Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bicycling Season Has Begun

Last Wednesday, I got home from work a little early, it was a beautiful sunny day, and my wife wasn’t due home from her nail appointment for at least an hour. Rather than hibernate in the den and surf the web, I pumped up the bicycle tires and went for my first ride since I got the new knee. Sunday I went out for a twelve mile ride and gave all the atrophied muscles in my derriere a wake-up call.

Ever since I was I kid, I have lived on a bicycle. Two wheels and a gear chain meant freedom. My first biking memory was when I was in kindergarten and I follwed the older kids past the end of the block where I was allowed to ride. They ditched me and I was lost and had to find my way home. That is a pretty good metaphor for a lot of my life.

In junior high I lived on a military base and our bicycles were our tickets to all the off-limits places we weren’t allowed to be. Once I got my driver’s license, my biking life took a long sabbatical. It wasn’t until about ten years ago I even owned a bicycle again. At first, I could barely make a four-mile loop through our fairly hilly neighborhood. Now I have a good half-dozen regular rides I take that range in distance from 7 miles to over 25 miles (the longer one includes a short break at a bagel shop).

My favorite rides take me down to old Ellicott City, which is a quaint not quite fully gentrified mill town on the Patapsco River that was the original terminus of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad. What goes down must come back up. There are about 4 ways to get back to my house from Ellicott City, all of them uphill. I usually take the gently sloping New Cut Road, which is about two miles of scenic woods back to the main road. Sometimes I go along College Avenue that has four rollercoaster style hills. When I am really in shape, I go for Ilchester Hill. This one mile stretch of Ilchester Road has a sign claiming an 18% grade for part of it. That will be a true test of my donor ACL when I am up to it again.

Bicycle clothing is some of the dorkiest looking athletic apparel ever devised. I have tried to make peace with my inner bike geek and I own one pair of the ultra-tight biker shorts that look good on nobody this side of the USPS bicycle team. I tend to wear padded mountain biker shorts instead most of the time. I also have two of the garish bike jerseys that are inexplicably de rigueur. One is black and gold with Georgia Tech’s Buzz on it. The other is Jelly Belly logo’ed with jelly beans patterned all over it. I love the only mildly ironic statement it makes. If I ever stumble across a Ben and Jerry’s jersey, I’m snapping it up.

Two years ago, as part of the denial process over turning forty, I rode the Seagull Century, which is a 100-mile ride around Maryland’s Eastern Shore including a stop on Assateague Island of the wild ponies fame. When the weather is nice, as it was that year, it is a very pleasant easy ride that over 6,000 bicyclists do annually. That’s me holding the souvenir tee-shirt in the picture. They give out the shirts at the end of the ride, just to make sure you really do the whole thing.

My riding season last year was pretty much shot between summer vacation and medical crises of various varieties. This year I have high hopes and the spreadsheet is all set up to log every mile in the saddle. My dream regimen would include about 50 miles a week of riding, but most of the time I am lucky to fit in half of that. I would love to do some sort of charity ride in the fall, but that is smack in the middle of my son’s marching band season. We’ll see what I can fit in. Even if I can’t get myself a $30 dollar shirt from some organization, I’ll have a fun summer.

And if you see me on the road, try not to hit me. At least not on purpose.


Your Mother said...

You've inspired me to break out the old bike. I forgot how good it feels.

Anonymous said...

Good for you, yj!

I'm still riding my bike to work, and more and more I'm doing my weekend errands carless as well. I get in about 80 miles a week, but there's nothing about it that says "serious biker"--I've got my Huffy one-speed coaster brake and my regular clothes--I do wear a helmet most of the time, but I never go very fast.

I love riding the bike--when I started riding to work a co-worker asked, "Why?" and tried hard to keep the unspoken "Are you NUTS?" out of the tone of her voice. There were lots of answers I could have given to the question, but what came to my mind first still seems like the most honest response: "Because," I said, "It's fun!"

Mooselet said...

Goon on ya, yello! Although I have to say, you look rather knackered in that pic. But since I doubt I could ride 10 miles, never mind 100, you deserve to look that way.

Anonymous said...

When I moved to Baltimore I wound up leaving my bike behind. ("Lost custody," you might say.)

Last year I tore the meniscus in my left knee. The Physical Therapist would put me on the stationary bike to warm up but told me that a real bicycle was out of the question. I'm thinking it's time to go get a new (or slightly used) bike and start riding around the neighborhood. Worst that can happen is that I wind up with a new knee, right?

yellojkt said...

With my new ACL, the doctor said bicycling is actually fairly easy on it, no lateral forces. A torn meniscus sounds harder. The people I know that have had that operated on have had much tougher recoveries than me.

Still, I'd go for it. You only live once.
I haven't ridden the new Gwynn Falls Trail yet, but that might make a nice ineer city ride without the traffic.


I wish I could ride to work, but there are no shower facilities and the bike route is pretty rugged (17 miles through the Patapsco State Park). I envy you.

Suburban Turmoil said...

Good for you! I think the cyclist-wear is pretty weird, too. We have cyclists all over the place where I live. Pardon me, but if someone has an enormous beer gut, he should not be wearing tight bicycle clothes!

Anonymous said...

well, to each his own, they say. You ride your bike, I take my runs. Biking has the same soothing effect, though it has MUCH less impact on the knees, ankles, and hips than running. Maybe when I graduate from Jr. Gemini-land I'll pick it up more seriously.

Anonymous said...

I cycle to work too. I delibrately chose to live close enough to do so. My journey is about 3 miles each way.

I just spend the day sweaty - so nice for the students. When it gets even warmer I carry a spare set of clothes. I need long trousers and closed shoes for working in the lab any way.

I love cycling and I much rather do the commute than go to the gym.

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