The sound a rear derailleur makes as it shifts the chain from one cog to the next is hard to describe. It’s not quite a click. It’s too long of sound, and definitely too deep. It’s also not a grinding sound, it’s too smooth to be described as a grinding. And if your derailleur makes a grinding sound, it’s time to clean it. I would say that the sound a rear derailleur makes is a sort of clunk. But not quite a clunk regardless, the almost clunking sound is one of my favourite sounds. Specifically, as I shift up to a more difficult gear. Which I had just done.
The slight bend in the country road had just straightened out and I was now faced with a long open stretch of flat, empty rural highway. This was my favourite part of riding.
Other people I rode with loved the challenge of a good climb, the struggle to overcome the steep gradient and gravity and reach the top. Others loves the thrill of charging downhill. Shifting to the very top gear and squeezing their body against the top tube to become as aerodynamic as possible. As far as I was aware, I was the only one who enjoyed the endless straight flat road.
Im not sure why Im the only one, but I have theories. The appeal of the climb I think, is the obvious finish line. Getting to the top. Reaching that summit is the completion of the goal, the successful triumph over a great obstacle. For the downhill, it’s the thrill, the feeling of power as you watch the number on your garmin go from 28 kilometres an hour to a staggering 58. The almost effortless ability to continue to accelerate to speeds not seen on any other type of ride is without a doubt an incredibly satisfying experience.
I think the distaste for the flat road comes from the fact that both of these aspects that make the other two so enjoyable, are absent. There is no finish lone to push for. Accelerating isn’t easy, the numbers you see on the garmin are directly proportional to how hard you are working. It is you vs the road, no excuses, no motivation. Without the finish lie there is also no challenge, no goal.
Regardless, this was my favourite part. So, I took advantage of it.
Moving up the gears, I watched my speed climb from 27 to 32. I knew on this particular stretch I had about ten kilometres before the next bend in the road, so I resolved myself to twenty minutes of difficult work. There was no help, no tailwind, the road was perfectly flat, but that was good. This was how I measured myself.
I tried to enjoy the scenery, but at 32 kilomtres an hour the most I get is the road directly in front of me and flashes of green, brown, and yellow, as trees and tall grasses zip past me on either side. But I could see the sky.
It was cloudy, that wonderful deep grey and total coverage you could expect right before it rains. Which I expected it to. However, the sky was clear behind, and the world was lit up brilliantly. It was an interesting picture, the dark brooding clouds coupled with the bright lighting of a warm late day in may. To see the two combined together was almost paradoxical. But it was also incredibly beautiful.
I quickly glanced over my left shoulder to check for traffic, seeing nothing I focused forward again. I shifted my hands from the hoods and levers to the drops, getting my body a little bit closer to the top tube of my bike. With my slightly more streamlined position I watched with satisfaction as the speed on my garmin began to read 32.4 instead of 32.1, a small gain, but it felt good.
I moved the fingers on my right hand up to the brake lever, and I pushed the inner lever towards the centre of the bike, and that almost clunk sound repeated itself as I went up another gear.
I felt my cadence slow down a bit, but I also saw my speed climb to 33. My legs were starting to burn in this new gear, but with less than four kilometres to go, I was determined to maintain this speed until the turn. Following that turn, I knew I had about six kilometres of more open straight road.
When I got to that section, I would push myself, just as I did this section, and just as I would do every time I found myself alone, on an empty straight road.