Hello Bianchi my old friend …

So I got on my beloved [tag]Bianchi[/tag] for the first time in—I’m ashamed to say this—in almost two years. I remember the last time I was on it, and even by then, I wasn’t riding much at all. It was summer of 2006, and I delivered the rent check to my landlord’s house on my bike. That was the last time, until last night, that I indulged in [tag]cycling[/tag].

I guess I finally decided after I quit playing World of Suckcraft for the second and final time (even deleted my ‘toons) that it was time to get off my ass. [tag]MMORPGs[/tag] just frustrated me, pissed me off, chewed up all my time, made my gut ginormous and the rest of my body flabby. Not really sure what the attraction was, in retrospect—but no one is to blame but myself though. This watershed moment was a couple of months ago, but there’s been a lot going in those two months. But yesterday afternoon, I decided it was time; rain be damned (the MidWest has turned into a temperate rainforest this spring, apparently). I have had my bike ready to go for two weeks, and I finally just got tired of waiting. Besides, I lived in Northern California for five years, and it’s not like I’ve never ridden in the rain before.

Ow my ass!It was less than an impressive performance. I road 20 flat miles on the Little Miami rail-trail, and my average speed was 11.2 mph; my top speed was 16.9 mph. My average heart rate during this time was … sigh … 156 beats per minute. It was only three years ago that such a 20-mile flat ride would have been what I did during lunch, banging out an 18 mph average speed with my average heart rate around 140, if that. Today my legs are stiff, particularly my calves and hips, and you could probably pluck a note on the IT band in each of my thighs. If my legs could talk I think they’d say “WTF!?” Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, they would say, “About time, lard gut; we’ve gotten bored sitting under that damn desk all the time.” And as for the flesh directly underneath my pelvic bones that contact the saddle, well, let’s just say I’m aware of it every time I sit down or shift positions in a chair—like the rest of my now unconditioned body isn’t used to cycling, my ass isn’t used to a racing saddle. I feel Cartman’s pain.

But I guess I’m still a cyclist and athlete (i.e., a masochist in the truest sense of the word) at heart, because I feel damn good, in spite of my computer-desk-potato numbers. Not good about myself, although I suppose I do. I mean, I feel good because my muscles hurt. I like that feeling, and I had forgotten just how much. I guess it is rather sensual when you are constantly aware of your body. After the ride, I realized that I had forgotten how good it felt to be physically exhausted from doing something fun. Endorphins ftw!

I admit I’m also a little … not depressed exactly, but a little daunted I guess, is the word I’m looking for. I realize just how much work it’s going to take to get back to averaging between 100 and 200 miles a week, and not having to fear any hill, either paved or not. And a little frustrated that I’ve gone from someone who put more miles on his bike in 2004 than his car to being the aforementioned potato (by the end of 2004, I weighed about what I did my senior year in high school). On the other hand, I’m already enjoying the journey; once a bike geek always a bike geek, I guess.

Which brings me to a declaration of love for my Bianchi Axis ‘cross bike (outfitted with road tires, at the moment), even though at 55cm, it’s a bit too big for me, in reality (although after much trial and error, the fit is dialed in, as much as it can be). I don’t know if it is a testament to Bianchi, Shimano, my meager skills as a bike mechanic, the skills of the last person to do a professional tuneup of my bike, or some combination thereof, but my bike didn’t make so much as one solitary squeek the whole ride—and this in the rain, for most of the time—and shifted flawlessly until the last two miles or so, and this could be attributed to the rain, I’m sure. This was surprising, if not outright amazing, as the bike has sat in a basement untouched for nearly two years. Other than greasing the cables, cleaning up the drive chain, lubing the chain and the pivot points on the derailleurs and checking the bolts on the rest of the bike, that’s all I did in terms of maintenance, other than tweaking the cable tension on the rear derailleur. I did replace the tires and tubes, although both sets of old tires and tubes still looked perfectly serviceable.

I had been expecting this first ride to be more of a shakedown cruise than a beginning [tag]training ride[/tag]; I had figured on having to stop and address various minor mechanical problems—shifting, squeaks, etc. But the bike seems to have suffered far less from its time off than me, to be sure, so I was pleasantly surprised. Instead I was able to enjoy the blistering 11-mph spin through the chilly, 50-degree [tag]rain[/tag]. I sound like I’m being facetious, but I’m not; I couldn’t wipe the grin off my face the first few miles, I was so happy to be out there. The few harcore runners I encountered on the trail—didn’t see any other [tag]cyclists[/tag]—returned my smiles. It’s always interesting when you encounter people out training in weather like that; you can almost always bank on a friendly, knowing grin and nod—acknowledgment of the bond we masochists share, I guess. There was never a better excuse for Friday happy hour than 50 degrees and rain, but you’re out there in the cold and wet, stomping on your [tag]lactate threshold[/tag], just for the hell of it, because that’s what you’d rather be doing. Good times, good times.