Messin’ with the Kid

Father and son at Haneda Peace Shrine

One of my goals in getting a new bike was to pass along Ol’ Paint to my son, and we accomplished that yesterday with a father-son ride along my usual Haneda round-trip route.

Extended Haneda ride
Extended Haneda ride

The lad showed up early on Saturday and I gave him a few pointers as we prepped for the ride. We hit the road and I only had to hold back a little bit for him to keep up. I also had to keep in mind for some of my traffic shenanigans that I wasn’t riding solo — no point in me racing to beat a light if he’s not going to be there with me.

We got to the river course with only one — rather dramatic — wipe-out. On the bridge over the river, next to a line of idling cars, he hit the front brake only and went (as my father would put it) ass end over teakettle. Nothing hurt in the end except a little pride. It took a minute to untangle himself and right the bike, and then were on our way again.

Yeah, I used to do that sort of thing when I was young, too. Wipe out and come up smiling, that is …

Ol' Paint, meet Kuroko
Ol’ Paint, meet Kuroko

As the boy’s a bit taller than his father, we wanted to raise the seat. Ol’ Paint has a quick-release seat clamp, so during a rest break we released it and gave the saddle a yank. Nothing.

Taking a break in the shade
A break in the shade

Another yank, holding the rear wheel down.

More nothing.

I braced the bike by the handlebars and the Kid grabbed the saddle horn and gave it a few whacks from side to side.

無理 (nothing).

OK, well, the shop where I bought the bike is right near the point where the cycle path joins the roadway, so we decided to stop there on the way back and ask the mechanic for a hand.

At Haneda we paid our usual visit to the Peace Shrine before sitting down in the shade to a lunch of handmade onigiri.

On the way back upstream, as we stopped to fill our water bottles and discuss our options, we decided we could go a bit farther than our original plan. I considered our progress to that point and the heat, and picked out a spot a bit upstream on the Kawasaki side as our second goal of the day. We saddled up and took off. Less than a kilometer later, there was another rider overtaking and saying something to me. I thought he was just being unusually polite in letting me know he was passing, but he was telling me in English that I’d left my bag at the last rest stop!

I turned around and cycled back together with my Good Samaritan, chatting in English about the heat, to where his wife was waiting and holding my bag. (I’m glad to say there wasn’t anything important in it. My ID and keys were in the cockpit bag atop Kuroko’s top tube. I’d only brought along the backpack to hold the onigiri.) I thanked the two of them profusely and then rejoined the Kid on our way upstream.

That trick where you prop the bike up by its pedal
That trick where you prop the bike up by its pedal

I knew where the quiet little park with the stream was, all right, but what I didn’t know was where we could find water fountains to fill our bottles on the Kawasaki side. The lack of fountains was compounded by one of the flies in the ointment of my new bike: We’d had to replace my insulated water bottles with something smaller to allow the frame to accommodate two. The salesbloke found a couple that fit, and in a color to match the frame. But in the heat of the day Saturday, the water was warm by the time I wanted to drink it.

On our way back from the park, we stopped at a recreation facility near a little shrine by the river. They had restrooms, but there was no water fountain. We continued on our way and after a couple of more kilometers came to a convenience store. I bought two liters of water, cold, and between the two of us we drank nearly a liter on the spot. After filling our bottles with the remainder, we resumed our trek.

As we leave the cycling course and the river behind us, there’s a bit of a climb to get back into traffic. (It’s a 4% grade for 500m, meaning a climb of 20m.) This has always been something of a challenge (particularly after, by this point, more than 60km of riding). I was eager to see how it would go with Kuroko, and I was very pleasantly surprised by the result. Where I typically struggle along at 9-11km/h (with lots of thigh burn) on Ol’ Paint, I was bettering 13km/h and not raising much more of a sweat than the day’s heat demanded. It was almost as if I had a motor hidden in my frame.

Once I was home and having a shower and cool drink, I thought about it. Yes, I know my new bike is smoother rolling and has better gearing. But that shouldn’t make so much of a difference in climbing ability. And the impression was matched by other situations where I needed power. I just felt I have a lot more on tap when I ride Kuroko.

And then it hit me: I’m bent over the bars a lot more than on Ol’ Paint. The picture above with the two bikes facing each other shows the difference in bar height. And being bent over means that I’m using my big fat gluteal muscles a lot more than when I’m sitting upright.

I have an engine, but it’s in my body.

Fabian Cancellara

Strava confirmed my impression with a personal best on the middle portion of the climb with an average speed of 13.8km/h.

Meanwhile, I waited for the lad at the small park at the top of the hill, and we set out together for the bike shop. The mechanic gave the seat a try (I think he didn’t even try as hard as we had), and then sprayed the area with penetrating oil. “Ride it for a week like that. If the seat starts to move, then we can get it out. If not, it has to go to a framebuilder to be extracted.”

It’s not much farther from there to the Kid’s apartment, and as he locked up Ol’ Paint at her new home he said to me, “Until next week.”

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