Rage against the bicycle

It’s the middle of November and for the first time since mid-October there is bright, glorious sun, and I am dying to get in a rare off season outdoor ride. Mere moments ago I was excited at the thought of bundling up to brave the chilly air, and to bask in the glory of a sunny Sunday afternoon, yet now with a black film of grease caked onto my hands, sweat dripping from my brow and profanity flying from my mouth, I am feeling disappointed, angry and frustrated. After taking my rear wheel off and swapping my indoor trainer tire for my road tire, I am struggling to get it back into place. A task that should be simple and routine, yet I have made it quite complicated; typical. By the time I have the wheel back in, the brakes seem to have magically shifted and now I’m fiddling with screws that connect to components which are foreign to my pea sized brain’s understanding of bicycle mechanics. At this point, I have made too much of a mess, and I worry that by fiddling with unknown parts, I have increased my odds of mechanical failure on what was supposed to be a lovely Sunday ride. With the bike shops closed today, I am left with the decision to degrease my hands and pout.
I have said it so many times before, and I will say it again and again, there is so much to learn. The mechanics and maintenance of my bike is something I really struggle to understand. I remember as a kid that if my chain came off I walked that bike back to wherever I came from, because I simply did not know what to do.
When I first started this sport, I didn’t even know how to change a tire or grease a chain, and I really still struggle with both. Today’s rage against the bicycle episode, and there have been a few, really highlights the need to truly understand all aspects of this sport, including the equipment.
So it’s off to the bookstore with my dirty, greased up hands for a much need self-help book and then to the spin bike for a much deserved stare-at-the-wall-and-pedal sweat fest. I am overjoyed.

Learning and more learning

The smell of stale mud caked onto worn out bike tires pierces through the air as I glance around the shop staring at posters, trophies and photos of past and present riding warriors. This place is teeming with character and it feels like a second home. I focus myself back to the present moment to see the shop owner meticulously inspecting my tires. “What PSI are you riding on?” I am a clueless rookie to the cycling world. I couldn’t tell you what half the parts of my bike do, or even how to properly grease my chain. Up until a month ago, I couldn’t even change a flat tire. All I know about riding a bicycle, I learned as a child; get on, don’t fall off, and pedal like crazy. What else did I need to know? Suddenly I was thrust into a world of cassettes, saddles, aero bars, derailleurs, down tubes, and now PSI. Apparently 40 PSI is “a little low.” Yet to a novice cyclist, what’s the difference? I was quick to learn that the difference was about 10 seconds per kilometre, which, to me, is a significant difference.
This is just a fraction of everything I’ve been learning over the last few months. The learning curve has been fairly steep. As I said, I only just learned how to change a flat tire, and that wasn’t without screaming, cursing, flailing, multiple replacement tubes and a final visit to the bike shop which ended up with them finally just doing it for me. It must have been my damsel in distress look and manically twitching eyeball, which, sometimes, I feel is the new look for me; frazzled. As I try to figure out maximum heart rates, leg cramps, nutrition, rests days, breathing techniques, and most recently bike mechanics, I am oftentimes feeling lost in a sea of knowledge that floats in and out of my brain.
Then there are my running woes. It’s got the point where I am convinced that I’m going backwards. The fact of the matter is I’ve never been a long distance runner. In high school I ran the 100, 200 and 400 metre events because my body was designed for short bursts of speed, not endurance. You look at most long distance runners and they are built like twigs. I am built like a linebacker. The more mass you have to shuffle along, the more difficult it becomes. I know the importance of building your base first, and then working on speed, but I am impatient, expect perfection, and I want to be better, stronger, and faster now. Everyone just keeps telling me to give it time. I guess these are the times to look at the positives. I am improving with my swimming, my cycling times are getting faster, and my legs are stronger. The improvements are small, but until I start rolling backwards, I am going forwards, and with one foot in front of the other, even if it’s on par with the world’s slowest turtle, I am still on the road to one hundred forty point six miles.