Wind, newfangled bike and bird brain topple Highwheel Guy
by The Highwheel Guy (aka Jim Langley)
Dateline: April 3, 2009 - Davenport, California
It pains me no end to have to report that that dastardly Red Robin handily stomped me into the ground last night at the Swanton Time Trial.
Me, in my dazzling period-correct racing attire, and atop my spectacular 1886 Victor Light Roadster highwheel, and that lowly worm-eater on some odd-looking contraption with a peculiar horizontal backbone, spindly midget wheels and squatting down low, hugging the ground.
I must say that I enjoyed Red Robin's getup immensely, however, I couldn't see how anyone in a chicken suit with a gaping beak, and on such a ridiculous and silly steed would have any chance against the noted NorCal 1-mile champion, The Highwheel Guy!
David Gill, the official starter was all business and insisted that due to my many titles and obvious superiority, I start first. My winged adversary would follow. We ignored the cat calls coming from the inferior riders waiting their turns behind us, some astride machines even more convoluted than the Robin's.
It took a mighty effort to conquer Mother Nature's fierce blasts but my massive thighs, as if powered by a steam engine, quickly took control of the situation and I was soon setting a blistering 9 mph pace on my way toward the turnaround. I noted with pride that even the real birds, quite visible from my lofty perch, couldn't fly into that wicked wind, yet The Highwheel Guy would not be stopped!
No sign of Red Robin—or anyone else as I poured it on passing the Swanton Farm—I must be approaching 15 mph!!! "Ha!" I didn't think those stupid-looking velocipedes could keep pace with my magnicificent mount.
"Oops!" Spoke too soon. "What's this?! Can't be... the Red Robin!" A triumphant fist in the air, an insulting shake of the tail feathers and he's past.
"Not so fast bird brain!" I redouble my effort and am hot on his tail though definitely not drafting, as that would be cheating, not to mention impossible behind such a short, squat, ugly 2-wheeler, though I must say the Robin's gigantic (and completely empty) bird head would surely block some wind.
With tremendous power and impressive courage I flattened the Fire Station hill and kept the Red Robin in sight, though in truth I must confess that that crimson-red giant chicken suit can be seen from a long ways off. No matter. Bit firmly in my teeth, I galloped toward the turnaround spinning my 56-inch fixed gear with even more resolve, discipline, remarkable fluidity and ballet-like grace. I wish I could watch myself it must be so stunning to see.
"Gadzooks!" Swanton Hill is far steeper than even The Highwheel Guy's gargantuan—and quite lovely—gams can handle and I'm forced to dismount and—ugh—walk the hill! Shamed by the goofy mini machines now catching and passing, I decide to remount and make a run at this last obstacle before the turnaround. It can't be that steep. Nothing can be too steep for The Highwheel Guy!
Alas, I try twice to remount and crash both times, and quite painfully— "curses, that hurts!" Worse, one of my fellow competitors, wearing something garish that looks painted to his body, and scaling the climb surprisingly speedily, spots me going ass over teakettle and besmirches me with the completely useless "are you okay?" I assure him that all's well yet soon realize that all is decidedly NOT well.
The Highwheel Guy's luck seems about run out. My bruises and aches will heal but now the pedal is hitting the frame on each revolution. I have damaged my pride and joy, my priceless Victor! All chances of running down the Red Robin and glory seem dashed. But wait! It's only a few hundred yards to the turnaround. Surely someone there will have the necessary implements of bicycle mechanics for me to restore the crankarm and get my flyer ship-shape for the tailwind-blessed sail homeward.
"The Gods are with me!" The turnaround steward has a tool pouch in his unusual four-wheeled box-like metal thing next to the road, and I'm able to remove the pedal, insert a lever into the crankarm, use my massive power to muscle it back into shape, reinstall the pedal and charge off down the hill. "Watch out Red Robin!" The Highwheel Guy now has Mother Nature at his back and a renewed resolve to finish strong.
But I'm soon undone again by my very own steed—gravity and my Victor's 65-pound weight now trying to cause my certain doom barreling down Swanton Hill. Holding back on the pedals with all that The Highwheel Guy's redwood-like trunks can muster is not enough to keep the eager penny farthing under control as it picks up steam and I approach a terrifying 20 mph and certain death should I hurtle off the macadam and into the puckerbrush.
Terrified, I reach for my old reliable spoon brake to apply a little friction to the front tire and scuff off some speed to regain control. "Double damn!" I appear to have injured my wrist in one of the crashes and I can barely squeeze the brake. I try another grip, fight more to slow my accelerating locomotive via the pedals, and finally manage to reign old Victor in. "Whew." Disaster averted.
I safely reach the bottom of the hill and can finally really ride the tailwind home. Will I catch that sneaky feathered fiend? Will I crash a couple of more times? Will I finish before dark?!
I barrel along making good time and all's dandy until I reach Swanton Farm hill. Still stunned from my previous ignominious defeats trying to scale climbs I decide not to risk dumping it again and I dismount and make good time striding up the hill, my patent-leather shoes making a nice tapping sound with each rapid step as I note the marvelous sunset. I remount and blast down into the valley, then dismount to run up the final hill before I can climb back on and unleash my sprint known wordwide for having as much power and speed as a cannon shot.
I positively fly across the line to show my beaked challenger that The Highwheel Guy has wings too. He, and a group of rabble rousers, apparently friends of the Red Robin's kindly give me a cheer and even have an icy cold one waiting for me. I notice with just a little despair and disgust, that the only other people left are David Gill and the turnaround guy.
Of course, even though I've been shamed by the Red Robin, The Highwheel Guy is the best of sports and I heartily congratulate him on his impressive ride, taking a final look at his strange steed, and thanking him for the tasty recovery drink.
Naturally, Mr. Gill, still all business, pays the Red Robin no mind but takes the time to give The Splendiferous And Quite Handsome But Now Not-So-Sweet-Smelling Highwheel Guy the wonderful news that he has set a new course record, which delights me. I expected no less.
"Yes," he says, "You have the distinct honor of now holding the record for the only rider in the history of the Swanton TT to have started first and finished last."
"Drat! Foiled again!"