How We Roll In Černý Vůl

Kiya and Bishop Stewart Moore, wearing his cycling mitre, in front of the castle ruins at Okoř.

It's a hell of a thing to get all suited up for a ride, to get all your gear together, to remember your money and water and camera and Garmin and asthma inhaler, and then to go down to the garage and find out that your bike has a flat.

And not just any flat, but a rear flat, which I always find difficult to change. Not so much changing the tube. That's easy. But rethreading the chain correctly into the sprockets. The whole thing's a pain, frankly.

But that's exactly what happened last weekend when I was all set to go out for a ride with a new friend of mine, Kiya Wilson, the husband of Ellen Barry, an old friend of Daisy's. Kiya and Ellen were visiting us from Moscow, along with their 2-year-old daughter, Alice.

Kiya used to cycle quite seriously but hadn't really ridden since he'd moved to Moscow. Turns out that city is not exactly bike-friendly.

Our route on this day. Click to enlarge.

So I thought I'd take Kiya out and show him how we roll here in Černý Vůl. Stewart agreed to come along for the ride. Kiya would be riding Daisy's bike, a trusty Author.

Except I discovered, minutes from our appointed meeting time in Velké Přílepy, that my mountain bike had a flat rear tire. Seemed fine when I came in from my last ride. Weird.

I made a half-hearted attempt to change it, but I didn't have the time nor, more importantly, the patience. I made the bold decision to pump up the tires and oil the chain of my old trekking bike, Old Blue, and see how far she'd take me.

The last time I'd ridden her was in late October 2008, when Rob and I attempted our century ride. I'd ridden her reluctantly that morning, too, because I'd similarly found my mountain bike with a flat tire when I went out to the garage.

Turns out it was a big mistake to take that bike on such an ambitious ride that day. I only managed 112 kilometers before I had to call it quits. The gear ratio isn't suited for tough climbs, and I find the riding posture to be uncomfortable now. I'm sitting up in the saddle a little too straight for my liking. It's a good bike, though, and treated me well for many years.

Anyway, Kiya and I were going on a short ride, and would likely to end up in Okoř, so I figured I'd be OK on Old Blue for a few hours. We popped a few nonalcoholic Birrells in our water-bottle holders (I'd actually forgotten the water bottles, and there were a few cans laying around the garage) and we were off.

Turns out it wasn't the bike that stymied me, but the wind. A stiff wind right in our faces. All the way to Okoř. It was hell getting to Velké Přílepy from Černý Vůl, up the Route 240 hill. Cold, too. As usual, I'd underdressed, and found myself wishing for some ear protection and another layer under my windbreaker.

Kiya admitted that he had doubts, too, about making it up that hill. Quite a slog. The poor squished cat beside the road about halfway up didn't help our frame of mind.

We ended up meeting Stewart in Úholičky, and then backtracked to Velké Přílepy. From there, it was a hell of a hard ride into the wind on the high ground to Noutonice. Pretty unpleasant, frankly. Made me want to turn around. No fun.

We took the back way into Okoř from Noutonice, normally a lovely downhill through the woods. On this day, though, what with the spring thaw, much of it was like riding through chocolate ice cream. The parts that weren't muddy were still covered in a layer of hard-packed snow that had turned to ice.

Like riding through chocolate ice cream.

It was all we could do to stay on our bike and keep the pedals turning in the right direction.

By the time we reached the castle ruins at Okoř, we were ready for some hot soup, cold beer, and -- truth be told -- three whiskies each at the Hotel Okoř. Kiya wasn't drinking (one of the reasons he's in great shape and has lost so much weight recently), so he had a Birrell or two. We sat inside, out of the wind and the chill, and resuscitated ourselves.

Once we felt sufficiently recharged, it was back on the bikes to Černý Vůl, this time through Lichoceves and Statenice.

Kiya tries to stay on the trail. Actually, he's trying just to stay on his bike.

Not surprisingly (since we always seem to encounter at least one on every ride), we got honked at aggressively by some hot-headed young driver as he passed us outside of Lichoceves. I can't figure out what these drivers' beefs are. Yes, we may have been riding two abreast at that point, on a nearly deserted country road, but does that give him (yes, it's always a man) the right to behave like a d***head? Is it a show to prove how vulnerable we are out there on our bikes, while he's in his fortress on wheels?

We made the appropriate hand gestures to express our disapproval, as it were, and he slowed down as if to challenge us, but then sped off. (And no, our reaction had nothing to do with what we'd just drank. We're intolerate of such rude behavior by motorists pretty much anytime.)

One of these days we're going to get into a punch-up with one of these guys. In a way, I welcome that. In my experience, these d***heads act all tough when they're behind the wheel, but chicken out when the going gets tough.

Then again, what will be gained by that? Once a d***head, always a d***head. And why let a d***head ruin your ride?

Then again, they deserve to get their asses kicked.

I'm torn.

Anyway, the d***head sped off, and we ended up back in Černý Vůl. Mud-splattered, sweaty, and cold.

Length of ride: 17.5 kilometers
Average speed: 9.8 kph
Maximum speed: 48.4 kph
Time on the bike: 1.46.29
Pivo Index: 2
Whiskey Index: 3
Distance ridden so far in 2010: 33.5 kilometers


One of the nice things about the spring arriving is that there's less of that suiting up to do before the ride.

I was cycling into the same wind and I can concur it was no fun. At least I had an easy run back home.

Don't let the ****heads drag you down!
Mark said…
Stewart and I almost got into a bailiwick with d***head representative one time .. but when he slowed the car and prepared to fight, we saw his mother crouching, hiding in the passenger seat ... Can you imagine, the d***head wanted to rumble with his poor mom in the car .. When we saw that, we just waved him off and laughed. He sped away very fast ...
Booda said…
it was the mother I was worried about, see those fists...those boots!
Grant Podelco said…
Perhaps you should have taught the mother a lesson, too. Sounds like she didn't teach her son proper manners.
Lukas said…
Did you know that "riding two abreast" at any road is forbidden by law? That would explain your experience with honking.

Violent statements like "teaching her a lesson" are in my opinion just disgusting BTW.
Sounds like you could use a few warm spring rides to relax a bit. Luckily warm weather has melted pretty much all the hardpack ice, so you won't be quite as stressed when you hit the road again.
Grant Podelco said…
Hi, Lukas, Thanks for reading. I realize that riding two abreast is against the law, which is why I admitted it. But we were riding on an empty country road. No big deal for a car to slow down and go around us. It certainly does not give permission for cars to speed up as they pass us and honk their horn obnoxiously. It's a Czech mind-set that must change. Czech men feel that if they are behind the wheel of a car, that they are king and can do anything they want.

And the commment about the mother was a joke. We're all just sick of Czechs endangering the lives of cyclists, and other drivers. Every day on the road I see behavior by Czech drivers that is outrageous. They need to be stopped.
Mark said…
I'm fully with Grant on this one ... honking at a cyclist is quite different than honking at another motorist. It can really startle a cyclist and knock him off the bike. Motorists don't realize how much stronger their position is vis a vis cyclists. When I am driving and I approach cyclists, I always slow down, never honk, and look for the best opportunity to pass. If the cyclists are riding two abreast they inevitably go to single file once they know I'm behind them. No need to rush, honk, jester and try to run them off the road ...
Chris Beaman said…
I used to let those types of people get me hot headed too but at the end of the day it's not worth it. Great blog, though, sounds like a blast
Grant Podelco said…
Thanks, Chris. I'm trying to adopt that attitude, too. It's hard sometimes, though.
Mark said…
Maybe I should try that zen thing too .. at the moment, if a motorist honks at me, I flip him the bird. If he slows down, I get ready to fight. If he stops, he's asking for a fight. At that point, anything goes ... and he's responsible for any damage to him or his car. Of course, that ruins my day too .. and if he's bigger than me, then he'll probably kick my ass, but I'll definitely get a shot in. Sad to say, this is war.
Mark said…
I guess I should add that it very rarely if ever gets that far, and that's a good thing. I really dislike violence, but I also think bikers need to be willing to defend their rights or we'll just get stampeded ...
Grant Podelco said…
I totally agree with Mark. It is war. And the statistics show that pedestrians and cyclists are on the losing end of things in the Czech Republic. The worst country in the European Union to be both.

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