A Cycling Power Beyond Wattage
Clairvoyance and the bike
I’m psychic. It’s true. I can read your minds and I can see into the future, at least on matters concerning bicycles. To prove my first assertion, right now I know that you’re saying “No you can’t. That’s nonsense!” But I know that you’re skeptical about the second part: my claim that I can predict future events. I understand your skepticism. To convince you, I have three compelling examples.
About 10 years ago, I had been invited to a training weekend at a cottage north of Toronto with a group of friends. We planned to start the trip by riding north from the city. This ride was going to be a long day in the saddle, and one of my friends had convinced his wife to drive the support vehicle.
The night before the ride, I packed my bag. Alongside my cycling and civilian clothes, my badger-hair shaving brush, two decks of playing cards and a bottle of peppermint schnapps, I assembled the fuel, the tools and equipment I would need to cover every nutritional or mechanical eventuality. Laid out on the floor were my full tool box, multiple spare tubes, a pair of spare tires, a frame pump, several CO2 cartridges and a pile of energy bars. The list went on, right down to a spare set of cleats for my cycling shoes.
As I drifted off to sleep that night, I felt confident that I was fully prepared. I recall thinking, “There’s nothing that can go wrong that I can’t fix.” And then I had a curious thought: “Unless one of my pedals actually snaps right off my bike, I’m covered.” I dismissed that as ridiculous and went to sleep.
The next day, about an hour into the ride, we faced our first steep climb. I was feeling great. I stood up on the pedals and gave a mighty push to maintain my speed as the road kicked upward. There was a sudden loud crack. My left foot was now swinging in the air, no longer anchored to my bike. Thinking I had twisted out of my pedal somehow, I moved my foot to clip back in, but nothing happened. Then I looked down to see the bare crankarm below me and the pedal spindle poking in an embarrassed fashion out from the inner edge of my shoe.
This was crazy. In 10 years of riding, this had never happened to me or anyone else I knew. But I had foreseen this. I was both alarmed and intrigued. When I told my friends about my prediction, it was clear they thought I was nuts. I can’t blame them. I was lucky that one member of the group is able to fix just about anything. He somehow managed to re-attach the spindle to the bearing assembly. It kept coming loose, he kept fixing it, and I made it all the way to our destination without having to get in the van.
That’s the first example, but it doesn’t end there. I used to carry one spare inner tube on every ride, until I was leaving the house one day and thought to myself, “What if I get two flat tires?” And sure enough, about 65 km away from home, that’s exactly what happened. I had to borrow a spare tubular tire from someone, mount it loosely on my clincher rim, and ride home at 15 km/h so it wouldn’t roll off.
Just recently, I was out riding a local loop in my neighbourhood when, for some reason, I suddenly recalled the episode of the broken pedal. “What a crazy story,” I thought to myself. “What are the odds of that happening?” About 10 seconds later, I heard a squeaking noise coming from the left side of my crankset. I stopped and got off the bike to investigate. I discovered that the bearing on the left pedal was starting to seize up. I jumped back on to head for home, but after a few pedal strokes, the bearing had seized fully. The pedal unthreaded itself from the crankarm. I was left to finish the ride with one leg. I learned that it’s very hard to climb hills on a fixed-gear bike without using both legs to do so.
Now, I’m normally a pretty scientificminded person and don’t put stock in flaky claims of clairvoyance. But I’m convinced. The only other reasonable explanation I can see is that by thinking things, I can make them happen. Believe me, I’ve tried that in all sorts of situations, many of which are not appropriate to discuss in this column, and it hasn’t worked yet.
So there you have it. I am psychic. And of course, I have to tell you: I knew I’d convince you in the end.
“Unless one of my pedals actually snaps right off my bike, I’m covered.”