheeling and grinning appeared. He nodded at his brake levers which were literally squeezed closed without a hint of friction as he sped past. Madman.
This is a storied highway that rolls down to Portland. Thankfully it has a generous shoulder most of the way and we would use it.
Within the first hundred yards it became apparent that we'd be out there forever if my sick drive train was setting the pace. I tried to establish a new kind of pedaling rhythm, pushing until I anticipated the chain slippage, waiting for re-engagement so as not to unduly stress it, and pushing again. Hardly efficient.
Worried that the chain wasn't going to make it over the eight miles back to the city limits Slate said “stop pedaling we'll push”. Traveling three abreast with me in the middle they each put a hand on my back and began powering our disabled Rapha trimaran along. After a bit I got a better sense of the chain behavior and renewed my opportunistic pedaling. Taking more than your fair share of pulls at the front is one thing but literally pushing a buddy home is a true act of charity.
When the shoulder narrowed or obstructions appeared we'd fly in a two-man formation for as long as possible, and when things got even tighter my lead-IN man would give me a mighty shove and I'd do my best to keep the momentum going. I have no idea what the passing cars made of our game of slingshot, but we were getting pretty good at it when we decided to aim for Ira Ryan's shop and see if we could get it fixed.
Eventually we approached the St. Johns Bridge exit and the little climb leading to the roadway of this beautiful span. I was forced to switch gears to make the no-shoulder ramp alone and when I did the chain began working again, as mysteriously as it had failed. “It's working again” I yelled above the traffic. “Don't shift again” was the response from behind, and I didn't. It got us to the bridge roadway, over the hump and down the other side, through the lights and round the corner to the threshold of Ira's shop, but was he home?
It's fitting that Ira's basement workshop has a 10 foot ramp inclined at 30 degrees from door to street level. Perhaps that helps account for his climbing prowess... he's doing intervals getting out the shop.
Daniel yelled at the door "Is Mr. Ira Ryan in" and momentarily Ira's head appeared. In short order he produced a chain tool (which, having learned my lesson I'll carry from now on) and with a little pressure coaxed the link back to life. After a little lubrication you'd never know the chain had gone AWOL.
We dropped down to the shop and recounted our ride while Ira produced his latest steel frame fresh from the tank, something he was working on for a friend and team sponsor. He proudly showed us his new framing jig, a beefy, super-engineered alignment tool that's going to enhance his output. The guys talked a bit about the last cross race, the sorry state of Daniel's bikes and some new kit before we said our goodbyes and set our wheels in the direction of Mississippi and a late lunch.
Liberated from their shoving match with my chain, you can see the boys happily flapping their arms in the opening shot out in the cross winds on Willamette Blvd.
Compared to 'the Thirty' our route back from Ira's place to Rapha HQ was nothing. We passed several riders heading in the opposite direction all of whom shouted out to Slate and Daniel, including an old Nike colleague who designed Lance's original shoes... how's that for local lore.
Back at the ranch we said hello to the chickens clucking under the stairs and took the bikes and our soggy selves up stairs for a turn in the office shower before heading out for food. Funny how a long, cold ride makes you appreciate the simple luxuries like hot water.
We spent the rest of the afternoon at the Mexican cantina down the street and Rapha's designated coffee shop next door talking about cycling, movies, kids and nothing in particular as the quiet afternoon light waned and the return trip to the airport drew closer. All-in-all a great way to spend the day with a couple of pals that I didn't know a year ago. Thanks guys.
Slate dropped me at the airport well ahead of my 8:30 flight back to San Jose. I used the first hour to start writing and then feeling the effects of a long day, closed the laptop and shut my eyes. A minute later I looked up to see a vaguely familiar face doing a double take. "Don't I know you" he said. "I don't know" I answered.
Within a couple of minutes we made the connection. He figured out I was Velodramatic (he'd been following the Rapha series) and I remembered I sent his girlfriend a shot I'd taken of him racing in the Cat Hill Classic earlier in the year. Chris works for Specialized and was up in Portland on business. With the flight half full we managed to sit together in an exit row and chat away about his job, riding and photography. He's off to European training camps for Saxo Bank and Quickstep shortly. He's a fellow Canadian that grew up just down the highway from Toronto in Dundas, Ontario, and we're both U of T grads (undergrad for me, business school for him). Small world. We're hoping to get out for a ride soon.
It was eleven when I finally pulled into the garage, eighteen hours after I left, dead tired but happy for another great day on the bicycle.
OK, so I'm really out there with this one, but the black Rapha Merino Base Layer looks so good I thought it deserved a little bit of the limelight, so here it is layered over the purple Long Sleeve Jersey, and it's not even Friday. This says commuting to me.
I love the brand detail at the neck. Luke how about a black T-shirt like that?