Yep, time for another rambling bicycling topic (don’t look for the 5 paragraph form you learned in junior high school). I was only able to ride once since that last post. I know. There are times the bike, Mahdwan, looks at me like a forlorn puppy. Yeah, that sounds a little weird, but cyclists understand. I have thoroughly enjoyed getting back on a bike. It has an almost addictive quality to it. When I get back on my bike and start that ride there is a feeling of relaxing and exhilaration at the same time. Riding is both good for my body and my head. Do you remember what it was like when you were ten and riding that bike through your neighborhood? I still get that feeling. Instant regression. Even though I am wearing spandex and a helmet.
One of the great parts of living in northeast Ohio (yes, there are many) is that bike paths are readily accessible. In the outer suburbs rural roads are just a few minutes away. I have a particular route I call the Portage Pounder which takes me through about six different Portage County communities. There are hills, flats, smooth roads, cheap n’ seal roads (not nearly that fun), small towns, colleges, sprawl developments (unfortunately), and a few working farms. There are a couple of hilltops that allow a rider to see for miles. However, I prefer road riding to bike paths — too many people on the hike/bike trails – which is as it should be. I tend to ride a little faster than most “pedestrians” on the bike paths; and that can make it dangerous for all concerned. Riding on the road is just a freer feeling.
I found recently I can get to the Cuyahoga Valley National Park in about twenty minutes. The area around Peninsula takes me into Cuyahoga Falls, Akron, Copley, Bath, Richfield, Boston Mills and nary a horizontal surface and gorgeous scenery. The more I ride, the more I love riding hills. Downhill, of course is a rush! I call it “tuck n’go” — making myself as aerodynamic as possible (elbows and knees in, deep into the drops, back parallel to the road and eyes on the road in front of me and just in case, fingers resting on the brakes). There is nothing like getting upward of 35 – 40 miles per hour on a downhill — feeling the wind blow by. It can be scary at first, but once I got used to it, I take full advantage of gravity! But it is a good idea to watch out for potholes — you’ll do more than fly… And just as fun is gliding on the flats or depending on the upcoming hill, gliding to the top of it.
But what about going uphill? Ah, there is the challenge. I am thankful for real good Team In Training coaches and friends who are hill-climbers. It is also helpful to have some kind of electronic doo-dad on the bike to tell me what the percent of grade the hill happens to be. There are the long, low percent grade hills and the short, high percent grade hills. It is the combination hills that are even more fun. When I rode in America’s Most Beautiful Bike Ride (around Lake Tahoe) in 2007 with the Northeast Ohio Team In Training Team, we were faced with an eight mile climb. It was about a six percent grade. Now it was a tough ride, but when I got to the top of the hill at Spooner Junction, I knew I had accomplished something (I really felt the accomplishment after finishing the rest of the ride for a total of 100 miles). I think that is what hills are about: the challenge. The workout. The burn. The accomplishment. The tricky part is training for the hills. I found that standing up in the saddle and pedaling takes more energy than sitting and pedaling. The secret is gearing down, spinning, and sitting up to get air into the lungs. Like anything else, the more you do, the better you get. And of course, around cycling buddies, there are bragging rights and a camaraderie hard to find anywhere else.
Which brings me to the folks I ride with…I’ll not mention names, to protect the innocent. Some are crowned with nicknames: d-net, speed, angel, sexy bob, dainty pink, naked chick, bald guy and bicyles end up with names: mahdwan, cadence, grant, dragonfly, to name just a few. Getting together for group rides or sponsored rides is great fun. Often times a 40-50 mile ride will be highlighted by riding to an ice cream store — I mean, you can burn up lots of calories, replace them and then burn them off again! I prefer the ice cream rides. In fact, one of the ice cream riders is coming up with a “team” jersey for us. The ages of riders range from kids in their 30’s and 40’s and some us in their 50’s on up to 70!
So go buy a bike this Christmas and get out there this year…