Thursday, July 3, 2014

Slow Ride Rejuvenation

Admittedly, this year I'm off to a rough start with cycling. I have had a few injuries slowing me down and, quite honestly, I just haven't felt the excitement that I have in previous years to be out on a bike. I wish that I could pinpoint something and say, "Ah, yes, that is the reason I don't feel as great this year," but I don't think there is one moment, happening, or injury that can take full responsibility. Instead, it seems that there are many pieces to the puzzle and the conglomeration has made the whole much worse than I'd prefer. Generally, by June I am well in the swing of things. Shorter rides have turned into much longer ones and I am plotting out some challenge for mid-summer. This year, that does not seem to be the case. I ride, but they are painful rides. I try to push myself, but it becomes punishment and proves to be demotivating, rather than the typical outcome of feeling accomplished and wanting to try again for something greater.
One small piece of this mindset seems to be that I find it more challenging to allow myself to ride for pleasure in the heart (& heat) of summer. I'll ride to the market or to workout at the gym or kickboxing, but they are short rides with a purpose. Allowing myself to simply take a pleasure stroll (or roll, I should say) has become non-existent. The last couple of weeks have had me thinking about this quite a bit. I don't completely understand when or why the mental shift occurred, but it was never my intention to give up the piece of riding a bike that was always most important to me, and I decided I needed to take a ride and just enjoy it at slower speeds.Thoughts are always running through my head, but I find the slower rides to be more conducive to getting lost in an idea. With the Hillborne loaded up with camera/lenses and just about anything I could possibly need, I set out on what I planned to be about an hour of figuring out why I don't allow myself to just enjoy a ride once in awhile.
There were many cyclists out on the road, and I immediately felt uncomfortable. It was something about seeing every person on a bike passing in spandex/lycra and riding their lightweight bikes that put me ill-at-ease. While most didn't seem to give me a second (or first) thought, I couldn't help but feel out of place. I had to ask myself when it was that I suddenly became averse to riding a more comfortable bike at slower speeds? My immediate reaction was to want to speed up to race with others, but I knew that was not the purpose for this particular outing and reminded myself to just slow down and enjoy it (and beyond that, my bike is far too heavy to actually race it). It didn't take long for me to start wondering if the lycra-clad folks allowed themselves this luxury once in awhile?
As I wandered out to the back roads, I took the time to just observe. There was plenty to see as most of my rides have been wholly focused on gaining strength and endurance. One thing that immediately stood out to me was the extreme number of dead animals on the roads. I always notice them, but there seemed to be a large quantity on this particular day. Rabbits, squirrels, skunks, prairie dogs, frogs, mice, birds and more all strewn in my path at various points along the way and in varying states of decomposition. As I've noted prior, I have a hard time at the sight of dead animals, so I wasn't particularly thrilled about this "find." However, I actually stopped to take photos of many of them. It was gut-wrenching, but my curiosity took over and for whatever reason I thought it was important to stop and document them in some manner (**Warning for the sensitive/squeamish to skip the next photo).
If nothing else, it was a good reminder that life is fleeting for all of us. We can be here one moment and gone the next, so it was an excellent means of pointing out that I must enjoy the moments I do have.

Not everything was quite so bleak, however.There was plenty of life to be seen, including lots of live animals busy about the days' work,
green grass, and pretty summertime flowers in bloom.
It was a hazy day and certainly not the clearest of skies, but just being able to take in all that is around me was pleasant.
Pretty soon, I no longer found myself concerned about my slow speeds and I was actually just enjoying the ride and documenting the things and people around me.
I was able to chat with others (albeit briefly as most were traveling at much higher speeds) and remember why a bicycle can be such a pleasure to ride. By the end of my time out, I had spent several hours on the roads (and the sun had done an excellent job of lobster-fying me), but I had thoroughly enjoyed it. I also had the reminder I very much needed that riding a bike doesn't have to be painful. It's great to use a bike as a training tool or for more intense exercise, but it's also a wonderful means of just observing and getting around.
Whether you need to stop and remember a love for slow-rides like me, or you want to challenge yourself with a race or pushing up a seemingly unattainable hill, I hope you'll take this holiday weekend to enjoy being out on your two-wheeled friend. Whatever you choose to do, I wish you a very happy Independence Day for those here in the U.S., and a beautiful weekend to all others. Happy riding!


  1. Hurray for you and your willingness to go against the grain a little. I mean really? For you to not feel like riding a bike must be a race all the time. You are not out of place. Imagine - riding a bike that is comfortable and does not cause permanent nerve damage to your hands, feet or more sensitive parts. That's a concept! TI think it is great if you realize you don't have to wear spandex and lycra - unless it feels more comfortable. (Personally, I do wear a fair amount of synthetics, but I sweat like a pig and have to wear something that can dry quickly.) I refuse to wear lycra bike shorts anymore - except under baggy mtn. bike shorts or knickers if it is cooler out. Jeesh, I want pockets!

    I do get your feeling of self consciousness. I too, have fielded looks and comments from those that appear to have a very narrow, and decidedly American point of view about what cycling must be. It's funny, I know some of those with the comments and looks think they are superior cyclists. Little do they know I tried their approach and found it to be not to my liking.

    I am in my 5th decade of cycling. I have seen a lot of the trends come and go. What is old is new. What is new, is old. I've ridden an old 1950's Schwinn. A 1960's Raliegh 3-speed. A 1970's Schwinn 10-speed road bike. Then a 1980's English 12-speed road bike. Later a 1990's 24-speed mountain bike. A 2000's 27-speed road bike. On and on it has gone. My current bikes only have 8 to 11 speeds and are not that far off from the late 1950's Schwinn I rode when I was 6 years old. I remember my grandmother riding her 1950's step-though frame Schwinn into her 80's. That's an accomplishment I'd like to achieve!

    G.E. when you feel a little self conscious, remember you are not alone. There are more of us crazies out here too.

    Also, I see no need to for you to worry if you don't have the major rides going for you all the time. It is not a competition. Riding should be fun, something you want to do. Not something you feel guilty about if you don't put in X miles per week, or whatever.

    1. It's interesting. I often see people around just riding in every day attire, but for some reason, this particular day, I felt very out of place. I think it's something I have done to myself though, and not anything that has been forced upon me. I just have to remind myself what I like about riding. It's not that I don't enjoy a longer/faster/more challenging ride, but I think I prefer not focusing so much on those and just finding more time to enjoy rides - whether they be longer distance or shorter.

      As for trends, I think there will always be cycles (no pun intended) of what is the current "it" item. I think I have to remind myself once in awhile though that just because I'm not doing one type of riding as often doesn't take anything away from my enjoyment of another type. This may just be a summer of taking it easier on longer rides, and I see nothing wrong with that, but it's interesting that I've had some kind of mental shift take place that plants a little seed causing me to feel that I'm not doing what I'm expected to be doing.

  2. Perhaps that's why you've been looking at city, commuter type bikes? It sounds like you need more transportation and meandering rides. It's fuel for the soul.

    1. Definitely. It could also be a part of my renewed interest in looking at city-type bikes. I think it's a good reminder to take these types of rides once in awhile.


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