Last Friday Riggins and I went up the hill with our friend Krissy. As we huffed and puffed Krissy explained to me how she is often amazed at how beautiful Runyon is and then remembers she hates exercise and grits her teeth, puts her head down to help focus, and curses violently. I told her that it was the same for me and not just on the hill but with any activity that causes me to sweat. She was shocked, based on the number of activities I do and how often, she assumed I loved all of it. Nope. There is always a point where the euphoria of doing something good for me wears off and I’m left with my head down cursing the world. The “sport” I have the biggest love/hate relationship is cycling.
Actually to call what I do cycling is a bit over dramatic. I ride my bike. That’s about as far as it gets. I’ve never loved biking but started going out on a regular basis when I was training for my first triathlon. Since then, when not in serious “get ready for a race” gear, I try to go out “for fun” once in a while. When you tell someone you have done triathlons (sprints — that’s key — the shortest of the tri sports) they will eventually tell you that the only leg they could/want to do is the bike. I’m the exact opposite. If there was a way to ditch the bike leg for another lap around the lake I’d be extremely happy. There are a number of reasons the bike is my least favorite of the tri spots. First of all, I don’t really care. As you know my goal is to finish the race and not die. If I cared more I’d try harder. Secondly I don’t have a racing bike. I have an adorable and perfectly acceptable hybrid (my bike – http://papa-wheelies.com/product/10specialized-womens-ariel-9152.htm). The bike cost me exactly $0 but a ton of American Express points. Biking in a triathlon would be a lot easier in a better and more expensive bike. Problem is I can’t stomach spending thousands of dollars on a form of transportation I’m not in love with. Finally, I don’t clip in. Clipping in means that your special biking shoes are clipped in or attached to the pedals of your bike. This allows you to maximize your effort by passing energy into the bike when you push down AND pull up your legs. I’m essentially having to work harder since I waste my up leg motion.
All of that being said I do enjoy heading out on my bike, zooming around, and pretending I’m as fast as the once illustrious Mr. Armstrong. Here are my tips of having an enjoyable biking experience (if you want to take the word of someone who admits she isn’t any good at it):
- Ignore others advice. This seems pretty pushy of me doesn’t it? Here is the thing … I’ve found that cycling is the douche’s sport. I have yet to be answered in the negative when I’m on a date and say to the guy next to me, “you are a cyclist aren’t you?” You can spot them from a mile away. They will happily download their pompous arrogant knowledge at you if you ask or not. I suggest ordering a double gin and tonic and tuning them out. This is the same group of guys who will tell you why it’s okay for them, as cyclists, not to follow the rules of the road and why it is always the cars fault if there is an accident. Just yesterday I almost creamed one of these fools who decided he didn’t have to stop at a four-way stop sign. As I broke suddenly to let the person not surrounded by a large hunk of metal, to continue on without me hitting him he was nice enough to start screaming and gesturing wildly at me. Douche.
- Cars are evil and in the car vs. bike fight the car always wins. I happen to live in an area of California where my insurance is crazy high simply because of the amount of accidents in my neighborhood. There is NO WAY I’m sharing a road with these fools! Instead I make my way to a bike path that parallels the Los Angeles River (see pictures). The fact that the douche cyclists don’t like this path makes it that much better. People here are usually very nice (or homeless and crazy) and it is an interesting juxtaposition between the cars screaming by on the 5 freeway and a little piece of nature with the river and it’s birds and plants. The LA River bike path (at least the portion I use) starts at Griffith Park’s soccer field and weaves it way toward downtown Los Angeles. It takes you away from Burbank, through Glendale and Silverlake, and into Elysian Valley, known as FrogTown. At one point there were so many frogs in the river in this area they would make their way, hopping, out into the streets. The entire route is covered in murals (and tagging — in case you want to brush up on your gang knowledge) and art. Each gate to and from the river is a pretty iron fence with animals from the river included in the design. Like me, I suggest finding a spot where cars aren’t allowed or at the very least the bike path is wide enough that it gives you some protection against drivers.
- Despite my inability to allow myself to spend oodles on a bike, safety equipment is a must. Even on my bike path that is mostly flat, a helmet should be worn. I’ve almost wiped out a number of times due to other humans on the path. Once a “filming crew” (as in they had a camera and no permit) member ran down the bank into my path just as I was coming out of a blind corner. I almost hit him and that would have caused my body more harm than his. Somewhere there is an independent film with me cursing widely at the camera. Another time on one of the few downhills I came, very quickly, upon a group of cyclists who decided it was a good idea to stop and block the path at the bottom just when your speed hits the fastest. I nearly wiped out as I tried to slow the bike and grabbed onto railing to really stop as fast as possible. They heard some key curse words as well. There are many stories of real cyclists who fall, especially on a downhill, when there is nothing but the road and speed to blame. A helmet has to be worn. Biking gloves are also a good purchase. Finally get yourself some cycling pants. I realize walking around with a giant pad in your crotch can make you feel foolish but believe me you will be glad you did. I don’t know why they don’t just add the padding to the seat and be done with it. Since they don’t, add it yourself via your shorts. Your butt will thank you.
- Remember that if you go away from your starting point you have to get back to it. Don’t go so far that you won’t be able to make the trip home. My bike path is slightly downhill at first which gives you a false sense of security. When you turn around to go back the slight uphill is a killer. Be aware of where you are and how you are going to get back. My path is around 12ish miles. Honestly anything longer than 15 makes me want to cry. It is about 3/4’s of the way back when I start looking down and cursing the sport for torturing me. It happens every time!