After the last month and more of too much work and especially of driving a car, I finally managed a day off. Fortunately, on Sunday nights there’s a group bike ride called Bike Curious, about which I’ve previously written. The ride itself is usually pretty mellow, but in this case we had a substitute leader who picked some roads that were a little dicey, hilly and sandy. Still, overall the streets flat and familiar and the pace was slow. It was a good way to ease back into biking. Today I’m a little sore and tired, but the hardest part was actually just getting myself out the door. If you’ve ever been in this situation you will relate to this post.
The Bike Won’t Ride Itself
The harsh truth is that you are the only one who can get you over that hiymp from not riding to riding. But if you can and once you do, you’ll be rewarded with the incomparable feeling of accomplishment. Here’s the Strava link to my latest bike ride.
Overall, it was fine to be back on the bike, but some things demand one’s attention. Unlike being in a car, you have to keep yourself balanced. You must be paying attention to a whole lot more, like obstacles on the road surface, and all the movement on the street. Which is ironically what makes bike riders better car drivers. It’s like seeing the whole field of play and anticipating what that dog walker is going to do, if that car is turning or stopping, and noticing if there are potholes, cracks or glass in the dark.
Then there’s the body. Any muscles that you’ve built up riding regularly are still there but will protest a bit (it a lot) once put in motion again. Your aerobic capacity has probably decreased a bit, and you may generally have aches and pains the next day when normally you wouldn’t. There’s also remembering what’s going on or might be slightly off with your bike: the seat may feel weird, the pedals squeak, you need to put air the tires, lube on the chain, recharge the lights, and so on.
Half the Battle
Of course it all comes back pretty quickly, and your subsequent rides will become progressively easier as your form returns. But every day is different. Rest, food, hydration, weather, etc. are always factors. Each ride is different too, whether it’s a run to the store, a recreational ride, commuting to work, or what have you. It could be time to upgrade some gear. Like if it’s going to start raining, since it’s theoretically almost October and should be autumn, swap out those skinny tires. Find those long pants, gloves, hats, wool socks, jackets and so on. Ride earlier since sunset is sooner.
The most important thing is to take it easy and not injure yourself by overdoing it. That’s easy to do by overestimating your abilities and underestimating how many pounds you may have put on or forgetting flexibility and strength you’ve lost during your break. As Billy Squire sang, slow ride, take it easy. Give yourself time to build back up so you can go fast or hard up those hills or long distance, if any of those are your thing.
One last thing about a break that’s nice: it gives you a mental rest from biking so you have appreciation for your ability to still do it. And that new perspective is noticeable, because you have to be paying attention a little more than usual. Whether the rest was intentional or caused by external factors like a job, injury or illness, if you can get back on that horse and ride it, she’ll be glad you did, and so will you.
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