I found out about this Urban Assault bicycle ride via the Let’s Ride Mountain Bikes group on Meetup.com. The description: “Mix of road riding & mountain biking in an urban & residential setting. The route is random with some urban obstacles (e.g. curbs, staircases, medians, etc.) Ride is roughly 2hrs long and averages about 20 miles. Speed varies throughout the ride but overall average is around 14-15mph. Lights are not required but are highly recommended.”
Thursday night, I pulled into the Loco Motion parking lot and immediately felt out of place, uncomfortable and awkward since it was my first time riding with this group – I didn’t know anyone there – and I was the only female in sight! I put on my socks and shoes as slow as I could and waited while all of the guys stood in a circle and gossiped like they do. I guess I have a hard time just walking up to a group of men and introducing myself, especially since we were getting ready for a hardcore bike ride. I could literally see them sizing me up!
The posting also said that it was a ‘no-drop’ ride, which meant that no one would be left behind. I could already tell these guys thought they’d have to wait on me tonight. I played the fool and let them go on thinking that…
At 7 o’clock, I counted ten guys and found out the ride didn’t leave until 7:15. I waited some more, stretched my legs, reorganized my hair, again, and watched the traffic on Fairbanks whiz by. Well…finally, a few of the stragglers showed up around ten after; then one of my buddies rolled in and marked his territory by coming right over and finding something wrong with my bike. I guess my front tire was loose. You know, run what you brung!
I ended up being the only girl out of 14 riders and they all had super trick headlights mounted on their helmets, while I was stuck with a measly little bar mounted light, but at least I had my clip shoes! It was almost dark when we took off. My friend told me the pace was fast and I should try saving my energy for the 4-mile sprint at the end, but I quickly figured out there was no way I was riding in the back with no lights, so I jumped right in mid-pack and away we went through the streets of Winter Park. As we crossed busy intersections, everyone yelled, ‘car left’ or ‘car up,’ and I took note of their extreme level of safety. We wound around the Rollins College campus like we owned the place and I was hopping over curbs and clearing staircases in no time. We went terrorizing through the common areas right by the students whose faces dropped in astonishment at the biker gang hauling past. A few kids “woohooed” and by the third time by the security guard, he studdered as we blitzed, “hey, you guys can’t be riding…where there’s people.”
We laughed, “Ok, we’ll tell the ring leader,” someone said.
We pushed on and I kept pace with the front of the pack, with one eye on the leader and the other on the five guys around me. I really had to hold my line through the turns; no going inside to outside or outside in, because there would be someone right next to me, vying for that spot. Thankfully, I know how to ride, as did most of the guys there and I stayed tight with the front runners and ahead of the rest of them. The first section of woods was still underwater from the last storm and it caught me offguard with no lights; I could barely see one foot in front of me, but I kept clipped in until someone crashed in front of me and I couldn’t get clipped out in time, so I bailed right off into the deepest puddle out there. Of course! The only thing that didn’t get wet was my face and I yelped, like a girl, so even if they couldn’t see my crash, they knew who went swimming.
I dried off through the next section of neighborhoods and stayed on the gas. We crossed railroad tracks and gravel roads, hit the side streets and around the elementary school. We wound up downtown and the Dew Tour was going on, so we got “woohooed” again. I was loving it, and I cleared a nice long set of stairs no problem, like I’d ever done that before. Then someone popped a tire: “Flat!” they yelled, and we all stopped to regroup.
My friend spoke up, “I hate to tell you this, but you have this natural ability to ride to the front. Most girls don’t have that,” he said. Well, I’m not most girls! I told him and everyone wanted to know my story. “I’m a harescrambler,” I said. What’s that? They all looked confused. “Are you talking motorcycles?” someone asked. Geez…
We took off again and passed the folks waiting at the train station. We rode right by the Florida Hospital and as the leader ducked down a sidewalk and I turned to follow him, this one guy came to my inside and took me out! We slammed into each other and wadded into a big mess of bicycles scrapping across the asphalt. I must say, it was quite a spectacular crash and as soon as we hit, I felt the instant horrible sensation that, this is going to get worse before it gets better, and I hit the ground with a worry. Man, I used to get that feeling a lot when I was racing. Thankfully when I landed, I fell to the right, because my left is my bad shoulder. As soon as I hit, my shoulder locked up in pain and my stomach turned. I knew it wasn’t broken, but still I couldn’t move it. Meanwhile, there were nurses and doctors walking by as witnesses. One of the nurses said, “At least you crashed in the right place!” All the guys circled back and everyone kept asking me if I was okay, except for the clown who crashed me; he knew it was his fault. I was upset with him for that, but I said nothing and waited for my shoulder to unlock. Come on! My buddy came over to fix my rear brake and straighten my seat. Someone said, “You sure know how to make for some memories,” he laughed.
“Yeah, now that I’m wet AND sore…”
We took off again, hauling down some brick roads and over more curbs. I was lucky I knew how to square those babies up without my rear end coming around. Ah, the good ol’ harescramble days.
We rode by the Orlando Executive Airport and through Baldwin Park, the newest neighborhood in town. Someone popped another flat, so we stopped at the neighborhood skate park to regroup again and chugged some Gatorade before crossing the six-lane highway. We hopped over the median while all the cars honked at us and we just stared into their lights with a smile. They must have thought we were idiots, but they didn’t realize the amount of teamwork that’s involved when we’re all riding tight and calling the shots; I felt safe until the very last sprint when I lost those guys, but my friend stayed back with me, so we boogied the last few miles at MY sprint speed, which to be honest is nothing compared to their 30 mph. We took a short cut back to the bike shop and the rest of the group arrived a few minutes later. They were all panting like dogs and it soon became clear who the biggest dog was. I took a seat on my tailgate and watched all of their reactions. The big dog came over, “You really impressed me,” he said. I laughed and he continued, “You know, when a new rider shows up, it’s always a big inconvenience,” and I nodded. He kept talking, “So, it’s an even bigger convenience when it’s a girl,” and I just started back at him, “But you can ride,” he said, “Thanks for coming out.”
Nice to meet you!