The British call them trousers.

May 28, 2009

On Monday, I bought a bike.

Today, I took it out for its inaugural spin. Well, its inaugural spin with me. Michael rode on Tuesday. I didn’t ride Tuesday because I had Krav Maga, and I didn’t ride yesterday because it was raining. On Thursday, I ran out of excuses.

I knew where I wanted to ride. The canal. Which doesn’t sound exciting because you know I run the canal. But on a bike, you can go so much farther! I always pass a sign that says the towpath I’m on is 87 miles long, and I wanted to see more of it.

Especially because I don’t run that far in one direction because there’s a 3-mile segment where the path ends and you have to take the road, which is hot and suffocating and surrounded by overgrown shrubbery that breeds mosquitos and flies whose kamikaze missions direct them straight into your mouth.

So I always knew (because the internet told me, and the internet never lies) that the road would ultimately return you to the path along the canal, but today was the day to put it to the test. I’d still have to ride along the road, but the amount of time spent in that unpleasant section would be totally bearable. Because I don’t know how fast you can run, but I can’t run as fast as I can bike.

Well, it surely is tricky, that National Cycle Network Route 4. After the paved road ends, you reach a gravel road. And are bombarded with signs that read, “PRIVATE PROPERTY. Theale Water Ski Club.”

So just as I was cursing the world and all of its snobby skiers, snow and water both, I noticed this teeninesy little sign that said, “Public Right of Way.”

So I took my little public self right down that right of way.

And I saw the water skiers and they looked happy. And not snobby at all.

After only a few minutes on the ski club’s property, I saw it again! The canal.

This junction led to more cursing though. Do I turn left and go along the canal on the near side, or cross a bridge and head along the canal that way? Checked for signs. No sign at all towards the left. But there was a sign on the bridge. It said National Cycle Network. But then there was an X over it! Who decides that’s the best way to direct people? Just tell me which way the Network is, then I will know which way it is not.

So I took my left turn, and all was good again! It was a most wonderful ride. So much prettier than the sections where I run. Every move I made in that direction took me farther and farther away from civilization, so I could finally see “English countryside.” And it was beautiful.

I had decided to ride 45 minutes out, then turn around and head home. Alas, I only made it 41 minutes. Because there were cows blocking my path. Not just hanging out near the path. That is no biggie. But I’m talking there were about…12 cows just chilling, some standing, some laying down, ON my path. And I could have ridden more into the field to try to get around them, but it looked rather muddy, and there were even more cows in the field.

If you had asked me this morning if I was afraid of cows, I would have laughed. Ask me now, however, and you’d get a different answer.

So I turned around and headed back home. Which is where we get to the meat of the story.

Fast forward back to the ski club’s property. As I was riding there, I realized my pants were kind of falling down. I hadn’t really thought much about what I’d wear on this bike ride. These were the shorts I had walked my dogs in this morning, so they were also the shorts I rode in this afternoon. And they’re a little big. The ski club’s drive is a bit rocky, however, so I was too focused on the technicality of the ride to pull them up just yet. But the second I hit that paved road, the nasty one with all the bugs, I stood up on my pedals, grabbed my waistband with my left hand, and yanked my shorts up.

And then I hit the ground. I bit it, and I bit it hard. All I can remember thinking is, “Using your hands to block a fall will sprain your wrists.” But I’M SORRY. You try to go down face-first and not put your hands out. So out they went.

And let’s not forget that the whole reason I finally decided it was time to spend big bucks on a bike was because of the tumble down the stairs which resulted in a sprained ankle and orders not to run. I really don’t think I’ve always been this accident-prone.

Back to the scene. I’m on the ground, my bike’s bars are twisted, and a car is coming. We’re in the middle of nowhere. Why must a car be coming at that moment?

I look up, he waves acknowledgment, and I work my bike and myself out of the center of the road. He pulls up next to me and asks how I’m doing. “Fine,” I say. “Better off than my bike at least.” (This turns out to be a lie. Neither wrist is sprained, but my left shoulder is a bit jacked up. And my left knee and hand are rather scraped up. My bike, however, is in good condition.)

Then, because I’m embarrassed, I can’t keep quiet. I feel the need to explain why I would wipe out on a paved road with no hills, no turns, no roots, no diversions. “My pants are too big. They were falling down. I was trying to pull them up and lost control.”


In the UK, pants = underwear. I know this. In moments of calm, at least. Put me under pressure and in pain, and that knowledge is out the window.

So he says, “At first I thought you were one of those people who lays in the middle of the road then jumps in my truck when I stop.”

I didn’t even know those people existed.

So again, I say, “My pants were falling down.”

TWICE. Twice, I tell some strange man and his strange man passenger that my UNDERWEAR was falling down.

But it wasn’t! I’m wearing properly fitting boy briefs from American Eagle, with multi-colored polka dots and a red waistband, that choose not between form and function, but instead serve both simultaneously. They are cute and comfortable and were not heading down my legs at the time of my fall.

No matter what I might have stated and then confirmed to these men.

And after a confession like that, there wasn’t really much left to do but wipe the blood from my hands, bid the two strangers good day, and hop on my bike for the last twenty minutes home.

What a day for a bike ride.


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