VN Archives: Fred Dreier’s “You Can’t Go From Here” Ride in Beijing
At the rear was a column in each BikeNews magazine for decades. It was a place where runners and staff writers shared personal stories. This year we are hosting an At the Back every week for members to enjoy. In this piece from 2009 Running and driving guideFred Dreier questions the value of riding stories.
I couldn’t fault the two Chinese soldiers for looking a little bewildered. I had just turned a corner on my road bike and slowly pedaled in their direction. We were high on the last length of a green, treeless peak after 12 kilometers of lonely sidewalk away from downtown Beijing. And while China’s sprawling capital is crowded with millions of people on bicycles, spotting a “cyclist” remains a novelty.
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There I was, fully kitted out in my best chamois and jersey, looking like a circus clown wearing a helmet and sweating. The two briefly forgot about the massive radar station they had been placed atop the mountain to guard. One of them stood up and gaped. The other took out a camera and took a picture.
The surprise dissipated as I got closer. In reality, I was an American, high on endorphins and the thrill of discovery. To them, I was probably a spy, a terrorist, or some other national security threat. Both of these guys had guns and (surprise, surprise) bad attitudes. Although they spoke no English, their message – get your circus clown ass off and get the hell out of here before you start spinning – was loud and clear.
I did, but only after stopping to admire the view. The thin strip of road crisscrossed the mountain in neat switchbacks, worthy of the Dolomites. Thousands of feet below, the Chinese capital stretched out before me to the horizon. Beijing’s infamous brown cloud clung to the base of the hills, but up there the sky was crystal clear, the air cool. My assignment to cover the 2008 Beijing Olympics had reached its climax, both figuratively and literally.
This tale is one of my crown jewels whenever riding buddies and I pull the breeze with cycling sagas. Like many cyclists, some of our best stories go around in circles. No one cares for a good retelling of a familiar tale. We all know how Lennard won the Morgul-Bismarck attacking through a construction zone. How Neal achieved cosmic enlightenment with daily ATV rides through Wilder Ranch in Santa Cruz. How Kirk had to have his butt brushed with gravel after a scary encounter with a speeding van. And how Lars won the local stage race after stealing parts of my bike while I was out of town.
This oral tradition binds us together as friends, fellow travelers and runners. Every year our reservoir of driving stories grows and every week someone has a new saga to tell about an epic ride or race.
As we all know, whether it’s a 100 mile walk through the Alps or a 10 minute ride to work, every bike ride is a story to tell.