It’s been too long!!

What a crazy 7 and a half months it’s been, both in terms of cycling and otherwise! Let’s just say it included a bike break down in traffic (luckily with no injuries or falls!), completing and defending Ph.D. exams, a new bike acquisition (to replace the broken one), and our car suddenly and unexpectedly bursting into flames (at least bikes don’t do that!).

I’ve been riding as much as I can now that the weather’s warmed up, and I can’t wait until this quarter ends so that I can get more time in the saddle. I’m training for a 100km (about 64 miles) ride in July, and I’m SO excited!

For now, here’s a recent poem I wrote about cycling.

Ride Anyway

I.
For a moment, you agree with them.
At the end of a long day,
at the end of a long week,
the muscle you have left is barely enough
to push off of the couch,
stand
and wait
to see if you have reached the point of dizzy, delirious exhaustion.

Not
quite
yet.

And so,
as you wriggle into spandex,
zip up your jersey
velcro your gloves, clip your chinstrap into place,
you remember the blooming outside, the cottonwood swirling around you.
You plod up the stairs to get a handkerchief to clear lungs and nose,
and you agree with them.
For a singular moment, you become an echo,
Why are you doing this to yourself?

As you coax the water bottle into the cage,
you notice your thighs, the undeniable
muscle boasting itself above the outside of each knee.
You’re learning your body from the legs up.
And your legs

want to move.

II.
On the street, as you slip your feet into cages,
you think of the next step.
Clipless.
The scar tissue in your right knee twinges,
reminding you of the crash two years ago.
The next step, it says,
requires falling.

But in the saddle, there is no doubt –
only the desire to lock yourself in here,
to be more thoroughly attached.

You exhale their questions, the moment of doubt,
the exhaustion, the scar tissue, the terrorjoy of speed and falling.
You exhale your legs like tree trunks, and the whirling puffs of cottonwood,
because always, with that first push,
that first (r)evolution,
you are home again.

And so you ride anyway.

 

©2012, Sarah T. Carnahan
Please do not distribute or share poem outside of this blog post without permission.

Reason #3 that I love cycling . . .

The community.

Admittedly, this is something that I was quite intimidated by when I started cycling. For a while, I felt very much like someone riding a bike in a community of cyclists. I had fun, I enjoyed seeing other riders, I loved being on the bike path, but I also felt like I very much stuck out, especially when I went through that string o’ bikes – first the gold cruiser, then the purple mountain bike, then the hybrid better suited for commuting than distance riding, then the old-school road bike. And, of course, there are still cyclists who fit the stereotype of the grandiose racer who pass people unsafely, or judge people based on their gear, or pace, or calf muscles; I don’t feel particularly connected to them.

But still, there was and is a much more inviting community of cyclists than I thought there would be. At first, I felt a special sort of solidarity with the other people on non-road bikes. And there are also community members who are not on bikes at all – for example, there’s the bagpiper that often plays in Clinton-Como or Whetstone park on weekends; he definitely makes these Irish eyes smile! There’s the woman who, for no other reason than kindness and care for her community, picks up trash along the path. (She’s very, very kind; please thank her if you see her!) There were the cyclists with whom I was stuck under a bridge for 45 minutes last year during a downpour. At that point I was riding my hybrid, but there’s nothing like the uselessness of a road bike in the rain to break down the cycling hierarchy!

I feel more a member of the cycling community now than I have previously. Sometimes I’ll see someone that I know from cycling events – volunteer meetings or rides, for example. Sometimes we’ll ride together, sometimes we’ll pull over and chat and then each head our separate way. A lot of times, it’s that I see familiar faces on the bike path. There’s the middle-aged man that I was stuck under the bridge with last year who always gives me a smile and nod when we see each other. There’s the older couple on the tandem bike; the man in front always gives a nod and the woman in back has a very warm smile. There’s the man who seems to always ride in a coordinated jersey and shorts from Jeni’s ice cream. There’s the man who pulled over last year when the chain popped off my older (and first) road bike and I was having trouble figuring out how to get the rear derailleur to cooperate, and then there’s the woman that I pulled over this summer to help when she was in the same situation. There are, increasingly, more women cyclists on the bike path, and we almost always acknowledge each other.

On group rides – like the bike tour that I did last month – there is wonderful cooperation between cyclists. When riding in a pack, everyone is careful to warn each other of cars, or sudden stops, or gravel on the road way. I’ve also found other cyclists to be quite encouraging as I try to become more adept at the sport. I’m really still a newbie in a lot of ways, and I’ve had many cyclists share stories of their own falls or misadventures when I’m feeling a bit insecure, and I’ve had them give me tips on gear and milestones like the transition to clipless pedals (this is my fall project).

This is, in many ways, a nice medium for me. It is certainly more social and more of a community feel than I ever have on a cross-training or strengthening day in the gym. I have not yet, for example, had someone offer down-t0-earth help in figuring out a weight machine that’s new to me. I’m okay with this. When I’m at the gym – especially when I’m on cardio equipment – I prefer to have it be just me and a very loud workout mix blasting on my headphones. And, the cycling community is a nice change of pace. In many ways, it’s ideal for someone like me – a bit introverted, yet still wanting to feel like I “belong.” On the bike path, I have that sense of belonging. I can ride by myself, keeping my own pace, having some real “me” time to think and appreciate my body, while also having those moments of connection with other people that come and go, as our legs propel us on.

Reason #2 that I love cycling . . .

Spending time outside! I am not a city girl. I’m currently living in a city out of necessity, and getting on my bike and heading north on the bike path (away from campus/downtown) is my respite from being surrounded by cars and masses of people and noise and concrete. And I get to see things like:

This last one is really grainy. I got as close as I could and zoomed in, but I was taking it on my phone. After taking this picture, I got a good view of this hawk’s beak and talons, and I promptly got back on my bike and rode away!

Yes – it’s chillin’ on a soccer goal.

Letters from the Bike Path (and Gearing Up!)

Those of you who know me well and/or are facebook friends with me might have noticed that I often communicate in the form of letters/brief memos. Par example:

Dear Weather,
Why do you keep raining? It hurts my heart because it makes it dangerous to ride my road bike and it’s for realz interfering with my cycling schedule. I’m glad that rain exists in the world, but perhaps it could take a vacay to the southwest for a while? They could REALLY use it.
Love Always,
Say

Often I compose these mental letters while on the bike path. For your amusement, here are some mental letters from recently. Please pardon some of the cynicism coming through; a number of them were composed two Sundays ago, and Sundays on the bike path can be a trial.

Dear Gentleman on the Trek Mountain Bike,
I didn’t know that it was possible to actually buy cycling shorts that are that short. Wow. Doesn’t that make you nervous?? It made me very, very nervous.
Best,
Say
P.S. – Chafing?

Dear God,
You know birds? Those were a really, really great idea. Thanks for that.
Sincerely,
Say

Dear Kindly Fellow with Two Cute Dogs,
Thanks for offering to keep an eye on my bike for me while I was using the outhouse. Chaining it up just for that purpose really is kind of annoying.
Appreciatively,
Say

Dear Columbus Parks and Recreation,
Oh good god. Please, please, please do something about the outhouse at Whetstone Park. Seriously. I can generally suck it up when it comes to outhouses, but  . . . Let’s just say that having to pee while riding a bike is never enjoyable (especially for those of us who are female-bodied) and I chose to hold it.
– Say

Dear People at Antrim Lake Walking Across the Bike Path Waving Fishing Poles Around Without Looking,
Don’t. Those things have hooks.
Take Care,
Say
P.S. – I’m concerned about the fact that you had buckets. Should you really be eating fish out of Antrim Lake? I mean, it’s better than the Olentangy River, but still – that is not a natural color for lake water.

Dear Pedestrians/Runners,
For real, if you continue to run/walk at me in the wrong direction on the path, Imma be forced to run you down. I understand that it’s a multi-use path, and I try my best to promote harmony between cyclists, rollerbladers, runners, and pedestrians, but I really don’t want to experience another pedestrian-induced fall that will have me in physical therapy rehabbing my knee almost a year later.
Godspeed,
Say

Dear Small Children Riding Teeny-Weeny Bikes,
You’re freaking adorable. Also, it’s both cute and terrifying how you look behind you when you hear someone coming and, given that you’re still learning how to coordinate your body (I get it, believe me!), when you turn your head your entire upper body turns with it, thus swerving your teeny-weeny bike into the passing lane.
Be Careful,
Say

Dear Dude Practicing Walking on a Tight Rope,
Thank you for existing.
Best of Luck in Your Pursuits,
Say

Dear Body and Sweet Thunder II,
Thank you for combining and coordinating your efforts to give me some strong, badass rides lately.
Love,
Say

In other news . . .

You know the one thing I don’t totally love about cycling? The expense. I mean, good lord! (Dear Self, Did you have to fall in love with a sport that’s SO expensive? You know you’re a poor grad student, right? Love, Self)

For example, Sweet Thunder II (road bike) is the third most expensive possession I have, behind our car and my computer. And then there’s so much gear and clothing to buy if you want to cycle regularly and have it be a) comfortable and b) functional. I guess the good thing is that once you invest, things last a while. So, I’m trying to gradually accumulate the things that I need (well, okay, and some things that I don’t!). Right now I’m prioritizing getting ready for the 50K that I hope to ride next month, and I also need to outfit my hybrid to make it a more functional commuting bike (I need a rear wheel rack, a trunk, and panniers for realz).

So, my recent gear investments have been this Cambelback, which was a conveniently discontinued style, and thus quite a steal:

I have not yet had a good opportunity to use it yet because the abnormally hot temperatures that we were having have turned into lots of rain and that, combined with the mess that is always the end of a quarter, pretty much precluded doing any longer/hotter rides. Soon, Camelback. Soon.

My most exciting purchase happened this weekend, with my first cyclocomputer. wOOt!

Disclaimer: Please excuse my HORRIBLE bike path etiquette here. Normally I would NEVER take a photo like this while moving. It’s just that . . . if I had stopped, the picture would have shown a big 0.0mph, which is SO not badass enough for my blog. I did make sure that I waited until I was on a straight, abandoned part of the bike path, and I snapped it very quickly with my phone! (I know . . . excuses, excuses!)

I really freaking love having the computer on my bike. I had guessed that I average about 15mph on my road bike, and I clocked in at 15.3mpg average on my ride yesterday. The computer definitely helps me keep my pace, and it also encourages me to shift through my gears more so that I can keep my pace steady. And it keeps me really focused and present in my ride, which is a lovely bonus!

And then, while I was waiting for them to install my computer at Performance Bikes (oh, how I love, love, love this store), I might have found this:

It’s just . . . it was on mega-sale, okay??? There was only one and it was my size and it was cheap because no one buys jackets in Ohio in June! And it’ll be really nice for riding in the fall. AND, actually, one of the classrooms in which I have class this summer and my TA office are both so overly air-conditioned that I actually brought it to school with me today to insulate myself against the temperature. It worked quite well, my friends.

In the meantime, barring inclement weather, I will not back out of the 50K next month. *repeat, repeat, repeat* I’m starting to get cold feet . . . but more on that later!

As a final note, this is not at all cycling related, but here’s one of my favorite Youtube videos ever. It cracks me up EVERY TIME.

I.Love.This.

A wonderful person in my life posted this video on facebook. It pretty much sums up how I feel about riding my bikes.

I also have the serious need to ante up and go clipless staring me in the face. (Please note the section toward the bottom of that link entitled, “But will I fall over?”.) More on this topic later, but I now have a new goal for going clipless. In addition to not seriously breaking anything on or in my bike or my body, I feel strongly that I should probably memorize this speech so that I can recreate it at the right moment, because I know that I’m going to feel REALLY happy of myself.

 

UPDATE:

SOMEONE ADDED AMAZING MUSIC!!! Epic. And yes, I’m posting both videos, because it makes it much more efficient for me to watch them over and over.

Cycling Randoms

1) There has been a woeful lack of posting on this blog, I know. Part of it is that whole pesky graduate school thing. I mean, really. There has GOT to be a way to get a Ph.D. without it being so time-consuming!! However, up until this past week, there has also been a woeful lack of cycling. It can be hard to fit rides in with my school schedule anyway, so often when I do ride during the year, it’s in the form of commuting to/from school. However, lately that has looked like this

Another cyclist, and two men with super-cute pit bulls and I all came to an abrupt stop here at the same time. The walkers turned around, and the other cyclist and I agreed that this patch was far too deep to ride through, even on my hybrid. So, up and over we went!

I was briefly jealous of his lightweight road bike, however, since this commute home included more puddles and off-roading, I was ultimately quite happy to be on All the Way Mae (hybrid).

2) This is the other thing that’s happening on the bike path recently:

Goslings as far as the eye can see!! So far, I have barely been hissed at by parent-geese. However, I have seen numerous undergrads in the campus area egging them on. Poor choice, friends. Poor choice. I can’t help but remember a friend of mine telling me about how one time a goose chased on her on the bike path. She was on her bike and it was flying behind her, and she could feel air from its wings on her back . . .  *shudders*

3) A friend deemed me to be a “legit cyclist” the other day, after I arrived at her house on my hybrid. As it turns out, what made me “legit” were the little bag under my seat, and the reflective bands around bottom of my pant legs.

4) I’ve been a physical therapy slacker this quarter. I was down to going once a month, but just didn’t prioritize making time for it in my schedule. (True Confession: I basically pulled the classic excuse of “My knee doesn’t hurt anymore! I’m cured!” Then I slacked on my exercises and canceled an appointment and well, my knew was very clearly letting me know if its displeasure.) I finally got back into it this past Wednesday, and all I can say is, Holy Quads, Batman!!! She was not pulling punches. She’s also very lucky that I like her so much. lol That’s what I get for skipping, I guess. At least she electrocuted my knee, and no it feels great! I have another appointment in two weeks, which I will freaking keep!

3) The weather and bike paths were finally dry enough that I got to do a 90-minute bike ride last Sunday, which equals about 22-miles. It was SO nice!! However, I seem to have gotten stronger and faster on my bike since last year, so my old 90-minute route no longer takes 90-minutes. I reworked it a bit so I could get in a couple of hill-climbs, which should come in handy if I can work up the nerve to go through with a 50km ride this summer. (I know I can do it physically, I just need to not psych myself out!)

4) Sometimes Sweet Thunder the Second (road bike) is so pretty that I just can’t help but take pictures.

5) The other day when I was commuting home, I was stopped a light. I always check behind me when I stop to see if any cars are behind me, especially when I’m leading a lane of traffic. There was no car behind me. Yet, a minute or two later, I thought I saw a hulking presence out of my peripheral vision. I slowly turned my head – you don’t want to let drivers see your fear, after all! – and a Prius had snuck up behind me, completely unnoticed. I could hear that fucker wonderful hybrid approaching AT ALL.


Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against hybrids. Anything closer to an electric car is something that I support. However, for the love of god, Toyota! For the sake of the visually impaired, pedestrians, and bike commuters, can’t you suck it up and make these make some sort of noise! Maybe they could sing some sort of pleasant tune.  Pleeeeeeeeease.

6) Yesterday on the bike path, there was a fellow who had pulled over, strung a rope between two trees, and was practicing tight-rope walking. I freaking love the bike path.

FML

After the rainiest April in Ohio’s recorded history, during which it rained 23 out of the 30 days of the month, here’s our five-day forecast:

TEARS.