That was the brief and only contents of an email sent recently. I was, without mincing words, pissed off. I despise the fact that I go through so many emotions when it comes to bikes, but there reaches a point at which all of the seemingly little things - the ill-fitting equipment, the too-often moronic motorists, the non-compliant weather, etcetera - come together in a brief span of time and I arrive home wanting to literally throw my bicycle in the trash. So, as I returned home after an extremely brief ride one day, I could feel the anger boiling inside. I was shaking visibly, and since no one was around for me to take out my hostilities, I sent the five-word email and decided that I'd had enough of dealing with bicycles and their "drama."
The morning had been chilly, so I worked for several hours, thinking that a ride later in the day might be a better choice. I made the mistake of eating just before I set out, and unfortunately, I was feeling it a little more than I'd prefer. The heat of the day had also arrived quicker than I'd anticipated and the air seemed far warmer and thicker than the actual temperature would indicate. Additionally, I had opted to try out a different pair of shoes this day. I'd been experimenting with shoes/pedals/etc in an attempt to resolve some foot issues while riding. Pollen was flying through the air all around me as I stood over the bike preparing to set out. Despite my head already throbbing with an allergy-induced pounding, I wanted to ride. I had a route in mind - something rarely tackled by my brain before venturing out. So, I was going whether the circumstances seemed in my favor or not.
As I rolled down the hill from home, I realized I'd left my gloves sitting in the bike storage. I had decided it would be a good idea to check the air in the tires before rolling out and could picture exactly where I'd left them. Ah, well... I would continue on. As I rounded the corner at the bottom of the hill, I realized there was an incredible strain taking place in my shoulders and neck. I tried wiggling a bit and stretching to see if it would work itself out to no avail. Then suddenly, I was instantly aware of all the issues taking place on the bike: the saddle was tipped up way too high, the handlebars had a reach that suddenly seemed to grow many inches in just seconds, the bars were tipped too far forward, and so on.
Over the prior weekend, Sam and I had taken the bike out to make adjustments in an attempt to improve the fit. We were convinced that minor changes could make a huge difference, so if we went together, Sam could see how my position might appear off, and I could describe what exactly was taking place physically. We'd made so many changes by the end of that ride, I was numb to everything. I had decided after our second hour on the bikes that we should just leave it alone and I would take the bike out later to make another round of adjustments, if needed.
And, oh boy, were adjustments needed. Stopping the bike after a few miles, I decided I was going to make the fixes because I wanted to ride. I frequently struggle with adjusting the tipping of the saddle, so I decided to focus on the handlebars. I loosened the bottom screw on the handlebar stem and then went after the top screw. Except, it wouldn't budge. With all of my might, I sat on the side of the road attempting to release the screw. I grunted and groaned, and muttered to myself about Sam making everything so tight that vice grips are needed to release them. "How am I supposed to make changes if I can't even get the damn screw loose!" I yelled to no one, as I stood in a small patch of dusty pea gravel beside the road. Perhaps another cyclist would ride by, I thought. It's a frequently ridden road for many in the area and there was a chance someone would be kind enough to help me get the screw loose. But, I had ventured out after lunch time and the odds of a cyclist pedaling by were unlikely.
For fifteen minutes I tried different methods to release the screw, but it was no use. My hands were in so much pain at this point that I had no grip left. The indentations left on my hands by the wrenches on my bike tool were getting worse, and I was aware that I wasn't going to be able to continue riding. I didn't really want to ride at this point, so I walked across the road, about faced, got back on the bike, and feeling defeated, started pedaling home. I had quickly gone from happy and determined to angry and discouraged, and there didn't seem to be any turning back.
It's amusing that when one thing goes wrong, it all seems to domino from that point. Even the littlest of happenings seems to add exponentially to the internal turmoil, and it's easy to think back on the start and believe that everything that was taking place, all of the "signs" that it wasn't my day, all of these moments were a means of telling me not to leave the house. Normally, I can let things go, but on days like this, the world seems to be against me. I turn into a bratty child, throwing internal tantrums and believing that I am "not meant to ride a bike." I convince myself that it is too difficult to get things set up properly and that it's not worth the pain.
As I continued home, muttering to myself, I am shook from my internal world of thoughts by a car that has stopped dead in front of me. "Seriously?" I state aloud. I'm on a hill - the hill home - and definitely don't want to lose what little momentum I have. The grade is steep, and stopping and re-starting is unpleasant to say the least even when I'm not in a foul mood; but today - today, I really don't need this. The driver, who is on her cell phone, motions for me to go behind her. "I can't... you're blocking the path," I say. Not that she can hear me as she is quite obviously caught up in her (I'm sure, highly important - [insert sarcastic eye roll]) phone call. She sits, continuing to talk, as I shake my head and feel the anger rising inside. "Are you blind? There is a sign right there (I motion to the sign clearly posted) to watch for cyclists!" Again, she has no interest in me and isn't even aware of my mouth moving, nor my frustration level. I call her a choice name and she finally moves so I am able to continue on.
Arriving home, I am beat. I have traveled just over 5 miles and feel as though I've ridden 60+ miles. I sulk into the house, truly believing that I am never, ever, riding a bicycle again. "Cancel my frame order, shut down the blog," I tell the dogs as I pout my way through the house, dropping pieces of cycling paraphernalia as I go. "I'm done." Then, a quick stop to send the e-mail to Sam... "I am through with bicycles."
Sam responds wanting to know what happened. I don't bother to reply. When I don't send a message back, he calls, but I don't pick up. I have no interest in engaging in conversation or discussion about my feelings. I am simply done. I don't want to be in pain, I don't want to struggle with bikes, and I don't want someone attempting to talk me out of my (entirely reasonable... at least in that moment) desire to sell every bicycle I own. Instead, I sit in my stupor, wondering why I ever learned to ride a bike and why on earth I returned to riding them more and more frequently over the last several years.
Lost in heated, resentful thought, I stew in my self-made concoction of three-year old child outbursts and contempt. Slowly, however, I become aware that I am telling myself, "Well, perhaps I'll keep just the Hillborne. I may actually ride that one." Those little slivers of truth keep sneaking into my thoughts. "I can't sell the Soma," is the next one to find its way into my consciousness, followed by, "I need the Trek. It's the road bike that fits the best at the moment."
I try to fight the thoughts. I want to hate my bikes right now and I never want to ride again. Bicycles are stupid. There are other activities to engage in without riding a bike. Think about the agony of trying to find one that fits properly, think about the near-death experiences with drivers, and think about the pain of trying to build on mileage each spring and summer... all for what?
But it's too late. The positive moments are already flooding my mind. The memories of seeing that cruiser bike for my birthday and riding all over, no matter what anyone said was a reasonable distance to cover on it. The casual rides to nowhere that were fun just because there was absolutely no purpose in them other than enjoying being outside. The rides with friends who are just getting on bikes again as adults and sharing their new experiences. The first road bike and the realization that I could cover more territory so much faster. My first century ride, despite believing it was impossible to complete.
What would I do without a bicycle? It's become more than I ever thought it could be. I use it for transportation, to clear my head when it's full of thoughts that need to be released, for exercise, for training, for adventure, to challenge what I think is possible. Bicycles are simple, yet beautiful. They are reminders that even as technology changes, a bicycle remains relatively consistent. Our two-wheeled device is capable of giving so much and asks so little in return.
By the time evening hit, it was kickboxing time. Without even thinking, I move toward bike storage to retrieve the Hillborne and head to class. Rolling down the same hill I'd ridden just hours before, I smile. Riding around is always fun, and being with Sam on a bike is the best. I love this bike, I think as we roll over bumps and rocks. "Maybe we can try again this weekend with the adjustments on the other one?" I ask Sam as we ride side by side. He nods in response and I realize there is no giving up something I think about almost constantly. I'm hooked for life.