On Thursday morning, I set out to ride up Chain Bridge Road, NW, mostly to make up for the fact that I had ridden down it the day before and also because that's what I said I would do, and I'm not a welcher. While I do like riding uphill (I've resigned myself to this proclivity a long time ago, so as to make my commute somewhat more bearable),I had thoroughly convinced myself that the hill was much steeper than it actually turned out to be and would prove much more grueling than my legs and bike could handle. Throughout much of the ride, I thought about how I should've eaten something other than brown sugar cinnamon pop tarts for breakfast (which is just good advice generally, even when you're not planning to ride up a hill you've never ridden up before) and how I also should've inflated my bike's tires and how I should've lubed my bike's chain and how I maybe should've changed tires to a different pair of tires that would be more amenable to riding up a hill, maybe tires that are lighter and are slick instead of knobby and then I debated for some time where I should postpone this redemptive hill ride for a time when it wasn't cold and I wasn't wearing a messenger bag slung across my back and when I was wearing a more aerodynamic hat for some reason. Dread of a totally voluntary and completely uncompelled leisure activity is a curious and unnecessary thing and part of my wonders if I was tying to make the whole misguided enterprise seem worse so that by the time I completed it (which I would soon do) I would feel like I'd have achieved some kind of major personal accomplishment and reap the psychic rewards and mental boost. Though, looking back, I really don't think that's what was going on and, moreover, that's not really my style anyway. But that was my mood that morning and it crept along with me along the Mall and the Capital Crescent Trail and through the side streets of the Palisades to the base of the hill and then I got on with it and up I went, slowly if not smoothly, realizing that after the first little dart of climbing there was a long stretch of mostly flat which I managed to forget about. And after that stretch there was a park and I saw an old man with two black standard poodles and the poodles leaped as poodles do and I took this as a good sign, the poodle being my spirit animal. There was a curving slope where things got trickier and I pushed myself out of the saddle, but remained in the big ring and huffed my way to the top of that last hill and then the street ended at the intersection and I was just a few blocks from work and the whole thing was over, my having made good (or at least whole) my promise to myself that I would ride up a hill that I rode down the day before.
Friday was International Winter Bike to Work Day, in spite of the fact that internationally, it's not winter in a lot of places. You would think that this would give the southern hemisphere a distinct advantage, but I think they, collectively, declined to participate, or perhaps were excluded. I'm not sure. The "winners" of International Bike to Work Day, which is only in its third year, in its previous iteration were those cyclists from Oulu, Finland, a place whose latitude is a good 25+ degrees higher than our's here in DC, thought on the day, our temperature was a good 25 degrees colder than theirs. The goal was to beat Oulu. We didn't.
It's possible, likely, really that the Finns rigged the contest. Though they didn't rig it as well as the Zagrebians, who took the day, with the most International Winter Bike to Work Day registrants. I've spent a little time in Zagreb and its a lovely city and I can only hope they prominently display the International Bike to Work Day trophy, which I assume is massive and festooned in glittery snowflakes, prominently in the trg next to the Ban Jelacic statue that all my proudly gaze upon it and its presumed glittery snowflake glory.
As for the cyclists here in the District of Columbia, we might lack a glittery snowflake trophy, but I think we can be proud of our showing in this rigged contest anyway. Unlike many other days in our so-called winter, it was frightfully and face-stingingly cold yesterday, cold enough to keep all but the foolhardiest of cyclists of their bikes. But many rode on anyway and some of those who rode on were counted by Erik and Kevin on Bicycle Space, who from 8 to 9 stood outside at the corner of 15th and Massachusetts counting cyclists and handing out coupons for a free tube to those hardy souls who pedaled by. Admittedly, counting cyclists at one intersection for one hour, isn't the most scientific way to ascertain how many people chose to ride to work on International Winter Bike to Work Day, but International Bike to Work Day isn't about scientific methodology. It's about trying to stick it to Oulu, Finland and not those smug chumps down a peg, which, thanks to our friends in Zagreb, the international community was able to do and for that we should all be grateful. Don't get comfortable in second Oulu. We're coming for you next year.