There is a tradition that cyclists ride their age on their birthday. I turned 48 today, and thanks to the extreme cold, my bike fit problems, and a broken pipe in my home a ride today didn’t happen, let alone one of 48 miles. So to mark the day and remind myself what I’m working to get back to, here is the account of my birthday ride from 2008, with my friend Neil F. Aside from a couple of grammatical corrections it appears as I wrote it six years ago.

As odd as it is to find two Neils who ride together, it’s odder to find two Neils who ride together and have birthdays two days apart. So in honor of our joint anniversaries we decided to celebrate by riding our ages. Or more accurately, my age, since I am the elder Neil by three years. So Neil F. plotted a 42 mile route in New Jersey and we planned our ride for Saturday, January 5th.

Our troubles began before we left. Our scheduled 10:00 AM start became an 11:30 AM start due to our laziness. For the first twelve miles or so we made good time, until we turned onto Rock Avenue instead of Rock Road, and took a nearly 8 mile detour through a bad part of Dunellon. At one point someone followed me on a bike shouting “Is that a thousand dollar bicycle?!” Neil F. ran interference for me, I dropped the hammer, and soon enough we were a block away from the guy, who stopped following us.

Some rerouting and my “guydar” got us back to the general area we needed to be in, but that required us to ride on Rt. 22 for a mile, and climb a steep grade to Washington Rock State Park. Once we spent a few minutes enjoying the view, we resumed the ride. Fortunately we had some downhills, on one of which Neil F. set a personal downhill speed record of 32 MPH.

After some more downhills, and more climbing, we noticed it had grown dark. I switched on my main headlight and helmet light. Neil turned on his new Trailrat headlamp. We called Neil’s wife to pick us up at a location about ten miles away. And we headed uphill again. And again.

By now I was a little annoyed at the hills on the route. Based on my past experiences with riding in New Jersey I had expected a flatter trip. “Why did you have to route through all these hills?” I asked Neil, half exasperated, half amused.

“You’re never satisfied. I don’t give you hills, you complain. I give you hills, you complain.”

“You sound wonderfully stereotypically Jewish when you say things like that, Neil.”

“I do all this for you, and you kvetch. What you want to do, drive me meshu’geh?”

Shortly after this, my main headlight died. We tried to ride with just my helmet lamp, but I found I couldn’t see road obstacles well enough, so we pulled over and attached my spare light. And onward we rolled. By now it was 5:30 PM, and very dark.

At about the 40 mile mark Neil F.’s Trailrat light went dark. He got it working again, but it kept going out. Since we had completed Neil’s 39 miles of birthday, I offered to end the ride now. That would mean I’d need to ride a 42 mile ride on another day to get my birthday logged. Neil F. refused to end today’s ride, telling me that “We are a team. We’re finishing together.” So we slogged on through the night with Neil’s flickering Trailrat.

Eventually the Trailrat gave out completely. We pulled over while Mr. Fixit began to attach his backup light, a Maglite flashlight strapped, rubber-banded, and velcroed to his handlebar. After ten minutes attaching it, he tried it only to have the light fail after a few seconds. As I glanced around in a “What now?” pose, I noticed my bike computer was showing 42 miles. About now it began to sleet. We declared the ride over and called Neil’s wife to pick us up. We rode back about a mile to a major intersection so she would have a landmark to pick us up, I leading and calling out obstacles to the lightless Neil behind me. In another 15 minutes we were picked up, and driven out to a celebratory dinner.

There was one unexpected consequence of the ride, however. I hadn’t planned on being out so late or so long. I had long ago exhausted my ride food and water. I was still OK to ride, if not strong, by mile 42 and 43, but I was seriously bonked by the time I had dinner about 7:30 PM. Despite sitting in a warm eatery, dressed warmly, I was cold and my hands were shaking even 25 minutes into the meal. Fortunately a full dinner in good company cured the problem.

Total miles for the day, 43. Over 3000 feet of climbing.