Monday, December 10, 2007

Two wheeled fun?

Enough all ready with the past and let's get on to something a little more present. At least this news is only 8 months stale. Along about the middle of April I was headed home from another of my seemingly endless trips to my latest jobsite at the Isle of Capri Casino in Waterloo. The weather was nothing short of beautiful for that time of year, sunny, mid 60's or 70's, and a bright blue sky. An urge hit me that I hadn't felt for several years. OK, judging by the layer of dust I later found, it may have been even longer than that. In any case, I decided today was the perfect day to break out our bikes and go for a ride with my wife.

I called ahead to tell my wife so she could get ready. I was figuring it would be a nice simple process of getting the bikes down, possibly putting some air in the tires and heading out. Little did I know that a few years (or more) of sitting in the garage can play havoc on all sorts of bike parts, let alone trying to find your helmet and shoes after that period of time. So several hours later we finally hit the trails. I'd like to tell you that first ride was an epiphany of epic proportions and I suddenly found my life in focus with a clear purpose again. I distinctly remember the weather was nice, but other than that it was a lot of work, waiting on the wife, and fiddling with my bike to get the gears to work properly. So began my tenuous agreement to start riding again. I think we made it a whopping 8 miles that day only to find we were sore in places we didn't know existed the next day.

At least I had a smile on my face because, overall, I did enjoy the ride. I actually decided that day to start riding more often. Little did I know the beast that was about to be unleashed. You see, once I get into a hobby, I tend to go the whole 9 yards and usually a little further. After a few more rides and learning that I was not a patient person when it comes to waiting on others (my wife), I did a bit of research and decided we needed a tandem. The theory was perfect: I could work as hard as I wanted, she could work as little as she needed, and we'd both get there at the same time. Perfect! We started scouring the local bike shops only to discover that damn these things were expensive. However, we suddenly found ourselves at one shop that had a barely used Trek T900 that was just traded in on something a little sportier. They were selling it for a song and it all ready had a few extra goodies like a cyclocomputer on it. We took a short ride around the parking lot which incidentally was just long enough to rip the cuff off Miranda's pant leg after running it through the sprocket. Add in a few more imnutes of debate and we decided to buy it.

After a few fits and starts, we eventually got the hang of riding together. We even managed to put over 200 miles on it this year. That's a far cry from what I had in me head when we originally bought it, but it's a solid start and I'm sure a lot better than many other couples do when they buy a tandem. We're still married and still have the tandem too! Here's a shot from mid summer.

So the tandem was just the start of my cycling addiction this year. Early in May I found there were a number of weekly group rides in our area. As luck or possibly fate would have it, I found myself alone with nothing to do on a Wednesday night that had a ride scheduled. I showed up not sure what to expect and was a bit concerned by the amount of spandex, high dollar rides, and mostly athletic people that greeted me. I nervously unloaded my old steed. I should mention here that my old steed is a rigid frame mid 90's mountain bike that has never had any real maintenance done and I bought it from a pawn shop back in 1997 or so. In any case, I pedalled up to the group where I was greeted by a middle aged gal and some others as I asked where the slow group was. I ended up with the medium to slow group and pretty much got my doors blown off the entire ride by groups of middle aged women on cruiser bikes with tennis shoes. Crap, there goes my image.....

My next foray into the world of group rides would actually turn out to be the beginning of the end. Again, I broke out my trusty green steed and turned up for a ride the following week. This was a different group of people and since I was finally starting to get my legs under me, I at least did a passable job of trying to keep up while not vomiting in the bushes. As one rider sprinted off the front about halfway through the ride, I uttered the phrase to a fellow rider, "I wish my bike accelerated like that." As it just so happened, my fellow rider was the ride leader and manager of the bike shop where we started the ride. He kindly offered up a test ride on an actual road bike. Anyone else addicted to cycling knows exactly where this story is headed. One ride and I was hooked. I took him up on two rides the next week and knew it was a matter of time before I would have my own road bike.

I started searching in earnest for a bike that I liked. I tried all the local shops, I scoured Craigslist, and then being the frugal bastard that I am, got a great deal on a used bike through Craigslist. I picked up a full carbon bike that was a couple years old, but had less than 500 miles on it for about half the price it cost new. Being the wise consumer that I am, I figured this would be the most expensive part of my bike habit. There are few things in life as wrong as I was....

I don't know how much I've spent on clothes, shoes, helmets, tires, saddles, Gu, and you name it since that fateful day in May of this year. I've done my research and tried to be careful in what I bought, but somewhere along the way I just went horribly wrong and my spending spiraled out of control. I now know why cyclists aren't car guys, we don't have room for that much crap in one garage!

So now that I've lamented about all the costs of cycling, how about a few of the gains. There's something about cranking out mile after mile on my bike that just makes me feel alive. It may suck riding through rain, heat, wind, and snow, but there's something at the end of each ride that gives me an enjoyment I can't put into words. I probably spent too much time on my bike this summer, but I truly enjoyed it. I made some great new friends along the way. I visited a few areas I'd probably never have seen if I weren't on a bike. I even managed to meet my goal of losing a few pounds that I'd been packing on over the past few years.

For those that haven't been on a bike since you were a kid or possibly ever. Give it a try. It might not be for you, but if it is, you're in for the ride of your life.


Pete Basso said...

Great story Rick!! I think a majority of us can relate to your addiction and ability to unconsciencously spend money on the sport!!

Buckshot77 said...

Wow, someone is actually reading.... Geez, I might have to clean up my language now ;)