Just wanted to give a little write up on my ride during my trip home:
The dilemma that gave me sleepless nights was how to get my bike home. So standing at the checkin counter I looked at my newly upgraded bike and a montage started to roll to a Aerosmith’s I don’t want to miss a thing: the first time I sat the awkward machine, when I realized those skinny tires are not terribly twitchy if I kept my speed up, my very first road ride with Andy, Rick and Jack, Jaunts with Ron. I remembered how beautifully she pulls into the wind with a host of wheelsuckers staring at backside, how much those canti brakes squeal during a cross race, how no matter what I do the bike just cant seem to stay clean. I remember its companionship on my jaunt up ASCI during my inaugural gran fondo and how we cried together when my quads decided to protest having to propel her over 100 hard miles. I could not help but wonder if alas this was adieu to an old friend.
You see I had looked around for a bike case to ensure safe transport of my bike to Nigeria especially since we had to change planes in Frankfurt Germany and though the Germans are known for their meticulous and excellent engineering, baggage handlers worldwide are trained in the same facility all doctors take their penmanship class, watch them work and I guarantee you will learn to travel with nothing but carryon luggage, If you want to stuff to arrive in one piece pack it great and pray.
So just before I purchased a reinforced bike bag I decided to call the airline (Lufthansa) and see what their policy on bikes was; as it turned out the plane had a bike rack and all I needed to do was make a reservation (which I did), deflate the tires and pay $150 at checkin being that it is considered “Oversize” though it weighs less than 20lbs with pedals and a saddle bad. At the checkin counter the gentleman said he does not see a reservation for my bike but after some inquiry he said they could take it…. sadly for him he forgot to charge me and I did not remind him. So I looked at my bike wondering if this was the last time I would ever see it, Maybe I should just pay the $150….ahhh No!… being a victim of lost luggage numerous times, I put the chances of seeing my bike again at 35%.
I had been in Abuja, Nigeria for 6 days now and was yet to ride. Before leaving I had connected with some riders in Lagos (another city in Nigeria) on Strava and was really looking forward to schooling them on some good fashioned mountain man climbing albeit on winter legs. Due to circumstances beyond my control I could not take the bike with me to Lagos. So 2 days before I had to return to the States I resolved do whatever is necessary to get a ride in. Via some contact at the British embassy I learnt of a cycling group in Abuja who met at 7am. This was it, a social ride in 90 degree weather through the heartland of Nigeria AKA The Giant of Africa.
I could barely sleep the night before this ride, the opportunity to explore my childhood stomping grounds or better yet the motherland by bike was tantalizing. though this was the first day I was actually beginning to adjust to the 6hrs I gained from flying across the Atlantic, I pushed aside any hypnosis of sleep, slapped on my Wheelmen kit (full wit bandana burrowed from Donna), mounted my lights and tip-toes outside the gate being deliberate not to alarm the sleeping by my cyclists cleats.
The time was 6am and the temperature was 74degree, the air smelt of fruits and gasoline and there was not that distant chill you usually feel early in the morning.
You could hear the distant call of an imam beckoning the Muslim followers to morning prayer. The was a general calm feeling almost stagnant no head/tailwind, I adjusted my saddle, clicked on my headlamp and pushed on into the slowly awakening city.
As I slowly pedaled in the direction of the meet-up the only traffic I encountered where the early taxi drivers in the VW golfs and Peugeot 309s continually tapping their horns to get the attention of potential passengers (car horns are really the soundtrack of Nigeria) The buzz of the cities is hardwired into your consciousness by the innumerable amount of car hunks you hear and process daily kind of reminds you your alive and not droning in some perfectly manicured socially correct system…(After 15mins of driving, my 11yr old asks…why is everyone so mad… I say buddy over here people don’t hunk because they are angry, they do it to pass time)…
I could tell the sun was beginning to rise but due to the relative flatness of this part of the country and excessive development I know I did not have a good chance of seeing a sunrise. More importantly we were in Harmattan season when the northeasterly winds blow dust in from the Sahara desert to the Gulf of Guinea so the city is in a constant dust haze, no clouds…just a greyish haze…
It does not rain in Harmattan, actually it is considered an ominous sign if it rains in this season so needless to say I did not bring a jacket. lol
I did a 10 mile loop, watching people wake up and get about their business. The roadside restaurant lady brings her business back to life by stoking her kerosene stove with her baby velcrowed to her back by a length of clothe. The water sellers pushing their homemade wheelbarrows with loads of jerry cans, The fruit and nuts seller embarks on her route effortlessly balancing her goods on her head as she texts and walks, the occasional Range Rover ferrying the boss man home after a long night of clubbing… Abuja is such a vibrant city where all classes rob shoulders. In such a raw place, you can be a water seller today and a billionaire tomorrow its apparent the country and more appropriate Africa is the next frontier in business venture and opportunities and the fruits are very evident . The blacktop was immaculate, with a sidewalk and traffic and street lights, there was not a bike lane but an empty bus lane so it turned out to be a great personal bike lane.
The terrain was primarily flat…false flat…little climb/rise…then back to flat. A couple decent climbs but nothing I would even consider a cat 3… Due to my winter legs, by 10 miles I was beginning to feel the effects of constant pedaling and by this time the temp had risen to about 80 (no humidity though). Though I group up in this city, the development and changes have happened so fast I got lost almost immediately, Finally I got on this long stretch which I knew would take me to the meeting point then I say a couple white(Caucasian) gentlemen on mountainbikes with a car behind which I realized was an escort and the first thing I though was Dang…this is going to be a slow sucky ride.
Sadly I was kind of a rock star, no one had ever met me before and they liked my kit and bike. Nigerians are a different breed, and this is true with many other nationalities. Nigerians pretty much wear their emotions on their sleeves and are quite touchy feely people so I had a lot of people touch me to feel my jersey, pick my bike without asking , checkout my lights, for the only prominent/popular/famous/awesome bicycle rider in Cumberland MD that I know of all that attention made me a little uncomfortable. It took me a while to readjust to this natural behavior but it was also ironic how they admired my aluminum cross bike with no bling whatsoever. I couldn’t help thinking “well if you see Silvester’s bike you’ll probably worship him them”
In typical Nigerian fashion, a ride that was supposed to kick off at 7 was not showing any signs of heading out and it was 8 now and 95 degrees….