Saturday, April 19, 2008

Exercising My Right to be Stupid

A four month layoff was too long. Entirely too much time off my bike. Yeah I had some ham fisted medical excuses and winter kicked our butt leaving not many days at all to ride a bike. That was then. This is now. What I needed was serious saddle time.

Four months is a long time to not be in the saddle. My body had exploded to queen size. My muscles had atrophied to mere toothpicks. My butt, well, it acted as if it had never seen a bike seat before. All of the reasons my customers use to not ride their bikes existed in me and I could relate.

Getting back into cycling after a long layoff is always painful. Yet, having been through it many times before, I know that with some perseverance experienced through gritted teeth, I will come out on the other side and once again know the true joy cycling brings to my life.

My time available to ride is at a minimum during the Spring. The bike shop is going full tilt boogie and my yard needs attention. Every year it seems one or the other suffers during the hours I spend riding. So this year, I figured some bike commuting miles would bring back that base line of fitness and time lost to more industrious endeavors would be cut back.

So this past week I commuted by bike some. Not every day, as my body is weak and I do have to watch myself. But I did get started anyway. My first day, I remembered half way to the shop all those things a bike commuter should not forget and spent the rest of the day selling bikes in my bike duds. Bike duds are fine when riding, but they can get a tad uncomfortable when forced to wear them all day. But I had done it before, so I sucked it up and dealt with it.

My second commute brings up my point of this whole post.

With a lifetime of cycling, the last 25 being crammed with many miles, I consider myself a savvy cyclist. On the road or in the woods. I may not be fast, but I am comfortable with traffic whizzing by at 50 MPH and trails that many will not ride don't faze me. On the road I ride where I am supposed to and follow most rules most of the time. In the woods, I usually have sense enough to walk sections that I know are beyond my skill set.

Then why or what came over me on the straight stretch of Rte 109 just past the S curve is beyond me. Brain skip? Acid flashback? Whatever it was that happened, it caused me to almost kill myself. A close call that was so close, I feel the need to write about it.

In the last mile or so before the bike shop, I had a good head of steam up and was pushing hard. Down the road coming at me on the other side, I spotted a familiar neon green jacket of another rider/friend I have. So I crossed 109 to the other shoulder and began riding towards this rider just to say hi and maybe stop for a chat or whatever. As he got close, I realized it was not my friend but a stranger who was looking at me oddly as I sped towards him head on. I hollered, "Sorry Bud, thought you were someone else." I then veered back toward the road to cross it again and return to the right side and become a sane commuter again.

I looked over my right shoulder to see if the coast was clear. I spotted a car zipping up. So I slanted my crossing to time my entry into that lane just as the car passed. For some reason I did not see the car that was behind the first car. As I began to accelerate, my peripheal vision caught movement and I knew I was in trouble. Sheer momemtum was going to carry me right in front of the car and it's grill.

All I can say is I was lucky yesterday. Very lucky. I did the panic squeeze on my brakes and went into a high speed front wheelie and managed to pivot around so when I came down I was not careening into the other lane and certain pain and agony, but was now riding parallel. The car sped by my elbow with maybe a foot to spare.

I then finished crossing the lane and fell into my bike rythmn in the proper place and space I was supposed to be in. As I finished the commute, I pondered all of the ramifications of my recent brush with death.

First thing that came to mind was my calm after the fact. Other than an elevated heart rate, I kind of felt normal. Yet I knew I had just missed being road kill. And it would have been my fault. Yet, the panic, check my shorts feeling never came over me. Since it happened in such a brief period of time, maybe 3 seconds or so for it all to unfold, I had no time to get scared.

I then began to re-evaluate the high opinion I had of my cycling savvy. I realized that no matter how smart I think I am, I am only one cycling move away from proving how stupid I can quickly become.


Anonymous said...

Yikes! I'm too chicken to ride in traffic. It's side streets or trails or the sidewalk for me...mostly because I'm usually Mama-Henning two little kids at the same time, or have a kid in the trailer. Even though this area has a lot of bicyclists, I don't trust drivers. That said, Tom and I want to ride RAGBRAI when it goes through his hometown again. I'm insane.

A Midnight Rider said...

All in a day's work I suppose. Those extra heart beats only add to your fitness. Now breath.