Monday, September 13, 2010

Sunday's adventures in biking!

On Sunday, the day after the long run, I was feeling pretty good (not very sore at all, aside from those first few moments just out of bed).  D. has been helping me get my bike into better shape and I bought a new really nice seat for it, which he put on for me in the morning.  And I went out for a bike ride with him!  He's a really hardcore cyclist so he had on his whole team suit and matchy-match bike etc etc, and then me in my borrowed helmet and 10 year old bike and half marathon shirt... heh.  But it was fun!  I haven't been on a bike to RIDE one in quite a long time.  He was being insistent on not letting me take a normal sized ride, which I thought was ridiculous... we headed out and I thought when he said a "short" ride he meant 15-25 miles and I had sunscreen and water and everything, but apparently his idea of short for me was 2 miles.  Ridiculous!  He's all saying it's for my own good and I can't get into it too fast and get hurt and blah blah... but Sundays are legit cross training days on my training program, and I know my limits.  My heartrate didn't even go over 150 on the 2 mile bike ride (when I'm running it's usually between 175-200).  And weirdly biking was using completely different muscles, as in, not my sore ones.  But anyway he went out for the rest of his training ride and I put my bike up on the trainer and rode inside even though it was a beautiful day, and did about 30 minutes.  The fact is that I don't know how to ride in city traffic and he's going to try to teach me that and some maneuvering, and then maybe the longer rides can begin.

To give you an idea of my bike, here's a photo of it when I first got it from some lady on craigslist a couple years ago:
It's a Giant Kronos from about 1999 or 2000--an entry-level road bike at the time.  So it's not great, but it could be a lot worse.  D and I took off a lot of the extra crap that's on it, the nonfunctional lights and stuff, and D showed me how to do a tune-up.  I got a good deal on a Specialized Jett seat so that's what I got to replace the oversized gel monstrosity that was hurting my butt.  The plan is to gradually get some nicer components that I can then transfer onto a better bike if I eventually am into riding enough to care to get one and if I have the money.  D. also tilted my handlebars up a little and we're going to put some new bar tape on.  So this is silly, but any color suggestions for the bar tape??  I gotta say, green is definitely not my color of choice for a bike, especially THIS color green...  all that seems to match it is yellow, white, and black.  And the hideous seat before (under that seat cover) was yellow, and I'm just not that into the idea of yellow.  I want it to feel like MY bike.  But the colors I like (blues, purples, pinks, reds) don't seem to really go with green, right?  Decisions, decisions.

Also those toe cages are eventually going to have to go.  I can't stand them.  They cause me to pedal weird, like in a jerky motion, and I nearly fall every time I have to come to a stop or get back on the bike.  So after bar tape, if I keep riding, my next purchase is probably going to have to be pedals and legit cycling shoes--and learning that will be an adventure in and of itself! 

I have a long and sordid history with biking, which apparently you'd never guess from my lack of riding skillz (D. commented, "You've never ridden much with other people, have you?"  haha... apparently I don't ride at a very even pace).  

I grew up on a farm, about half an hour by car from the nearest small city, and about 8 miles from the nearest town.  I didn't get a car or get use of a car when I was in high school, so if I wanted to get out of my parents' house, I'd go for a really long bike ride, sometimes with my brother along.  We'd tear maps out of the back of the phone book and just go riding around exploring, sometimes on pretty long rides for kids (there was a "backroads" way to get to my grandma's that was about 18 miles, for instance).  These areas where I was used to biking were country roads.  You'd get passed by maybe 1-5 cars on the whole ride, sometimes.  The bigger fear was huge untethered farm dogs who'd chase us.  From the time I was about 13 I was riding my mom's men's 1980 Fuji Sport 12 road bike... a heavy steel 12 speed bike that was in awesome condition and really sweet for an older bike, just really heavy.   (this is a photo of what appears to be the exact same bike, but this isn't my photo...also the corner lies, it's a sport 12, it has 12 speeds):

The bike had original everything, the same seat as in the photo, same pedals, original bar tape.  And it was also somewhat too big for me.  This is the bike I took with me to college and then took with me to central Indiana where I did my master's degree.  And that was when I started really biking my face off.  Believe it or not I was an obsessive biker before I was a runner.  But "obsessive biker" doesn't mean "cool biker" or "know what I'm doing biker" or even "bikes really far biker" or "trains for stuff biker."  I'd just get up at 5:30 about 4-5 days a week and go for a 30-40 mile ride on the rails-to-trails trail (that no one really used--it was a really nice ride actually).  I was unhappy and I turned to biking as a mood enhancer to replace, well, drinking and partying, which I knew was bad for me.  It was a pretty solid life choice and got me outdoors quite a bit.  I would've gone further than 40 miles but I had no tire patch kit, no air pump on my bike, no padded shorts, and no cell phone, and whenever I was about 20 miles from my apartment I'd start worrying a little about something malfunctioning.  (In case you haven't noticed yet, I'll get anxious about nearly anything.  Ha.)  

So after awhile I wanted some friends to ride with and I saw that the town I was in had a cycling club, so I joined, and I showed up at a group ride that said it welcomed new and beginning riders.  It took a lot of guts for me to do that because I was really, really shy at the time, and didn't often do things out of my comfort zone.  I went for one ride with them, and it was a really negative experience... awkward, and they were making snide and/or critical comments about my bike much of the time.   Yes, I get that it was an uncool bike.  But at the time I was living on $8000 a year in grad school, it wasn't like I could just bust out for all the new equipment.  I was working with what I had, and I REALLY wanted to ride.  Their attitude toward my bike, and by extension toward me, gave me a really negative impression of cyclists.  I didn't go again, and once I finished my degree I lost my enthusiasm for riding, and still couldn't afford a better bike.

Then began Columbus and watching the Tour de France with Sam and my complete love affair with watching pro cycling.  Once I was a runner, I became a cycling watcher and not a cycling participator.  

The old Fuji is back with my mom again.  She likes to remind me that she got fitted for that bike when she was 8 months preggers with me, and my dad has a matching one, and given its amount of sentimental value to her I feel a little bad that it was my adventuring bike for so long.  But it hasn't a single scratch on it still, and now she rides it again.  And that bike makes me all sentimental too... that bike and I had lots of adventures together, and it really felt like *my* bike, which I can't really say about the green one yet.

I got the green bike in Columbus about 3 years ago thinking that I'd like to start riding again, but I'm pretty nervous about riding in city traffic.  Sam has been hit by a car, a couple of my other friends have been hit by cars.  I don't really know the rules of the road, and there's hostility toward cyclists here (D. has had all kinds of things thrown out of cars at him).  But I think I'm ready to conquer this.  After all, I started learning how to swim in January and I was MUCH more scared of water than I am of biking in traffic.  And now I have D to help me along with learning how to ride aggressively on the streets.

Plus, there's that triathlon someday.


  1. Lol at D. and his matchy matchy stuff. I know his type! (i.e. *all* serious cyclists!)

    Have you read Murukami's "What I Talk About When I Talk About Running". It's a bit patchy, but he talks a little bit about struggling to learn to cycle in traffic. Also he has some interesting things to say about the running-writing process. An interesting read for someone training for a marathon and thinking about tris. And It's really short.

  2. I agree with Alison; Haruki Murakami's What I Talk About When I Talk About Running is an interesting memoir. I don't particularly love Murakami's style as a writer in general, but it's an interesting running memoir.

    Also, I just finished reading James Fixx's The Complete Book of Running. Have you read it? It was published in the late 70s and it's a really interesting (and still applicable) book.

    The one good thing about Columbus is that with the painting of sharrows and the "watch for bikes" signs, drivers seem to be paying more attention to cyclists. That being said, riding up and down High St. still gives me a minor panic attack every time I do it, and on my single speed I definitely feel exhausted by the teensy Columbus hills. (However, on the flip side, it does make me appreciate my ability to RUN hills with less problem.)

    Anyway, D. is probably right. Better to start off slow than to push too hard and then get stuck! But I'm glad to hear you've hopped back on the bike bandwagon. I have a love/hate relationship with biking, especially here in Columbus, but I think it could be quite fun too.

    (Side note: Where did you get your bike stand for using your bike indoors?)

  3. Ok so that's three times I've been recommended that book in ONE DAY--I'm taking it as a sign and going to get it ASAP!

    Jess: Sam has an indoor trainer (the magnet kind) that he loaned to me. D. has one too, so I was using the one at his place. I think they're about $90 new and much cheaper on craigslist the last time I looked. Those guys both prefer rollers for indoor training and they both have those as well, which is why I was able to convince Sam to loan me his magnet one, but I think it takes some level of skill to ride on rollers (I haven't tried them before!) I used to have the trainer in my living room and I used it quite a bit, but it's so so hot and boring to ride indoors--good for winter, though.

  4. You'll definitely find it a quick read. I actually recently re-read it, and I liked it more the first time, but I think you'll like it.

    Yeah, I'll have to look on Craigslist! Hmm, rollers do look kind of difficult. That sounds like a great option for winter, though, especially since the idea of hauling myself to RPAC for cross-training sounds pretty icky. (Well, except to swim, if I ever learn how to do that.)