Riding with Dennis The Menace

Saturday, August 8th, 2009 @ %I:%M %p | Cycling

Hello, my name is Frits. I am Onno’s alternate ego. Normally Onno writes this blog but he’s not among the coherent and the awake so I took this chance to grab the keyboard. What happened, you wonder? Well, Onno went on a club bike ride this morning. Nothing unusual, this is often done on Saturday mornings. The route, a 50 mile jaunt from Ellison Park to Marion with just some rolling hills, didn’t look too strenuous and so I made myself comfortable in the back of Onno’s brain for a leisurely morning stroll through the subconscious.

Barely a mile into the ride I am rudely shaken from my reverie, just having found some amusing memories involving telephone books and a spider, when Onno speeds past the group to close a gap with this rider named Dennis. Fortunately this is just before a stop sign and so everything slows down. I expected this to be just one of those hiccups that happen and am about to re-settle in my mental rocking chair when after the turn he does it again! What is going on here? We all know Onno is a slow starter; I mean last week it took him 30 miles to get any kind of respectable pace going – those 30 miles were fabulous I tell you, nothing for me to do but rummage around in brain areas Onno believes I have no business being. Whatever. Did I tell you about that one time when ? Oh, today’s ride? Right, sorry.

So down State Road we go, chasing after Dennis, doing all we can to stay in his wheel. We’re riding 21 mph, 23 mph, 26 mph, 29 mph. Onno’s shifted up to 50×12, a huge gear. Still not enough. Well, it is a big gear. I mean, look at those legs, there are no thigh muscles to speak of. I have sometimes from the comfy subconscious descended down there and it is not pretty. Dennis still has his hands very relaxed on top of the handlebars. We, however, are under in the drops, pushing, pulling, wringing. “Not a good idea missing spin class,” I tell Onno. Helpfully I recite the class trainer’s instructions for him: “bring those knees to the handlebars, stabilize that core, bring it from the shoulders!” Do you think it’s being appreciated, no, but in the meantime that black and yellow rear tire is slipping away again. What is an alter ego to do!?

Dennis alerts us to the turns, stop signs and traffic lights as they fly past. Not a strain in his voice, leisurely he shifts up another gear. Onno’s vision has shrunk to a narrow circle consisting of Dennis’ behind, a Detours saddle back, that fearsome cassette with its chain way too far to the right and a black and yellow tire.

Otto later remarks how nice it is to ride on roads we don’t often cover and enjoy a different scenery. Onno and I were both surprised. There was a landscape all that time? Cows to mooo at? Pretty girls jogging to look at? Dennis The Menace (***) with his unhurried pedalling steals it all away and replaces it with thoughts of horror and anguish, dizzy views of tarmac spinning by from under his rear tire. “Why are you breathing so hard?”, he asks.

Nineteen minutes and twelve seconds after the ride’s start we’re in Marion, 25 miles down the road. We stop at a Sunoco gas station. Onno, shaking hands and all, gets a coffee and a Danish. After he sits down outside, he and I have an urgent conversation and we agree not to do this again. Let’s calmly ride the second half home.

After the break all goes well for a few miles. Onno rides at the back of the group and indeed there is a landscape surrounding us! Then, I am sure he meant well, Bill says after Dennis comes coasting past: “Just let him go, he’ll just go faster and faster.” I wholeheartedly agree but Onno is having none of it and goes after Dennis. Dennis, who is casually riding along Eddy Road and Gananda Parkway; why even slow down or shift back for those undulations? And so it goes until we get to Sweets Corners where the group reforms and pace down Atlantic back to Ellison Park. There, several of the riders gather. I notice one curiosity: four cyclists, four bike computers and four different average speeds.

Oh, I hear some movement in the room next to me; better disappear back into the subsconcious. Till a later time!

This label is intended as a compliment. It refers to another Dennis, Dennis Bergkamp. A Dutch soccer player of Ajax and Arsenal fame where he got the nickname. Now retired, I first saw him play when he joined Ajax main squad at age seventeen. This was a European Cup match against FC Malmo of Sweden. Dennis played right wing. The Ajax midfield every time would pass the ball deep into the free space behind the Swedish defense and this fast seventeen year-old sprinting after it. After a few of these, every next opportunity for Dennis to sprint down the line you could see the Malmo defender think: “oh god, not again…”

Dennis’ last minute goal for the Dutch national squad against Argentina: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exlBHTyB1R0 . Yes, the nation was very happy.

Dennis’ goal against Newcastle: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8DNfgibZO5o



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