First of an occasional series
It’s official: The couch potato has left the keyboard and is back on the bike.
This weekend, after months of threatening to do it, I finally reintroduced myself to Big Lizard.
Big Lizard is a Giant Iguana mountain bike. My reasons for calling it that are fairly obvious, right down to the reptilian green paint job.
For the last couple of years, Big Lizard has been a lonely reptile. Months hunkered down in front of computer writing a blog will do that.
Now, I’m back on the bike and it’s about time. I don’t know which of us said that first, me or the bike.
Probably the bike.
Big Lizard wasn’t state-of-the-art even when it was new, and that was at least three Presidents ago. Old-school toeclips and straps for the pedals. Eighteen gears, period. No fancy twist shifters on the handlebars. No fancy aluminum frames or bladed spokes.
Suspension? That’s what elbows and knees are for.
It’s big and basic and weighs too much, much like its owner. But it’ll go as fast as you push it.
Just not in the garage.
It takes a lot to overcome inertia, even more to overcome inertia mixed with excuses. So what broke the spell?
It started last Friday with a letter from my doctor about my last EKG. When your doctor writes words like “worrisome” on hospital letterhead bearing, you pay attention.
Next day, I’m at a gas station on a long hill with a moderate grade. I look up and see a cyclist going by, then bunches of them.
Then I remembered that this was the day of the 2011 San Diego Century Bicycle Tour.
A “century” is a bike ride of 100 miles. Hard-core road riders do it in eight hours or less. The rest of us just hope to finish the course without medical intervention.
I tried a century once, through the rolling hills of coastal Orange County. I made a lot of tactical mistakes that day. I should’ve paced myself, drunk more water, eaten more bananas to keep my potassium up. I didn’t do any of that.
Even so, I sailed through the first half of the course, flew through it.
I paid for it on the second half. I blew up on the course.
Have you ever had leg cramps so bad that you couldn’t bend your knees, at all? Twice along the way, passing motorists stopped; they thought I’d crashed and broken a leg. I had to shortcut the course by eight miles, all of which were climbs, just to survive.
I was the last of 7,000 riders to finish.
You don’t get anything for 7,000th place. There’s nobody left to give you anything. They’ve all gone home.
Many years later, there I am, watching cyclists struggling up a hill on a century ride.
The way I see it, I still owe myself eight miles.
So on Sunday, Big Lizard and I started getting reacquainted. I spent the afternoon in a parking lot, trying to revive low-speed bike handling skills that were so rusty, they creaked.
Or was that my knees?
We followed up yesterday with a return to my old training course, the five-mile loop around Miramar Reservoir.
It’s a great place to train because it gives you a little of almost everything. Short, gradual climbs. Short, fast descents with hairpin turns at the bottom. Headwinds, tailwinds, crosswinds. Not to mention joggers, rollerbladers and the occasional fisherman’s car.
It felt like a reunion. Big Lizard with its museum-piece drivetrain and rusting quick-release levers. Me in my decidedly non-stylish sweatclothes and the Renault headband with so little elastic left that it threatened to slide down over my nose.
Big Lizard had trouble at times deciding which gear to stay in, and the brakes screamed as if they were undergoing an enhanced interrogation at Guantanamo Bay.
As for me, my knees and ankles, which should’ve been tucked in tight to the frame, nice and aerodynamic, were all over the place, and my pedal cadence might remind one of an arthritic ground squirrel on meth.
Still, we made it.
If anything, Big Lizard was back in rhythm before I was. I don’t know if bicycles are supposed to have muscle memory, but I think this one does.
I intend to complete my own century ride in 2012 — and that’s just for starters. I intend for this bike to start seeing the world.
Along with its owner.
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