Bicycles are kind of romantic. Imagine it is 1825, and bicycles just recently came to Paris. Only the richest of the rich have them, and ladies in fancy long dresses and cinnamon bun shaped hats are busy peddling about town. When you are bicycling, you are engaging in a mode of transportation and exercise that has existed for almost two hundred years. There is something very real about that. Other romantic bicycle images that come to mind are tandem cycling with a special someone, or beach cruising in flip flops during a remarkably sunny day. Perhaps all this romanticism stems from nostalgia. Memories of learning to ride are vivid. The sense of freedom when you finally ride on your own is parallel only to earning your driver’s license.
The bike ride I endured er, took on Sunday had none of these romantic notions involved.
The most biking I have done recently has been to work and back — about one mile round trip. Maybe one and a half. So when Greg and Mary invited me to join them and my brother on a bike ride, I was a bit apprehensive. However, with Tri for Fun season on the horizon, I knew it was time to start being a bit more business like about my bike. I checked the air pressure in my tires, braided my hair (essential for long-haired riders), and filled my water bottle. Ready or not, there I went.
We biked Redwood Road, starting from Castro Valley High School. Within the first minute, there was a hill that went pretty much straight up. I’ve run this hill several times, and never have I found it to be a daunting task. On the bike however, trying to lug my body weight plus the bike’s weight — that was a wheel of a different shape.
“Don’t worry — this is the hardest incline,” Greg told me as he peddled past, not out of breath at all.
I huffed and puffed in response, and secretly thought, “Thank God! Thank God!”
That first hill was short. Maybe a minute of peddling, two at the most, and I crested it. And the rest was going to be easier? Gold.
Fool’s Gold would have been a more accurate description of that thought. After about a mile of flat riding, we ascended a hill that had the audacity to have a sign stating that the campgrounds, our next destination, were six miles away. Six miles of uphill, varying only in steepness.
I wish I could better recount the events that followed. Let’s just say it went something like this:
Terrifyingly long downhill in which I held onto my brakes for dear life
Uphill that resembled flatland from the seat of a bike
Downhill that surprised both Mary and myself, given that we thought we had been on a flat road
Uphill even more
Downhill, again for a terrfyingly long time
My brain, even now, is muddled from the air, the adrenaline, the exertion, the dehydration, and the road at large. There were multiple moments where I sincerely believed I was going to have to walk my bike, where I wanted to walk my bike. But much like with running, if you slow down, it takes longer to get where you are going. And I wanted a cup of coffee and to sit on my couch beyond any sort of reason.
I’ll go out with Greg and Mary again, but darn it if I’m not dragging Kristin with me. I cannot be the only one feeling slightly tortured out there. Torture loves company. As does preparing for a triathlon.