Back on the Bike

I finally rode a bicycle again last night. It’s been a long time; even longer than the time since I last posted here.

Partly, this was a delayed response to watching the Tour de France last month. Partly it was due to my disappointment with myself at not having kept up with my exercise, to the point past where feeling sluggish turned into feeling achey and bad. I’ve realized I’m too old and beaten up to go without exercise; if I don’t work my body, it eventually hurts physically just to sit around.

Another source of inspiration was Kimberly’s discovery that the Lance Armstrong Foundation was organizing a ride in Portland on her birthday at the end of September. That seemed like an exciting goal, especially since they were doing several routes. The shortest, a relatively flat 10 miles, seemed like something anyone could do with a little preparation. Still, I figured I really ought to try riding, just to make sure I wasn’t overestimating. My body’s current capacities are still a mystery to me.

It took several weeks to follow through on this idea. I envisioned riding a lap around Green Lake, a park nearby that has a lovely, flat, paved path around it. One lap is just under 3 miles, so a 10 mile ride is a bit more than 3 laps around Green Lake. I decided my “test” would be one lap.

However, getting to Green Lake involves a car. Which involves a bike rack, which involves digging the pieces of the rack out of the spiderwebs in the back of the garage, and cleaning it all up, and putting the bike carrier component back in place of the kayak carrier components, and getting the whole thing installed on the roof of the car. Just the sort of obstacles that can delay execution of a Plan, no matter how Masterful. Lucky for me, I’d already recently tuned up the bikes themselves, so that all they required was some air in the tires.

This week the weather has been hot for Seattle, into the 90s and high 80s during the day, but lovely in the long evenings. To provide incentive and commitment, I asked Kimberly to go for a ride with me Friday after work. It seemed like it would be perfect weather. (It was.)

I wrestled Kimberly’s bike onto the rack, and stashed mine in the back of the car. When Kimberly got home, off we went. It was really fun. It turns out that riding a bike is like riding a bike: you don’t forget how. It was clear to me that, although it’s been a very long time and much is rusty, this is the same body that has put in thousands of miles on bikes. It’s just going to take some work to get the rust off.

It was very nice to have the ability to make one’s own evening breeze after a hot day. And I passed the test; I was able to ride one lap fine.

This served as a “shake-down” ride. I discovered that Kimberly’s bike is substantially heavier than mine, and really, it would be worth the few moments to fiddle with her brakes so that I can get her front wheel off, if it meant I could put her bike in the back, and mine on the rack on the roof. I also learned that I miss the cycling shoes I got rid of a long time ago, not so much the Italian Duegi racing shoes with the hand-carved stiff wooden insole and the cleats, but the pair of Avocet casual touring shoes, with the low-profile nylon uppers and the stiff, flat sole that would slip into the toe clips easily, and had that sweet little rubber bump just where it would nicely catch the edge of the pedal. (My running shoes are really awkward with my pedals.) I got a hint of how much training looms when we hit the short, very, very slight uphill section of the path, and I could feel my thighs straining. And I was made aware of just how much strength I’ve lost in my shoulders and neck, because holding my head up while leaning over the handlebars quickly got them burning. And boy, do they hurt this morning!

Despite those complaints, and the multiple attempts it took to get Kimberly’s seat adjusted properly, we both had fun. And we’re going to ride again tomorrow. And while our neighborhood is rather hilly, Seattle has many lovely flat places to ride. It may even be possible to chart a mostly level route around our neighborhood, until we’re ready for some hills.

I’ve really got to get some proper shoes, though.