Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Neither snow, nor rain, nor heat, nor gloom of night, nor my sore ass . . .

As I mentioned previously, I've resumed riding my bike to work, after a pregnancy-induced hiatus. It's interesting to me how little about it changes after so long:

Man, my ass is sore!
There's a reason that desk chairs are wide and bike seats are so narrow. If desk chairs were any narrower, they would be impossible to balance on while we sleep at our desks. If bike seats were any wider there would be no way to pedal without more chafing of one's squishy bits. Whenever someone looks at my narrow bike seats--yes, I have two bikes, don't you?--and comments on how much they must hurt, and I always explain why they're much more comfortable than huge soft seats.

Their eyes glaze over when I describe how they're designed to fit my ischial tuberosities, not the flabby parts of my ass, which would get sore if they were required to do any actual work--hence their flabbiness.

I won't bore you with the details, but suffice it to say that I'm not riding on the skinny seats because they increase the chafing and numbness of my squishy bits. That said, those ischial tuberosities are pretty sore until they get accustomed to bearing the weight of all my flab again after a 16-month hiatus. The soreness seems to have passed this week, but last week, every time I sat on the saddle, it was as if Barry Bonds had used my ischial tuberosities for batting practice the day before.

Wind sucks.
For a bike rider, the wind is a cruel master. He'll carry me for miles, then wheel on me and beat me about my head and shoulders with roundhouse blows that leave me reeling. There's a psychological element to riding into a wind that most nonriders don't know about--perhaps it's the indefatigable nature of wind, which, unlike a hill, has no summit, or perhaps it's the constant roaring reminder in my ears, which seems to slowly wear away my energy, like waves wear away at a cliff, until it collapses, or perhaps it's the inability to escape the wind when a road leads into it. Whatever the cause, the psychological fatigue is perhaps as great as the physical fatigue that wind causes.

In pelotons, riders can shelter each other from the wind, but only to a point. When the wind gets strong enough, even a peloton in a grand tour can shatter, particularly in crosswinds. When the wind comes from one side, riders form half-chevrons, or echelons, across the road, so each can ride in the shelter of the rider ahead. However, roads are only so wide, which means that there's only room for so many riders in each echelon, leaving several riders scrambling for that last spot, which is always down in the gutter on the leeward side of the road, leading to the phrase "in the gutter." Coincidentally, riding into a wind on my own for any length of time makes me feel like I've spent a day being dragged through the gutter. Perhaps this is because I don't have the luxury of riding in a peloton or an echelon on my bike commute.

So it is the wind--not the eyeball-freezing cold snap that we've had over the last two days--that had me in my granniest of granny gears coming up the final hill to work both days. And this is why, when you offer me a ride, I'm not looking outside to see if it's raining, snowing, sleeting, or if frogs are falling from the clouds--I'm checking the treetops, to see how strong the wind is.

No. I don't want a ride.
Right now the most common observation that precedes the offer of a ride is, "It's cold out there . . ." Before I get snarky about them, let me say that I'm honestly grateful for all the offers. However, bike commuting is, for me, based on more factors than the weather at any given moment. I ride because I'd rather be outside than in a car, I'd rather not create the pollution that driving creates, I'd rather not spend the money on gas, I'd rather get some exercise than continue my metamorphosis into Papa the Butt, I'd rather be down by the creek early in the morning than stuck behind some jackass who removed his muffler and disabled all of his emissions controls because chicks dig a guy who can't hear what they're saying and who smells like exhaust . . . and so on.

So, when you offer me a ride, you're actually offering me several things that I don't want. I don't want to miss the feeling of rain on my face, or the sting of the cold evening air as I slice down the hill away from the office, or the sound of the wind rattling the dead leaves down the street and clattering the winter skeletons of the trees overhead, or the tantalizing smell of bacon frying (I'm a vegetarian, not a dead man) in the morning, or the taste of a snowflake on my tongue . . . and so on.

And what I've found is that, particularly here, where summer heat makes being outside feel like being trapped inside a feverish dog's mouth, I'd rather ride in the cold. And yes, the rain. I take some comfort knowing that although I'm not the best rider in the rain, I'm not the only one who likes it.

It's all of this that led me to enjoy my ride home tonight, through the rain that was becoming snow, that snapped and crackled against my jacket and hissed over my helmet. That, and the mind-clearing effects that a bike ride has, as a result of having to focus on so many variables at once--balance, gears, traffic--and as a result of so many casual attempts on my life in such a short span of time. There's nothing like having a city bus ride my ass down a hill at 35 mph to really focus my thoughts, bringing me into the clarity of the Zen moment of now, wiping away all the petty squabbles, worries, and fears . . . hell, it clears out the big ones too.

And that too, is why I enjoy all my rides, but particularly tonight's ride, because tomorrow morning, my thoughts will be far from all of that, as we sit, waiting, trying to be still, trying to be quiet, trying to breathe evenly, trying not to worry, in the pediatric OR waiting room.

Thanks to all for your kind words of support; we'll be leaning hard on them tomorrow morning.


  1. I especially like the contrast between "ischial tuberosities" and "squishy bits", both in quality of sounds (ischial just sounds bony) and descriptiveness, though it sounds like there's more of you that's squishy lately than just, um, those bits.

    Happy healthy thoughts coming your way for tomorrow.

  2. Anonymous11:02 PM

    How did everything go? I'm a few days late but hoping it's all good.

    That is great you bike to work. I always admired people who do that. I wasn't able to because I was SO out of shape that I'd need another freakin' shower by the time I got there. And I didn't want to be at work lookin' like a hot mess.

    So soldier on! You're doin' some good for yourself and the enviornment!