Today’s Primo Giro Grande della Bicicletta con il Giorno Correttamente Gonfiato delle Gomme, a celebration of my first bike ride of the year! The April weather has been unseasonable warm, more like June. Warm, dry weather is my favorite, just like the summers of my SoCal youth. Coworkers are complaining about the heat while I’m ready to sunbathe on the sidewalk in front of my office. I’m in a good mood and have temporarily suspended all new entries onto my fret list.
I usually don’t look forward to my first ride, more specifically preparing for my first ride. The tires are always flat and, in the past, have required the mandatory walk to the gas station to fill them. The pump never seems to fit the valves quite right and the gauge is never accurate. When I was 14 I temporarily lost all hearing in my right ear when I overinflated my bike tire and it exploded. Ever since then I have been a little gun shy. The sound of compressed air sends shivers down my spine (via my middle ear).
This year I was determined to make this a more humane and pleasant experience. I loaded the bike into the car and drove the five miles to the bike shop where I hoped I wouldn’t need an appointment to get some air. When I arrived there was a line in front of the repair department. Obviously, I wasn’t the only one ready to ride. I inched forward as I watched those ahead of me leave their bikes for repair and pickup the first week of May.
When I reached the front, my associate was able to help me right away. While I had his attention I asked if there was a pump that might make these initial days more pleasurable for me. His eyes brightened. He had just the model I was looking for. And, he assured me, it had a gauge I could count on.
The early part of the bike path, even with its ups and downs, is basically downhill. I was careful not to overdue it this first time. Last year I, um, hurt my groin on a ride that featured one of those high velocity workout CDs. A good beat always gets me going. But I went too far. After consulting with my friends who are real and talented bicyclists (and who admonished me for wearing earphones on the path), I bought a pair of padded nylon shorts. I looked the part this year. And I felt protected.
My route is just over 7 miles roundtrip. The premiere ride is as much a sightseeing voyage as it is a workout, looking at all the improvements to the path the county has made during the offseason: felled trees and asphalt patched and smoothed. Then there is my reintroduction to my fellow pathees: other bikers, a few inline skaters, and the walkers. I’ve got a great bell to alert those I approach. But on this first trip it seemed like there were numerous newbies on the trail. “Ding, ding.” “Diiiinnnngg!” “ON YOUR LEFT! Thanks!” Some didn’t hear me. Those who did often didn’t know what to do: move to the left or righta momentary hesitation that could end in disaster. I temporarily forgot the essence of these rides. I took a deep, deep breath to recenter myself.
The halfway mark approached and I began to anticipate the uphill return. The first ride of the season is usually a labored affair. I work out two to three times a week during the year but my first joyride is never easy. I have to gear up at least one gear level the first trip to make it easier to pedal up the inclines. The weather was warm and I gulped down the breeze as it hit my face. I began my ascent. As I pedaled I checked the gear. It remained at my low, downhill setting. I was amazed.
In retrospect, I underestimated my strength. For Christmas I had bought myself a pedometer at Brookstone. I’d always wondered just how far I walked each day. I figured taking my daughter to school, then walking 20 minutes to my office (not to mention the afternoon pickup) had to amount to something. Yet I was more than surprised to see that over the course of a day I walked over 10,546 steps. That translated to five miles (and over 500 calories) every day. Twenty-five miles a week!
This was the first conclusive proof I was in better shape than last year. And it made my day. As you get older you begin to look for signs of the ultimate downhill ride.
I’ve never been the studly type. There was a period in the 80s, though, when one might have remarked on my buffness, but that was another town, another life and even some other person. It was an attitude I couldn’t sustain. Appearances mean something different to me now. Given the choice, I’d rather be healthy than merely look the part these days.
Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t mind having a little more hair and a little less waist, but my primary goals in life no longer include tight pants and a shirt open to the navel (think Saturday Night Feveryes, I’ll admit to thatit’s easy in retrospect for haven’t we all evolved?). Wait, I’d better put that in more contemporary terms: no shirt with dragon tatoo prominently displayed on my bicep; my boxers just peeking out beyond my button flys at the waist (think Abercrombie and Fitchminus their highly questionable Ts).
Watching my blood pressure and cholesterol, not eating any carbs after 3 pm, and separating paper and plastic all seem much more admirable traits these days. Happy Earth Day!