Saturday, January 10, 2009

Back in the Saddle Again

Now I'm confusing all my friends who keep up with Operation Skinny Cow, because I posted under the same title over there this morning. So they're all thinking that I must have thought the post was interesting enough to be posted on this site as well - and it wasn't. They are possibly very confused.

Same title, different reason. Over there it was just that I'm back doing my exercise again and it is having a result in getting rid of the Christmas/New Year weight blow-out. Here it is that I've been doing better with my exercise and am feeling stronger and more fit so I decided to get my bike out.

In grade 9 I was given a new bike for a combined Christmas and Birthday present. No, my birthday isn't actually anywhere near Christmas, it's just that bikes aren't cheap and my parents are. (I really don't mean that, because it's not true - it just sounded funny to put it that way, and I never let the truth get in the way of a good story or turn of phrase)

Anyway it was a very big deal because it was a new and shiny 10 speed ladies' (i.e. grown up) road bike, and it was blue (my favourite colour at the time).

At the time I was riding my bike about 5km to school, then back again. It was great to have a 10 speed, not only because they were very fashionable, but because our house was over the ridgeline from town and I had to get up Kamikaze Hill every morning.

I call it Kamikaze Hill, but perhaps I should say that should have been named Heart Attack Hill on the way to school and Kamikaze Hill on the way home. And despite being young, slender and reasonably fit I would take a route that divided Kamikaze Hill in two sections with a flat bit in the middle. One way it was to have a well deserved break, and the other was to make certain I didn't do a spectacular stack at the intersection at the bottom if my breaks failed.

It's now 17 years since I finished high school and in one of those strange twists of fate I now live back in the same town and our street is located half-way up that same Kamikaze Hill. I still have the same bike, but it is now no longer shiny nor fashionable (I need to get me a mountain bike with 3,500 gears - not that I ever used all 10 of the ones I currently have).

Oh, and I've hardly ridden it for 17 years.

Last time I tried to ride my bike anywhere I ended up gasping for breath, every muscle in my legs and chest screaming, my tongue sore, feeling light-headed and on the verge of a little attack of tachycardia. I wasn't much use for the thing I'd ridden my bike to, because physically I was all done in, and my mind was preoccupied with the fact that I had to get home again.

But I've been rowing for between 30 and 45 minutes most days this week, so my physical fitness might be able to cope with the riding my bike into town thing.

My Beloved took my bike to pump up the tyres this morning, and I washed the cockroach droppings out of my bike helmet. So off I go re-tracing my juvenile route to town. I am not stupid. I rode to the end of my street, then walked up Kamikaze Hill. I don't need the coronary this week. It's all downhill to town from there, so the problem always was going to be the long, slow push back up to the top of Kamikaze Hill, then the hurtling down with a quick left turn into our street.

On the way down I noticed that my left brake didn't really seem to be able to move very much, so when I got there I did a quick check to see if it was working. It would possibly have been a good idea to do that before setting off.

The actual brake mechanism didn't seem to be working the 'grabbers', so I squeezed harder and the cable snapped. Useful. Particularly given that that is the back brake, that is the one you use most going down steep hills because braking hard on the front one is liable to send you over the handlebars. Seems like too many trips down Kamikaze Hill in my rash youth has worn it out.

So I did what I had to do and started for home, very aware of the fact that I had to get safely down Kamikaze Hill with no back brakes.

My muscles were coping with the first part, which is fairly flat, then I had to stop at the lights at the highway which was a problem from two perspectives.

Firstly, the hill starts to kick in on the other side of the highway. It is really good to have some momentum before getting to the place where the hill starts to kick in.

Secondly, when I was at school the lights were timed. So a cyclist (if I dare to call myself a cyclist) would get a turn. The Department of Main Roads in their wisdom have since changed them to stop the through traffic when activated by a car actually being at the side roads. I was by no means certain if a bike is heavy enough or metallic enough (or close enough to the middle of the lane) to trip the switch. It wasn't a hassle on the way down because there were cars waiting when I got there. Now there was not a car in sight.

Just as I was wondering if I should cross the left-turn only lane and mount the footpath to cross the road as a pedestrian, I realised that there was a car coming up my block, so I waited. The light went green before the car got to the intersection, so I presume that I was heavy enough or metallic enough and in the right part of the lane to trigger it. I need to ask my Dad if it is possible for a cyclist to trigger the lights, or if my cunning plan to lose weight might accidentally leave me stranded on the wrong side of the highway. Dads know things - particularly when they used to work for Main Roads!

Then I must thank the draughties at Main Roads for putting a camber on the highway that allowed me to get a bit of momentum before the hill. Thanks, Dad.

I made it to the ridge with only changing gears once! I was impressed, not that I could have changed down another gear if I'd wanted to because that would have meant that I would have had to pedal faster, and I'm not certain that I could have pedalled any faster. Also the changing gears was a very tentative operation because my chain used to come off during one particular change, and after 17 years I can't remember which one it was. The chain didn't come off, so I think 5th to 4th is fine, although very noisy.

Then I did a cautious, steadily-braking coast down Kamikaze Hill and a neat turn into our street. Then a very cautious trip down our even-steeper driveway.

I made it home alive on my first bike ride since striving for fitness! I neither had to stop for screaming muscles nor did I stack it turning off Kamikaze Hill. Yippee!!!

Chance that I'll set off again before getting someone to replace the brake cable?

... Approximately None. (Does that sound like a really good excuse?)


Hippomanic Jen said...

Whoa, that WAS long enough to be considered vintage Jen. Terribly sorry.

Dee from Downunder said...

Ha Ha, I did notice the lengh!

Congrats on mastering the bike again, I got on a mountain bike recently and felt all wobbly and wrong, probably what I will feel like if I ever get back on the horses too!

Hippomanic Jen said...

I think getting back on a horse would be worse. They are taller and move without you telling them to. I was actually surprised that the bike didn't feel more wrong than it did.

Femina said...

Well done! I prefer bikes of the stationary kind... that way I can stop whenever I like without thinking, "Crap, now I have to ride home again. Why did I ride so far??"

Crazy Sister said...

Whew, well written! Had me gasping with you! (Can't believe you spelled 'brakes' as 'breaks' once, but we all get our little brain aneurisms.)

Love your description of what's in a helmet after 17 years.

Hippomanic Jen said...

Thanks for the proofing, Crazy Sister. Now that I know it's there I want to edit it. The thing is that by editing it I make your comment redundant, but the pull to correct the mistake is very strong. Ahhhhhh!

Hippomanic Jen said...

PS - Dad reckons that there is likely to be a movement sensor on the side roads. That might have been what turned the light green for me.

Swift Jan said...

Good on you for getting bike out! I have ridden a bike in years!! I think it would be a giggle to see me in action!
Glad to hear there were no injuries!

Lilly's Life said...

Gosh you are good. I couldnt even get on the bike least of all ride it anywhere. I prefer the stationary kind too!! Keep safe!