Last Thursday, the sun was bright in a cloudless sky, the temperature was in the fifties and the air was nearly still. The day was a fine one for my first bike ride of the year. When I got home after work, at 12:30PM, my bike was ready to go. Her soft gold color sparkled in the sunlight after five drab months under a sheet in the basement. My Trek was ready but I had a few things to do.
I stripped off my work clothes, leaving them lying on the bedroom chair. I was excited and in a hurry. I opened the closet at the end of the hall where I keep my athletic tops and jackets, shoes and a whole bunch of other biking, swimming and running gadgets. I chose a long-sleeved pullover shirt with a high zip neck from the clothes rod and pulled that over my head. I went to the other hall closet which holds my shorts, sports bras, Danskin pants, socks and a shelf unit with cubby holes stuffed with other essential odds and ends. I made my choices, slipped on socks, stepped into my black Danskin full-length pants and shut the closet door.
Turning back to the first closet, I grabbed a jacket, my biking shoes, my Road ID bracelet, a Velcro strap to wrap around the ankle of my pants to keep the fabric from getting caught in the bike chain, my thingamajiggy which is technically called a bicycle computer, my sunglasses which have a little oval magnifying lens in the lower half so I can read the computer statistics (useless otherwise, my biking gloves and my helmet. Back in the bedroom, I grabbed a fleece vest to slip over my shirt. I’d rather be too warm than too cold. On a bike, temperatures in the fifties feel cold until I get warmed up. Once I was completely equipped, I fumbled through the bathroom closet looking for some cotton to stuff in my ears with hopes it would ease the earaches I knew would come.
Finally I was back in the garage. I ignored the look of impatience I imagined was coming from my bike. I slid the computer into its receptacle on the handlebars. Oops, I didn’t have my cell phone. I slipped back inside and got my Go Phone out of my purse and zipped it into the tiny bag located under and behind my seat, my bike seat, that is. I was ready and my bike was practically leaving without me. I punched our code in the garage door opener to close it and we were off.
Once we were moving, it was time to clip my shoes to the pedals. To my surprise, I snapped my bike shoe cleats into the pedals on the first try on both pedals. Usually, it takes me a few tries. I checked the computer to see if the trip miles had been reset to zero. All systems were go. Ahhhhhh, it felt so good to be moving over the pavement, actually going somewhere instead of pedaling a stationary bike and going nowhere. The fresh air was a treat too. And yet, I had to be vigilant on this bike. I reminded myself repeatedly that my feet were locked into the pedals and needed that essential heel twist to release them if I wanted to stop. Unfortunately, old habits die hard and, at sixty, habits are pretty deeply ingrained.
I’m planning to participate in the 20th Annual Wellness Biathlon on May 16th again this year. It begins and ends behind the hospital, a couple of miles from here. The twelve-mile bike route used in the biathlon is a favorite of mine and that’s the one I chose to follow on Thursday. It provides an optimal ride on country roads with only a few unintimidating hills.
After pedaling through residential areas, a business square and another residential area, I was out on the open road. Now it was time to get serious. I lowered my forearms onto the aerobars, clicked into a higher gear and picked up speed.
A narrow creek winds along the right side of the road. I snuck a few looks at it until the road turned away from the creek. I clicked the gear shift lever into a lower gear on the first hill of the day as it began to slow me down. With relative ease, and a few more gear shifts, I was on flat ground again. The beauty of that was short-lived as I approached the interstate overpass. Atop the bridge and a bit out of breath, I looked at the cars and semis zooming below me.
For a second, I asked myself why I chose to ride a bike when I had an awesome Chevy Avalanche home in the garage, willing and able to take me anywhere I wanted to go. I refocused on the road ahead of me and instantly remembered why. What goes up must come down. I gradually shifted into higher and higher gears as I accelerated down the other side of the overpass. I felt an adrenal rush as the thrill of speed took over my senses and right with that rush came an equal blast of fear. What if a wheel comes loose? What if something throws me off balance? What if I wipe out? I put a halt to those thoughts with a reproof: Get a grip. Don’t spoil everything by thinking about the danger, beside, your legs and lungs are loving this.
This particular ride, as most long distance rides go, is a combination of ups and downs, stretches of level terrain and constantly changing scenery. The grass along the roads is still much more brown than green and the trees are bare. It won’t be long though before I’ll see positive changes as the sun warms the earth and everything reawakens. Someday when I get past my need to push for speed, I’ll slow down and relish nature without the blur.
Traffic was light in the early afternoon and I didn’t have to stop during the entire ride until I was almost back home. My neck hurt like crazy after the strain of holding my head up while my upper body was bent low over the front wheel. It’ll take a few rides for neck to get reaccustomed to being held in that unnatural position. My ears ached even with the cotton, but otherwise, I was feeling good when I came to a stop at the garage door. Once inside, I slid the computer off its holder, covered my bike with her clear vinyl dust protector and went in the house.
As I shed my biking gear, I made my way to my date book where I record my computer statistics. I wrote: Biked outside. Biathlon route. 14.2 miles. Average speed 12.2 mph. Maximum speed 22.3 mph. Total time 1:09:28. I keep similar records of my swimming and running sessions. It's fun to observe the improvement that comes with practice.
After a shower, I was already looking forward to my next opportunity to do it all over again. Only faster.