Friday, July 27, 2007

Six bikes

Matt Seaton's top ten books about cycling, at the Guardian. That looks like a great list. I've only read #1 and #10, both indeed very good; I am going to read every one of the others at my earliest possible convenience...

I had an extremely good bike ride the other day, courtesy of my friend R. I am still so nervous about riding in the street that my heartrate is shooting up even just sitting here thinking about it; it's not the traffic per se, the roads aren't that crowded round here really, it's the combination of traffic and clipless pedals. Still getting the hang of those...

But with his moral support, I ignored the fact that my hands were shaking like leaves (seriously!) and we rode down Riverside Drive to 86th St. and thence across to Central Park (traffic-free from 10 to 3 on weekdays), where we did three loops with lots of educational drills: practicing looking back on both sides, raising hand off bars and waving it around for balance, "feathering" brakes on downhills (nice word) and also seeing that it's OK to go downhill without clutching desperately onto the brakes, putting hands on the top of the bar for climbing (I love climbing, that Harlem Hill is ridiculously easier on a bike than when you're running!), shifting for different terrain, clipping in and out while riding, pedaling with one foot, etc. etc.

It was extremely educational and confidence-building! Fitness is not an issue, I have strong legs and a fast bike--too fast, frankly...

(It took some fortitude to get back on the real road once it was time to go home, I must confess that if I had been by myself I would have almost certainly copped out and walked my bike across the couple blocks of intersectiony stuff--that was nerve-racking--once you're across Central Park West, though, there is a bike lane running along 87th St. going west to Riverside that makes it fairly straightforward. But these buses are not helpful! And of course the bike lane is only a token gesture, largely ignored by drivers; but it makes you feel that you are morally in the right...)

22 miles or so, not bad, only fell over once right at the very beginning, on the sidewalk downstairs from my apartment building, as I miscalculated my initial clippings-in. Really it is not that bad at all falling over, you are not very high up off the ground--and it's going to be well worth it once I'm a bit more experienced, those pedals really feel great once you're actually riding, very centaur-like to be attached in that way--only a moderate bruise on the hip, nothing serious!

Unfortunately right now is not a sensible time to plunge into this whole-heartedly, we made a plan for a Friday-morning bike ride in the heat of the moment only then I belatedly remembered that Friday's a rest day on my training schedule and that I am already in the taper for my half-marathon next weekend and that it's not sensible to add in any lower-body stuff at this point! Not to mention the bruises and minor injury potential!

It was a blow to decide to cancel for this morning, especially because I was so nervous that I felt I just had to do it (STRINGENT INNER VOICE: "You have to do it, you are so nervous, if you cancel it's only because really you're afraid"; SENSIBLE INNER VOICE: "No, you're not rationalizing, you really shouldn't, you've already overloaded your muscles on exercise this week": STRINGENT INNER VOICE: "But--"); discretion being the better part of valor, I did steel myself to cancel after some agonizing and I will just try and have a couple really mild little rides in the next week where I go twenty blocks down Riverside Drive and then straight into Riverside Park with no daunting crosstown attempts and practice the clipping bit so that when I have to ride over to E. 90th all by myself in the very early morning of Tuesday the 7th I will not have a total nervous breakdown!

It's good for me to do something that makes me so nervous, I can't only do things that are straightforwardly exciting and not nerve-racking, it will give me more sympathy with my students for instance when they are nervous about public speaking (and frankly though I can hardly remember it I do vaguely recall how much my hands were shaking during one of the the first big undergraduate lectures I ever gave, on Julius Caesar in 1997 or so when I was a TA). My heartfelt wish is that it will be a couple months from now and I will have almost completely forgotten how nervous this whole thing made me to begin with! It is true that my swimming has improved so much since January that it's scarcely believable, we will hope for the same with bike-riding...


  1. Not about cycling per se, but Dervla Murphy's Full Tilt would be on my list of top ten books with a bicycle as a major character. Plus it might make you feel positively blasé about Riverside Drive!

  2. Thanks for the rec! Really it is only because I am a cycling BABY that Riverside Drive seems daunting, I can hardly rationally imagine an easier road to ride along--i.e. no cars taking right turns, even!

  3. A danger of tapers is that you start looking to fill the time you might have been training in! Best not to fill it with other athletic endeavours ...