A few weeks later, I ran so little pressure I rolled the front tire cutting a downill-to-uphill corner harder than I should have anyway, and the wheel folded and I got what I diagnosed as I lay there to be a little break in my wrist, which I never got treated but I judge accurate by the way the bones ache all this time later.
I rode home with twenty psi in my tires last night. It was not enough for the street but it had been good at the cross race down in the compost center. I like to be able to feel the rim with my palm when I put my hand on top of the tire and curl my fingers under the rim and squash down almost as hard as I can. It’s just something someone told me once, and it’s worked. Taylor says if you do a whole cross race and never bottom out, you’re running your tires too hard. That’s just something someone told him once, too, and it’s worked for him. Do what works is about the best advice anyone can ever give.
I took side streets and alleys. There was no moon, and I hadn’t bothered to mount the lights I had in my backpack, not even a blinkie. I don’t use a light for the race, either. I forgot mine the first night and had fun and decided to try doing the whole series with whatever my eyes could show me in the dark, or with light scavenged from whichever leading riders I could latch onto or trailing riders I could stay in front of. I like riding in the dark. Always have.
My tires made a soft, low, constant thrumming on the pavement, being so squishy, and they squirmed in the corners so I decided to ride really slow. I didn’t want to wreck in a corner, at night, on the street, without a light. But, more, I wanted to really be able to listen to that sound, a sound new to me, something nearly liquid in it, and raspy, and, strangely, beseeching. It was one of those sounds that if you heard it from far away, you would go to find it, all the time trying to guess what it might be.
I had gone down at the race, and I could feel my ankle seeping blood. It pulsed out warm, then cooled as it trickled, then dried somewhere down on my foot and got kind of tight then flaked and fell off as I pedaled and migrated to the bottom of my sock. Bri had crashed in front of me and I’d run over her bike and fell into it, a leg through the main triangle, a foot in her spokes. She’d kept telling me to get up, that she was racing, that she was having a good race, but I’d lay there and looked up at the moonless sky and had a laugh. I wasn’t racing the race; I was picking sections and having as much fun as I could in them, then just kind of riding along until I was with someone I could talk to, or someone who picked interesting lines, or who was a pleasure to watch ride.
I think I got some of my embro on Bri. I had too much on. I always do. The same way I use too little tire pressure I enjoy using too much embro. I like to hum with the aroma of it. It smelled like coffee, and it was thick and pebbly and orange, and stained my socks. The weeds I was lying in smelled like autumn. I would of liked to have been able to smell the sky. Lights from the other racers were flitting across the fields all around me. I could hear Mike heckling a few corners away. When I got up I was so happy about it all I passed a bunch of people and rode the mud pit the best I had all night. The mud pit is one of the sections where I have as much fun as I can.
Twenty psi. Totally in the dark. That’s almost no pressure, almost no pressure at all, really, but it works and I’m having fun and I know my way home.
Originally published in The Selection, October 25, 2013