How can you spot happy bikers? Count the bugs in their teeth.
I know that’s an old (and terrible) joke… but it mostly applies to bicycles too. I’ve swallowed my share of winged protein — especially riding at night.
On any monsoon evening, the bugs flock to the light and bounce off my helmet and my face. Bats fill the nooks and crannies in every bridge over the Rillito River. Riding on the river path, the bats sometimes swoop down to pick off the bugs running in front of my lights.
I’m not a fan of the look, sound or smell of the bat guano… but I’m happy to see them eating all these six-legged winged fuckers and keeping a few of them from flying down my throat.
Most of these desert dwellers are tiny, knat-like little shits or the wispy white flies. The cicadas and moths get big enough to give your forehead a good “jolt”. But the nastiest bug I ever gave a ride was a Palo Verde Beetle.
Yep, these black cockroach-like creatures are almost as big as your hand. They have huge mandibles that help them burrow. When it gets hot and humid enough, they dig out of their hidy holes and fly.
That’s right, flying fucking giant black bugs as big as your hand plop down every July and August. You can hear them when they splat as they “crash land” into the ground. That’s something the god damn Chamber of Commerce forgets to mention…
I was flying downhill out of Sabino Canyon in the dark, when I felt a thud on my right shoulder. I brushed it off quickly and thought it was gone.
But I didn’t have a chance to really check. All those twists and turns on that hill made me hold on to the handlebars with two hands.
By the time I hit Sunrise Road, I couldn’t feel anything. I rode home as fast as I could with a big tailwind and a 1000-foot drop over the next 12 miles. I hit 40 mph on the 1st Ave. descent.
Got home, got off the bike, and saw a huge black thing clinging to my right shoulder. I pulled off that jersey as fast as I could and swung it over my head like a lasso and whipped it over the iron rail until I saw that giant fucking bug fly off.
“Ohh man,” a co-worker said when I told him this story. “One of those ate through my gas line.”
Guess I’ll just be happy it didn’t treat my neck like a plastic pipe. But those black beetles are just one of the things that bug me about being a Fat Biker — night-time rider — the critters can get crazy too.