No one who rides looks forward to falling off their bike, but push your limits just a bit and sooner of later you're coming off. Yesterday I rode with friends TJ, Tim, Marcella, Rick and Des in a local 100K (The Tour de Menlo). Nice ride on familiar roads.
Ignoring the practicalities of a tubular puncture (and no means to fix it), I wanted to take the Specialized Tarmac SL3 out for a decent loop. All week I've been enjoying my commutes as the Tarmac seems to eat up the road with a ruthless efficiency. The S-Works Double is a noticeable change from my normal compact setup and the day's short climbs didn't have me worried about gearing.
Not surprisingly the only component on the bike that hasn't agreed with me is the saddle... a very light, very stiff Toupe Team. A week is too short to adapt to a new seat. The night before the ride I switched out the Toupe for a familiar Fizik Aliente in the interests of comfort. A new bike and a familiar friend; the best of both worlds.
After a leisurely rollout through residential streets, we picked up the pace, pacelining a stretch of Skyline and then the return on Canada road. By the time we hit Sandhill the legs were warmed up and I bridged up to Tim and Rick who were pushing the pace towards Alpine. That's were I made my first mistake. I rode off the front and anticipating the last 200 metres got out the saddle to see how hard I could push myself on the Tarmac. That's when a rider 50 metres ahead pulled up fast as pedestrians walked out in front of him. I sat down and hit the brakes. Favoring the front I still locked up the rear and skidded dramatically, let off and skidded again, pulling up less than ten feet from the crosswalk.
The lightweight TRP 960 brakes on this build are dual caliper front and rear, and their action, particularly in the rear, is more dramatic than my own Campagnolo skeleton brakes. The panic stop should have been enough to alert me to the fact that the rear brake needed a lighter touch than I'm used to, but unfortunately it didn't click.
A few miles later spiraling down a steep downhill behind Tim's rapid descending, I locked up the rear approaching a tight left hander. Everything slowed down as the bike fishtailed left, then right, and I came really close to recovering, imagining Thor Hushovd catching himself right at the guard rail in this year's Tour... no such luck. I highsided, came completely free of the bike, rolled once in some loose gravel and popped right back up somehow holding the bike. First thought... wow, that was cool.
Damage report, a few scratches on my right knee, and after a 30-second scan not a mark on the bicycle. I remounted and rode on as if nothing had happened. Sometime later, with TJ riding behind me he spotted a major burn out on the rear tubular (no doubt from the skid). I rode the last 20 miles on the tire with no change in ride quality and without incident.
First thing this morning, I dropped into the Bicycle Outfitter in Los Altos, grabbed a new Vittoria tubular and was lucky enough to have Jim, one of their experienced mechanics, agree to have it glued up by the end of the day. I picked up the wheel, heard a nice story from Jim about learning to sew up his first tubular in a little bike shop in Italy when he was 16 AND replenished my supply of shot blocks, clif bars, sport beans and drink mix all in one shot.
Provided we're not badly hurt a fall every now and then could be a good thing. On the one hand it reminds us that we need to be safe out there, and on the other that a bit of road rash really isn't that bad. We skinned our knees and elbows all the time as kids, we're not that fragile. I only wish we had Tegaderm back then.