Monday, April 26, 2010


(The following is a true story. None of the names were changed - after all, no one is truly innocent.)

"Welcome to our show today. It's time to play TEST? OR SIGN?"
"Who is our contestant today, Johnny?"

"Today's contestant is Miles Stoneman, Alex. Miles is a cyclist who had planned to ride his new 187 mile RUSA route today. And now he's ready to play TEST? OR SIGN?"

"Alright, Miles. Here's how the game is played. I will read you a scenario off of a card, and you will have to tell me whether it is a TEST, which means you will keep on riding or whether it's a SIGN and you will quit and call for a ride home."

"Ready to play?"

"I'm ready, Alex"

"Okay. Scenario number 1. You've just left the house at 4:30 in the morning to do your 187 miles ride. Before you reach the end of your block, you break a spoke on the front wheel. TEST? OR SIGN?"

"That's easy, Alex. Since I'm near the house, and replacing a spoke on the front wheel only takes a couple of minutes - TEST! I'll keep riding."

"Great! Scenario number 2. You are distracted by the morning's events and before you get out of town, you discover that you've left your long-fingered gloves at home and your hands are already cold. TEST? OR SIGN?"

"Easy again! There's a Huck's food store on the edge of town. I'll stop and buy a pair of jersey gloves to wear. TEST! I'll keep riding."

"Here's Scenario number 3, Miles. You get 7 miles from home and you break a spoke on your rear wheel this time. TEST? OR SIGN?"

"Oh. That's a little harder. I carry a Fiber-Fix emergency spoke with me, but since I'm only 7 miles from home, I'll ride back and replace the spoke thats broken. It's a little more difficult on the rear wheel, but I can do it quickly and still get in a big ride. TEST."

"Alright, then. Scenario number 4. After you get back on the road and out of town, it starts to rain and you've chosen to wear your nylon cycling jacket and leave the rain jacket at home, so you're getting wet. TEST? OR SIGN?"

"Wow. I don't like getting wet, and I wish I'd opted for the rain jacket. But after a few minutes, I'll be about as wet as I will be, and if I pedal hard, I'll work up enough body heat to stay warm. Besides, the same thing might happen in the middle of a Brevet and I wouldn't want to DNF, so I need to practice this anyway. I'll keep riding. TEST."

"Just a couple more, Miles. Scenario number 5. You make it to Bald Knob Cross and you choose to ride up Route 127 to Murphysboro. As you are riding you hear another spoke break on the rear wheel. Then when you check, you discover it was TWO spokes, not one. AND, you also discover that you've left your spoke wrench on the workbench at home after replacing the first one that broke. (In fact you call your wife who verifies that your spoke wrench is still on the bench, and she offers cheerfully, 'At least it isn't lost!' Now, Miles, TEST? OR SIGN?"

"Ooooh. Two spokes at once, huh? My Fiber-Fix emergency spoke won't do me any good without a spoke wrench, and besides, I only have one emergency spoke kit. BUT, I can open the butterfly on the rear brake to allow my wobbly wheel some room, and since the road to Carbondale is just ahead, I can ride to the bike store to get it fixed, then continue on the ride. TEST!"

"Wow. You are a tough nut to crack, Miles. Here's the last one. Scenario number 6. You ride the 8 miles or so to the bike store and on the way hear another spoke break due to the uneven tension on all the spokes now. The bike mechanic agrees to replace all three broken spokes, and while he's truing the wheel, ANOTHER spoke breaks in his hands. This is for the win, Miles. TEST? OR SIGN?"

"Up until now, Alex, I haven't always been completely clear which way to go. My inclination is to push through difficulties; I don't want to be a quitter. However, even RAY CHARLES could see the hand writing on the wall this time. I have a 400 kilometer brevet to ride in just two weeks. I don't want any wheel issues on the road during that ride. And the rule for wheels is: when you break three spokes on a wheel, it's time to rebuild the wheel. And I've broken FIVE spokes on the rear wheel today. Beside, the two that broke on the road happened to break only 40 feet from the turn to Carbondale. And the final spoke broke right in the bike store. Clearly, this is a SIGN Alex. I'm going to leave the bike with the mechanic so he can rebuild the wheel, in fact, I'm going to have him replace my tires at the same time. I'll stop riding and call my wife. It's a SIGN."

"Congratulations, Miles, you are today's winner! What has Miles won, Johnny?"

"Well, Alex, Miles has won the chance to come back tomorrow and play our game. The scenarios will be different but the opportunity to fail and the confusion he'll feel will be exactly the same!"

"Thank you, Johnny! So until tomorrow, as you go through your day, you must decide whether it's a TEST? OR SIGN?"

Cue the music.

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