Ciao Italia

Teammates –

As usual, there is a huge amount going on with Team RWB – we have members participating in the Race Across America (RAAM), good luck Maj. Dan Gade and to all the riders participating this year.  Special shout out to Team 4Mil, a two squad team racing to raise money and awareness for the Wounded Warrior Project.  One of their two teams is made up entirely of Wounded Warriors.  Last year their 4Mil Warrior squad came in second in the very tough 8-man team division. Best of luck to USNA grad and prior Marine Officer Kyle Pittman and the rest of the guys.  There is also the usual compliment of summer weekend races, so best of luck to everyone who is clipping in, lacing them up, or poised for that in-water start.     

On a personal note, this week also marks the week that my wife and I leave Italy to move back to the East Coast.  It is impossible to sum up what Italy meant to us, and the experiences we have had over the past year.  I had the chance to ride some of the most well-known and respected rides in the Dolomites, swim some of the hardest practices of my life, and eat some of the best food. 

Of course, one of the other things Italy meant for me was a chance to ogle at amazing bicycles – from Willier to Bianchi, Pinarello to Colnago, the Italians simply know how to make quality bikes.  My dream, despite my wife’s frequent protestations about the number of bikes that already clutter our house, was to somehow come home with a Pinarello Dogma.  Granted, the frame alone costs about $7,000 and we were on a graduate student budget, but that’s the thing about dreams – those are free.  Instead, I ended up with a, probably once-stolen, 50 Euro (about $65) commuter bike.  It weighed approximately 80 pounds, had one gear, and the seat was about a foot too low.  It was also clearly originally black, but it had been poorly re-painted yellow, earning it the nickname “The Bumbo” – the bumblebee.  What the Bumbo lacked in speed, aerodynamics, or state of the art engineering, it made up for with character.  Its thick, wide tires allowed me to work on my track stands, the step-through (yes, it was cut like an old fashioned girls’ bike) was amazing for transitions, and no one would have been at all interested in stealing it.  The only time it went fast was if it was going downhill, especially since the brakes were often loose. 

Italy was hit with a particularly hard winter this year, and the area we lived in was hammered with snow.  On days when I would never have dared to ride my road bike, the Bumbo was there.  I rode it to swim practice over four inches of slushy snow and then again a couple days later when that snow had turned to ice.  The Bumbo was indestructible – I think it was probably built in 1923 – and I rode it in the worst conditions I have ever taken a bike in.  And the best part?  I didn’t even bother to clean it afterward – snow, sand, ice, salt – it all added not only to the character, but probably the workings of the Bumbo.  After the snow melted, the Bumbo was still in great working order, and it was my main means of transportation through the spring.  Riding the Bumbo was freedom, pure and simple.  The ridiculousness of the low seat, paint job, and sheer weight of the machine reminded me of the thing we as triathletes can often forget – that riding a bike should first and foremost be fun.  It was fun in the way riding a bike as a child was fun – carefree and with no training intentions at all (though I am pretty sure the weight of the bike allowed me to work on my leg strength).  There was a pure joy to riding the Bumbo that is often lost when grinding out miles at threshold on my tri bike.    
The Bumbo stands ready at swim practice

Over the past three weeks, we have said goodbye to friends, places we have come to love, and Italy itself – as I type, it is fading behind us as we wing our way to Baltimore.  Last week, we also sold the Bumbo, which in so many ways had in my mind come to epitomize our experiences in Italy – ridiculous and inefficient and cumbersome.  But also exhilarating and just plain fun.  So if you are riding a Dogma this year, or a Willier, I’ll probably shoot you an envious glance, but it isn’t because I want your bike any more, it’s because I am missing the Bumbo.
Happy trails.         

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