The Sky Is Falling

The view over Tuchoměřice. It's hard to tell where the landscape ends and the sky begins.


The weather, and my schedule, cooperated enough to allow me to take my first bike ride in Prague since Rob and I attempted our centuries on October 21. Yikes. That's too long between rides. (I did manage a 53.5-kilometer ride at the end of October during a visit to Florida.)

Rob and I met up around 9 a.m. on Friday (November 23) on the road between Statenice and Tuchoměřice. The weather was cold (6 degrees Celsius, or around 43 Fahrenheit) and damp and overcast. It was one of those Prague days when the clouds are dull gray, the color of dirty dishwater, and hang so low that they basically turn into fog.

Prague, I've heard, suffers from something calling inversion, where the landscape of hills around the city traps the clouds and coal smoke and car exhaust and compacts it all into a heavy lid that prevents fresh air or sunlight from seeping through.

But at least it wasn't raining.

Or snowing.

I'd already been out for a short ride on Thursday (November 22), when I picked up my bike from the repair shop, Cykloservis "U Tyrše" at Jaselska 29 in Prague 6. New chain, new back brake pads, and I had some bar ends put on. I guess I hadn't situated the rear tire properly last time I had a flat, which caused a variety of problems, including my gear slippage in low gears going up hills. My mechanic, Matej, also cleaned and lubed my front suspension.

"Take better care of your bike," was Matej's parting advice.

I rode it the 15 or so kilometers home.

Out with Rob, we just decided to wing it, with no particular route in mind. We rode to Tuchoměřice, up the hill, past the lovely Auberge de Provence restaurant, over to Středokluky, home to a cozy little pub, Restaurant Koupaliste, that my new friends at Moto Robert turned me on to, from there to Makotrasy, up to the 0018 bike trail, back east to Čičovice, Male Čičovice, over to Okoř, then up the hill to Noutonice, then on the flatland to Svrkyně, Holubice, Kozinec, Tursko and Úholičky, home to the Smallest Pub in the World, which was, sadly, closed.

(You can see the entire route by clicking here. Click on the "View In Google Earth" button to download a file which you can import into Google Earth for a cool 3-D flyover.)

The Vltava River with the Prague castle in the background, left. I took this shot while riding home after picking my bike up from the shop on November 22. I liked the silvery light, but this shot was taken at midday, and the lack of sunshine really starts to get to you.

From Úholičky, it was up the decent hill to the main highway that will take you to Roztoky. We turned off after a bit, though, and went down the hill to Unetice, where we parted company -- I to my home in Statenice-Černý Vůl, he to his flat in Prague 6.

It was a nice ride, although the dull light and low clouds and damp cold started to get to me. Pretty damn depressing, if you ask me. A few semi-strenuous hills got the endorphins flowing, though, and it was nice to be out riding again after such a long hiatus.

My gears are still not working right, though, but now it's the upper gears in 1 or 2. Matej said there was something not quite right, but that he thought it would correct itself after 20 or 30 kilometers, once the chain stretched a bit. My prediction is that I'm going to have to take my bike back in for service, though. I don't know if it's my bike shop (not that I have that many to choose from) or whether this kind of thing just happens. It's pretty annoying, though.

I really like the Art Nouveau designs on the outside of the Pension u Sv. Prokopa, in Středokluky.

I still haven't received my new breathable cold-weather riding gear, so I tried riding without wearing my usual windbreaker, which seems to trap all my perspiration inside, soaking my sweatshirts. This time, I just wore a T-shirt and a sweatshirt over that, without the windbreaker, and I must admit, once I got my core body temperature up, I was a lot more comfortable. The sweat evaporated, and I was a lot more comfortable. I was also wearing long thermal tights and a balaclava, as well as riding gloves and glove liners.

It was my most comfortable cold-weather ride yet.

I also wore my Garmin heart-rate monitor for the first time since the fiasco over getting it replaced by a company called Myron Global in Atlanta. And it actually worked! My average heart rate for this ride was 140 beats per minute.

Combined length of two rides: 52 kilometers
Average speed: 17.7 kph
Maximum speed: 47.3 kph
Average heart rate: 140 bpm
Time on the bike: 2.54.55
Distance ridden so far in 2007: 1,796.5 kilometers

The lake outside Okoř in late autumn.

I usually only include photos taken on my rides on this blog, but I came across these Trabants in a shopping center parking lot. You still see many of them on the roads in Prague, although perhaps not in such good shape. Trabants were made in East Germany and were popular across the Soviet bloc. Their two-stroke engines seem to run forever, thanks to the constant tinkering of their owners. Is it my imagination, or are these cars smiling?


Anonymous said…
Grant, thanks so much for posting this. I'm heartened to hear that you had a good solid ride today. We are packing our folding bikes tonight to bring them to Prague, yippeee! I biked this morning at 6 a.m. and it was 30oF, so I should be okay there. Have you heard the phrase, "Cotton kills"? It holds sweat and chills you, so you might like to try moisture-wicking polypro or Coolmax undergarments. Today I wore a fleece jersey, bike tights, overtights, fleece balaclava, windbreaker, ski gloves, Gore-tex overbooties, and I was fine except for my face. I have a scary Gore-tex face mask for when it's seriously cold; I could have used it. Happy Thanksgiving weekend! Do you celebrate it there with ex-pats? I hope we get to meet and maybe ride together, although the forecast looks a bit sketchy for later in the week, when we'll be over our jetlag.... Pauline from Somerville, MA
Grant said…
Hi, Pauline,

I hadn't heard that phrase, but I definitely understand where it comes from. I finally got my breathable cycling clothes inthe mail today. I hope to test them out this weekend and see what the difference really is.

We did have a nice Thanksgiving, and celebrated it with friends from Scotland and Bulgaria. We got to introduce them to some strange new foods, like sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie.

Drop me a line when you get to Prague. Who knows? Maybe we can find time to ride!
Those cars do look like they are smiling. The pictures of your rides are very interesting.
Anonymous said…
Ha ha! Sweet potatoes ARE a bit strange to the uninitiated, especially if they have mini marshmallows mixed in among them. I once went to a Turkey Trot road race with hot buffet afterwards, and the lady in the buffet line said to me, "Sweet potatoes with marshmallows, just like your grandma used to make!" I'm Korean, so I just looked at her and said, "Not my grandma!"

We'll be staying at the Hotel Juno; if we have internet access, I'll try to drop you a line; otherwise, you can try us at the hotel under my name (Pauline Lim), if you have time for a beer or a bike ride!

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