We’re about 2/3rds of the way through the month, and as the sunlight grows stronger, so to does the sound of rain on the roof. Been a dry month, which seems to have become the pattern the past couple years - Jan/Feb crop up rainless and clear, followed by a three to four week block of rain. We’ll have to see if that comes to pass, but in the meantime, there are 18 ride notches for 18 days this month, and I’m pretty pleased about that.
Yep, some of them are the after-dinner-after-dishes-”are you really going to go ride?” neighborhood loops of a few miles. But, those add up too. And count. Butt on the saddle is all we are asking this month.
That’s put me ahead of last month already, both in number of rides and the distance traveled. It’s focused my “exit vector” momentum, so that the pre-ride dawdles have faded into memory. It’s reminded me that the Dawes’ pedals still need to be replaced, that the Hilsen really does deserve a new cogset, and the 40 year old drivetrain on the Zeus does have to be accounted for in manner and deed.
The many-geared coastable setups of the Zeus and Hilsen have only had a couple uses each - I’ve tended to favor the simplicity of the fixed gear setups on the Dawes and Quickbeam. And the Quickbeam - as I knew it would - has ended up being both the inspiration and the reference point for this month’s endeavour. The fixed drivetrain does not lie. You go only as quickly and smoothly as you can.
Back in January, when it felt a bit like I was reminding myself how to ride again, I’d wind up the pedals to a speed which felt comfortable. 14 - 15 mph on a long flat stretch worked OK. Folks in team kit passed me reasonably regularly and when I encountered inclines, cadence dropped to a slow trudge designed to keep momentum intact.
Slowly, over the same roads, the spin came up a bit and breath became a bit more relaxed. A haggard 15 became a smooth 16, then 17. Began rolling over certain inclines in the saddle, kicked back and pushing through. The fixed drivetrain is patient. It also invites comparison, as the only variables are wind, weather and power.
Over the weekend, on a a ridiculously gorgeous February Saturday afternoon, I felt something which I hadn’t realized I’d lost - comfort, cadence and a certain sound of fat smooth tires rolling over asphalt. Speed nudging 19/20 on the flat and feeling good about it. Maybe another month or so before it becomes a given, but the legs notching into that ~90 rpm range without feeling klunky or stressed.
There’s been a lot so far this year. My mother in law passed away the day before Christmas, and we celebrated her life a week ago last Saturday. It was another wondrous day, both in the weather provided and the emotion, wishes, recollections and love of those who showed up. You don’t easily let go someone who you’ve known for most of your life. But, I think we were very lucky in that nothing was left unsaid. The grief was pure, and not mixed with regret.
And there’s no direct way to vector those thoughts back to cycling. But when I find wildflowers on the side of trail, small birds flitting between trees and manage to experience the stillness of a moment or two, I know that she was one who helped me learn such things.
Just one of those stupid spur of the moment ideas. One of those choices of chance designed to spur not a specific outcome but a change of habit. Maybe a change of base assumptions or a re-approach to a way of working. You have to trust impulses now and again. Give into chance and honor slightly harebrained schemes or you sink into a slightly musty and dour sameness.
I’ve mentioned before that the body is lazy. Works just enough to make itself strong enough to deal with the daily stress it encounters. You dig ditches? You push paper? You make verbal sense of things over a microphone? You do 6 sets of free weight bench presses every other day. If the stress remains the same on a consistent basis, you form against it and the unneeded bits wither and die.
Basically, you take a “set”. Strong and resilient in one direction only, while that which supports you becomes a bit frail.
I think the brain is the same way buoy get lulled into a way of approaching things. The rote approach. So how do you shake tho be up enough to keep it vital. To keep your brain engaged and always asking “what’s next?”
It’s why we take a trail we’ve never ridden, or put together a bike in a different way. Deep down we know that we remain alive and vibrant only when we shake things up a bit.
Which is more or less why, on the second of this month, as I rode for the second day straight, it seemed obvious to pull a 28-dayer. Ride once each day for every day in February. No mileage goal. Just on a bike for a bit, with any distance acceptable. (Though since the levee gate is a mile away, and that’s always been my de facto log-a-ride ride, let’s say two miles on a ride will be the minimum…)
There’s certainly precedent for this - the whole April = 30DaysOfBiking meme which popped up a few years ago. I did it then and it’s a nice excuse to get out and ride when things are warming up and spring is in the air. Maybe it is cheating to use a shorter month, but then again, February weather can be varied.
But, that is really starting to parse the whole idea a little too much.
Fact: I have not been riding enough. Fact: I’m out of the habit of daily commuting/riding (being as my commute is generally under the roof of the same structure), and as I mentioned recently, this is forcing me to relearn the habit of how to get out of the house quickly.
It’s probably just the way my brain folds, but that’s what I’m doing this month.
A more elegant solution has been teed up by MG o’er at Chasing Mailboxes D.C. She has opened up the 2013 Errandonee, beginning this weekend on Saturday, February 9th. Wander yonder to get more info, but with a bit more panache and formality than my little endeavour, MG has tasks and destinations to be covered and logged, along with a small bit of paperwork to include.
First off, let me say that it’s nice to have a January with mileage. Last year was zero nada zilch bupkiss zippo for me. And I’ll just bypass the whole issue of what weather wimps we in California actually are.
In many places, things look like this:
or, when you hear that otherwise normal people are resorting to….ugh…running… then you know that true, rib-ripping cold weather exists.
Since I’m actually posting this on February 1st, I can at least state that I’m one-for-one in my suddenly determined quest to ride 28 days in February. A short errand for the first time in about a week, and it would seem that I didn’t forget how to ride a bicycle in the meantime.
Actually, January was going well, but we had a short, sharp little bug rumble through the house last week. Enough to keep me reasonably horizontal when I wasn’t on task with projects, which seemed to suck all of the excess energy up for last weekend and this week. Ahhh well, back on the bike just in time for a warming trend.
Anyway - didn’t quite notch 200, and only was on the bike 11 times. But, that’s out of a “true” 21 possible, so was within the one-outta-three days warning range.
11 ride days
Longest ride: 38 miles
YTD = 196