So there I was, cycling along the mountainside against a grueling headwind, hunched down in the drop handlebars on my touring bike, when I noticed I had a riding partner. Well, perhaps more of a flying partner... or beaked stalker? I digress. Crouched down like this, I'd noticed the shadow of a bird about half the size of an adult crow just in front of my wheel. I'd see his shadow for a few moments before he'd fall back against the force of the wind. Poor fellow, I thought; and it was neat! How often do you find a bird that wants your companionship? This went on for maybe half a minute before I started to question what was going on.
Then it hit me, as if a sharp stone from the side of the mountain had broken off and struck with the full force of gravity.
This bird was trying to kill me by dive-bombing, falling back, and then repeating the attempt. I immediately began swatting behind my shoulder in a fleet of panic, proceeding to engage warp nine uphill and against a headwind. I'm used to this with dogs, but birds!? Completely new experience. Once I'd escaped the little menace, I began to wonder what happened. Were Daphne du Maurier and Alfred Hitchcock on to something? Are the birds beginning to wise up and rebel against the current masters of the globe? Perhaps Maurier was unknowingly clairvoyant. Even better: a prophet cleverly disguised as a writer!
"No, no, no," I thought; level-headed reason came flooding back to me soon after I took a quick peak over my shoulder to see if the bird was gone. "I must look like a deer or some other large quadruped when I'm hunched down in the drops like this." He was going for my neck, hoping to down me for food. Fascinating. Nature doing its thing. The idea got my mind going for a bit until I realized how embarrassing it would be to be removed from the gene pool by that little twerp.
Indeed, it's the best guess I have for what happened, and I suspect it's correct. My riding style and attire were significantly different on this ride than those in previous years. I rarely ride aggressively, preferring to take in the sights, sounds, and smells around me. I generally sit up on the bike with my hands on the brake hoods, "ramps," or even the "flats" (part of the handlebars closest to the rider and parallel with the ground.) This is a comfortable way to ride, and you can actually see things. What a concept!
This time, I went all-out to battle the headwind and help prepare myself for more difficult rides this summer (and hopefully keep up with my friends on their light racing bikes). In addition to riding more aggressively, my back nearly flat, I wore sunglasses for the first time and an orange, long sleeve athletic shirt made from merino wool. "Superfine" merino is amazing for athletic activity; year round, even! It's fast-drying, doesn't itch, regulates your temperature, sheds water, retains its thermal properties when saturated in water/sweat, and it doesn't smell.
The merino shirts I buy even look like normal clothing, which is something I value as a recreational and utility cyclist. I've been wearing these shirts since 2009, but never long sleeves. Pippi Konstanski, a friend and fellow cyclist, mentioned she wears them in the summer to prevent sunburn and potential skin cancer -- all without resorting to goopy sunscreen. What a wonderful idea! I believe this only added to the quadruped look, hiding my flesh and giving me a coat of "fur." The shirt worked, even in 80 F, but I'd like to find a lighter-weight version for future rides; preferably one with a person painted on the back of it...
Last but not least, as you might have guessed, the bird didn't actually make it to my neck; I designed the bold sentence for effect. ;-)
Some words of wisdom for other cyclists: add birds to your list of ride hazards.
Note: Reflecting back, I doubt my 'bird of prey' hypothesis was correct; probably territorial -- either way, watch out!
Minor variations will be present between MapMyRide data and cyclometer data.
Distance: 29.04 miles
- Riding Time: 1:43:12
- Travel Time: 1:54:01 (stops included)
- Avg/Max Speed: 16.8mph/35.2mph
- Avg/Max Cadence: 88rpm/135rpm
- Wind: Moderate.
- Temperature: ~80 F, sunny.
- MapMyRide Route