Monday, July 9, 2012

Rider's Blog...Not to be confused with Writer's Block!

In addition to working on my fourth novel this summer, I have rediscovered another of my summer hobbies, cycling. As I watch the cyclists battle each day for stage wins and eventually the whole enchilada in the Tour de France, I am convinced that cycling is the most grueling sport ever! I know this first-hand, as I've graduated from riding a 70s model Trek to a Santana road tandem that Mike and I were inspired to buy after touring parts of Germany on one four years ago, and finally I've landed-sometimes- on the seat of my newly acquired ladies' specific Giant Avail. I have named her Lipstick. She is red, and the romance author in me thought this name would be apropos, but don't let her name fool you for one minute! She is as wicked a little minx as I've ever ridden! After my first three rides, a better name for her would certainly have been Bloody Mary. In comparison, the Trek was kinda like driving a pick-up truck, while the road tandem was more like driving an 18-wheeler, and regardless of what my husband says, I did pedal. You have to. Both riders use the same chain ring so if he's pedaling, then I am too. We rode the Tour to Tanglewood which is 50 miles a day for two days, so I was somewhat seasoned once upon a time. Of course, sitting on the back of the tandem, one doesn't have to make decisions, negotiate traffic, or even change the gears. Sightseeing, along with pedaling, was one of the pleasures I had that he didn't. "Oh, honey, did you see that beautiful hydrangea?" or "Look at that adorable little bungalow on your left." or "Did you see that precious little jack rabbit over at the edge of the woods?" The Avail, on the other hand, is so responsive it is like driving a sports car, or so I would imagine. There is no time to observe the beauty of nature for which you ride to behold.

So now, on Lipstick, I have had to readjust my whole psyche, not only with how to change gears again, but honing my attentional skills, so that I can manage to stay upright while groping around for my water bottle, avoiding cracks or bumps that could send me flying over the handlebars at any given moment, which brings me to the part about cycling that I had blocked out while happily touring around on the back of the tandem: TERROR! Once the terror returns, the self-assured person that got on the bike in the morning is reduced to a quivering pool of nerves in just two hours. Never have I realized while driving my car how many cracks, bumps, potholes and roots of large trees that grow under the roadways as there are when on the bike. The secure feeling of wearing a seat belt is nada, no where, and one quickly realizes how easily one could be impaled upon the passing lovely brick wall of someones front yard, if the following motorist happens to be texting, or blinded by a slanting ray of morning or afternoon sun...or putting on lipstick. Speed is another thing that I used to enjoy, but which now terrifies me at my age, as I'm flying down a hill on tires less than the width of my thumb at 22 miles per hour. This is nothing for Cadel Evans, who is probably cruising along at 45 mph on a flat somewhere in Belgium at the moment! He is probably admiring some old castle, or flower gardens. I feel so cheated! My cheeks begin to flap, going any faster than 22, and since I'm too old to see as clearly as I'd like, who knows when I'm going to glide over a root that will send me sprawling on my ass! Which, by the way, hasn't decreased in size, even after over 100 miles in the saddle.

Oh, and speaking of asses, there are the saddle sores! In additon to the required helmets cyclists must wear, we wear chamois pads in our shorts, which is similar to wearing a jumbo-sized, industrial strength maxi-pad sewn in, with the softest imaginable fabric rubbing, well, you know where. But it still takes several rides to break in your seat. At some point during the ride, it all goes numb anyway, so you don't have to worry about it for long.The guys have great names for this phenomenon, which I'll share because I don't have these body parts. Still, you get the idea of what Numb Nuts and No Noodle mean, and they are not insults, but a range of pain ratings that are produced when you sit for long periods on a bicycle saddle. For a woman, this kind of pain can be equally as uncomfortable and I'm sure there are names other than Fanny on Fire that I've come up with that describe what I'm talking about! Saddle sores are real things and should be avoided at all costs. There's even a product called "Chammy Butt-r" that helps. Don't cha love it?

The other thing I've learned is, make sure your quick release cleat pedals are quick enough. It's very embarrassing, not to mention, dangerous to have to stop suddenly and, unable to get your foot out of the pedals, you fall over as inertia sets in instantaneously. I have scabs and scars to show the effects of that particular malfunction, not to mention the terror that is so intense it produces nausea when you realize you could have been killed, lying in the street like that. Incidentally, I avoid streets as much as possible, and stick to parks and green ways for your safety as well as my own!  We have adjusted my pedals; however, it will be a while before I consider myself road-worthy on this thing.

So, I'm getting used to my new ride. I have stepped up my mental game as well as my physical coordination and endurance to make life with Lipstick the joy it should be...and to not be the hazard I could be to the many innocent motorists out there. Please remember this tale when you see a cyclist on the road. You never know what could happen. It could be me, so steer really wide for your own protection! And all kidding aside, sadly, with all the tragic reports of experienced cyclists losing their lives while out riding on the road with drivers that aren't aware they are there, please, share the road!