Since I started this blog, I have been almost exclusively running for my exercise. I’ve developed a real fondness for the activity in that time but running wasn’t my first love when it comes to physical activities. (no, not that either) Many years ago I went through a short obsession with cycling. I though I’d share a bit about that and introduce you to an old friend of mine.
When I was 14 I got my first job. I was a dishwasher in a Polish restaurant that sadly no longer exists. (Great people and food!) One of the things that went along with me getting this job was that my parents got me a bike. My very first grown-up bike. (I was already over 6 foot at that point) For any bike geeks out there – it’s a 1986 Fuji Allegro 27″ Frame (equivalent to a 61cm) with 27″x1-1/8″ wheels. It’s actually a little bit too tall for me. (I didn’t keep growing as much as we thought I might have)
I got it both for getting myself back and forth from work and because I had hoped to use it for some touring riding with a friend. It did admirable duty for the first thing but I never got a chance to try it out for the second. After being used quite a bit from when I got it until I turned 16, my bike entered a period of dormancy. For a while, I barely remembered that I owned a bike, let alone actually rode it. What got me riding again was an irresistible force for a teen-aged me, a girl.
I’m embarrassed to admit that I don’t remember her name anymore, but the spring and summer after I turned 17 and moved from my home town of Gaylord, MI to the somewhat larger Traverse City, MI, I rode hundreds of miles on my bike with her.
She was much more adept on a bike than I was and in better shape than me. I therefore was unprepared for the suffering I had ahead of me. To get to and from her house I had to ride about 4½ miles up and over a far larger hill than I had ever climbed on a bike. After our first ride, which I recall as being long, I went home completely wiped out. I woke up in the middle of the night in pain. My legs were so tight that I could barely move. I dragged myself into the bathroom, climbed into the tub and eventually fell asleep again in icy cold water. Things got better after that and after a couple of weeks I actually got to the point where I enjoyed my warm up climb. This went on through the summer and early fall until we drifted apart. The following summer I continued riding some on my own but I never got back to the kind of mileage that I had the year before. After that my bike went into storage.
More than 20 years later my dad mentioned to me that he had run across my bike, which was stored in his pole barn, and wondered if I would like to dig it out and do something with it. I couldn’t resist seeing what I could make of it.
As you can see, it definitely needed a fair bit of work. I mounted a new rear dérailleur, replaced the cables, put in new tubes and replaced a couple of spokes that had gotten broken. I had to get a new seat and post as the old ones had disappeared at some point and put on new bar tape. A tune-up and lubrication later, my old friend was roadworthy again.
25+ years after I got it, I rolled along on my bike feeling free again. (and a little scared at first, I hadn’t ridden a bike in over 20 years!) I started slowly. First 4 miles, then 6, then 8, then 12, then 17, and most recently 30. I was so pleased to see that it comes back far easier than I had expected. I’m sure the improved physical condition that I’ve gained from running has been a great help with that, but there is also a feeling of getting back something that I had lost that has spurred me on.
I’m not certain that my old friend will be able carry me everywhere that I now hope to go with my cycling, but it got me on the trail again to something that I can definitely see being a constant for me going forward. Plus, now all I have to do is figure out swimming beyond the doggy paddle and maybe I can add triathlete to my resume as an athlete!