Friday, September 20, 2013

The Bike: A Tale of Rekindled Obsession

It is Friday night and nearly 11:00 PM.  I'm gearing up for doing my third long-distance ride in as many weeks and am freaking out about it.  That feels strange as I love it so and it really clears my mind in a myriad of ways.  This ride is called Escape New York.  When I first saw the ride's title, my mind immediately thought of John Carpenter and Kurt Russell and knew it had to be done.  Yet, I didn't pay attention to the climbs, 2300 feet of them over 65 miles in Rockland County and the city.  I'm actually going to be clocking about 90, as I'm riding up  and back to Sakura Park from Brooklyn in the AM and that is about 12 miles each way.  It'll be a major accomplishment if I finish it.

Onto the rekindled relationship with the bicycle.  In 1997, before moving to Brooklyn, I bought an amazing bike from a guy in Maryland.  The bike wasn't anything fancy frame wise, just some Japanese no-name steel frame.  But, as we all know, the Japanese make quality shit and that bike was a quality bike.  The previous owner was exactly my height and it was a perfect fit for my body.  I rode it a bit on meandering country roads on the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake and then finally introduced it to the city in the spring of '98.  I  know there are plenty of arguments to be made about aluminum or carbon frames, but steel just absorbs all of the shitty aspects of city streets.  It literally attacks the street and much less of your body.  Immediately, I fell in love with cycling Brooklyn and Manhattan.  Sadly, it got stolen in 2001.  I bought a Giant for a decent price in Chelsea.  I hated the Giant.  Long rides were reduced to a minimum.

Now, this past summer's summer shitstorm occurred and I needed a major release to just stop thinking about things for a prolonged time during the day.  These days I'm riding a Rocky Mountain Fusion from the mid-90s.  It all began with a few laps in the park on a blistering July day.  Then it came back.  All of it came back!  The immense freedom of just being one with a rather simplistic machine while not checking your phone every few minutes for e-mail or texts because it truly is a distraction.  You begin to notice advances in your speed and obviously, in the distance you feel comfortable riding on a regular basis.  Your calves become these rock monsters.  You actually start thinking about protein and good carbs versus bad ones.    You really begin to give a damn about your body and maintaining it to perform.  That is quite a feat for me!

So, the rides, for me at least, begin with a nagging, albeit, short-lived pain.  My legs are aching at first; hills burn them while starting out.  For the first 5-10 minutes it seems like acid is pouring through my muscles, saturating them and roasting them.  Then, adrenaline kicks in and the burn dissipates.  At this point, I'm usually pedaling with anger.  Angry, fucked up thoughts fill my mind and each thrust is like my legs saying "fuck you" to the world.  My rides always seems to start out this way.  All of the hurt, pain and anger release themselves in the initial miles.  Suddenly, it becomes too tiring to think of those things.  In a seemingly magical and inexplicable manner, those thoughts just literally disappear.  The focus becomes your pace, the street, the surroundings and architecture/nature of whatever cityscape/landscape surrounds you at the time.  You begin to focus on things that pass by quickly.  As I ride without an iPod, you literally hear a breeze and then the sounds of everything you pass by.  The sounds become blurs, adding a sensation of leaving your body in a way.  Yet, the irony is that your body is doing all of the work, but your mind separates from it.  The only way I can explain is via dichotomy:  You are obviously pushing yourself to keep going, yet your body feels as if it isn't listening to anything at all.  Does that make sense?

Tomorrow is going to be a long day and hope I can deal with the ascents......

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