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LJWorld.com weblogs Rolling along

True grit

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Every year about this time, I’m reminded of an old college girlfriend.Whenever we’d see a scene in a movie or on TV or an ad in a magazine of a couple rollicking on a beach, she’d turn to me and tell me I could expect never to fool around with her similarly.“The sand,” she’d say, “gets EVERYWHERE.”I was young and impressionable (and maybe even a little desperate), and she was an Older Woman, so I invariably would nod say something witty — like, “Uh, OK” — and hope her aversion to fooling around with me was confined only to sandy beaches.So why do my thoughts this time of year turn to reflections on a flame from nearly two decades ago? (Egad, that makes me sound old. Of course, using words like egad doesn't make me sound any younger.)I’m not pining, not for the flame nor the sandy-beach rollick. Or, if I were, I wouldn’t admit it.Every time I ride a bike from the first snowfall of the season until after the first decent rainstorm after the last snowfall of the season, I think about that particular ex now only because of her sandy pearls of wisdom. The sand really does get everywhere.Don’t get me wrong. I’m generally a big fan of traction. But I get a little miffed when a trace of snow results in an inch of sand on the streets. And while the snow might last less than 24 hours, the sand sticks around for months.It makes cycling treacherous. Every high-speed corner becomes a test of countersteering and power-sliding prowess. I’d honestly rather ride over snow than sand. At least snow is pretty predictable and easy to see. Sand piles can catch unsuspecting cyclists by surprise, and you never know quite where its limits of adhesion are.And sand shrinks the roads. Traffic tends to sweep the granules to the side of the road, where it collects in drifts. The drifts widen with every application.I try to ride as close to the gutter as possible, but I also try to avoid the sand as much as possible. A two-foot swath of sand forces me two feet farther from the curb — and closer to traffic.And, as my ex so frequently pointed out, it gets everywhere. No matter how many times I clean my ride, the next time out it’s covered in sand. It gets in the drivetrain and makes ugly crunching noises. Throw in a little moisture, and it makes lovely little skunk stripes up my back and backside. Passing cars kick it up … and into my eyes and mouth.Always looking for an excuse to buy another bike, I’m looking into purchasing a beach crusier: big ol’ balloon tires, swoopy lines and curvey handlebars.If I have to ride through the stuff, I might as well do it in style, with happy visions of lapping waves, sun-drenched dunes and romantic rollicks in my head.

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