When a cold drizzle taps against my windowpane, when my knees are stiff and my muscles ache and the mudroom is spattered with clumps of greasy clay. I figure it must be mountain-bike weather. Time to lock the door and take the phone off the hook and pray to God that Malcolm doesn't find me.
I have a mountain bike. I had the mumps once, too. I got over the mumps and. in a few years, I'll probably get over my experience on a mountain bike. I might actually ride one again, if three grown men and a boy happen to catch me and hog-tie me to the seat.
Once upon a time I enjoyed riding my mountain bike, enjoyed crunching along on the back roads and rutted paths of rural Vermont. The bike was a birthday present from my wife, and it conjured up recollections of my first bicycle, which also had fat tires and straight handlebars. Those memories vanished, however, once old pal Malc invited me to ride one morning with him and a couple of friends.
Malc is a real Vermonter. He's no yuppie transplant like most mountain bikers. He tells lousy jokes, can't pitch shoes and is the worst golfer in the free world. (He plays in a sheep meadow and looks as though he's killing snakes.) But he can ride a mountain bike till the cows come home. "Meet us tomorrow morning at seven." he said. "Rain or shine."
I had just finished covering, of all things, the Tour de France for this magazine and was in miserable shape. "Malc." I told him. "for the last four weeks the most exercise I've had is pulling an escargot from its shell."
"No problem." he said. "We'll take it easy on you."
A misty drizzle was falling the next morning. I put on my biking shorts, a T-shirt, tennis shoes and a baseball cap. and I threw my poncho in the backseat of the car. Imagine my surprise when I drove over to Malc's and found that his two mountain biking friends, whom I shall call Zeppo and Moon, were dressed for a hockey game. They were wearing helmets, padded gloves, elbow pads and shin guards.
Zeppo smiled at me as if I were standing before him stark naked. "How far you want to go? Short loop or long?"
"Whatever," Malc said.
"Whatever," I added, like an ass.