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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Getting back on the bike

I took my bike out again today. The last time I went out I felt nervous and edgy for about half the distance, and more comfortable toward the end. I felt I was getting my bike legs back. Today was an effort to do more of the same.

Some things I learned when I rode regularly:

  • Don't grip the handlebars. Hold lightly. When I first rode as an adult I had a death grip on them and eventually developed symptoms of carpel tunnel syndrome. After I lightened up the symptoms went away.

  • Think ahead. My riding mentor from those days past told me that when I rode a bike I would really be practicing "advance planning", and he was right. You have to be ready to change gears at the right time.

  • Don't be afraid of breathing noisily. When I first rode with T, the mentor, I tried to muffle my loud breathing so I wouldn't sound like I was trying too hard. One of those mensch things, I guess. When I let myself breathe naturally, which meant all-out and noisily, I found I had more energy and was more capable.

I have never been a great rider, but I managed to become a competent one. Even at my best I wasn't able to hold still at a stoplight without putting a foot on the ground. I am not particularly graceful or balanced. It's a tribute to the flexibility of the bike design that I can ride at all.

When I power down on the pedals it hurts my knees. Not a good situation for the future of my riding, but I'm counting on the pain to lessen. It is not excruciating. In the meantime I just downshift a lot. And get off the bike when I feel the need. I'm not proud. I've been here before and I will be again.

Today's ride was a simple loop. Orcutt - Tank Farm - Broad - Orcutt. There are a few gentle rises and a couple nice downhills and even a few flats. San Luis Obispo has very few flat areas. It's a wimpy ride, I admit, and yet it gave me such pleasure to sit outside the coffee shop on Broad and Orcutt and realize I had gotten there under my own power. That sense of freedom is what I love so dearly about bicycling. Motorcyclists have absolutely nothing on me.

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