Lead Legs


After sending the Ridley to the hospital with a couple of broken bits at the end of March, I stopped riding.  The weather’s schizophrenic behaviour, ice patches I’m suddenly unable to negotiate, snow, rain, snow, rain…I quit.  I’m not sure what happened but it started when I tested the abrasion resistance of the Pearl jacket (and it failed).

I have, much to my chagrin, fallen over more times than I would have expected.  Certainly more times than I’m happy with.  I went down hard in my first year trying to corner much faster than I had a right to and a pedal strike sent me skittering across the pavement. I’d already flipped it over in the grass snapping off the reflector – still not sure how I managed that one. Finished out the season by laying it down in the mud and breaking my wrist. Strangely, none of this bothered me beyond the ego check and the swelling…and the bruising. And the burning…definitely the burning.

Year two I racked up the miles but spent most of it upright.  I started the season by going down in the same mud that broke my wrist but escaped unharmed – 2nd time lucky. I fell over, literally, at a stop sign as I learned to use my clipless pedals. More ego check and a broken bell. Summer ended with me and the bike intact.  A good season.

Fall and the new Ridley arrive. Fall goes well, Ridley is a rocket and I’m a happy guy. Snow comes, studded tires go on and the falling begins again. Front tire slides out in deep snow and I summersault over the bars landing expertly in a roll.  Ego suggests I take the (winter) corner at speed and I find myself skittering across the ice-clad pavement in front of morning traffic. A large piece of ice breaks away from the pathway underneath and takes my front tire with it. Down we go again.

With the exception of a bent derailleur hanger and a dented ego, there is no damage. I  chalk it all up to learning – learning to ride in deep, churned snow (don’t), learning to corner at speed on studded tires (can’t), learning to go with the flow when the surface moves unexpectedly (gonna hurt). The snow melted, the ice came and all the fun went away.

Keith / 912R commented one afternoon at the apparent grip and my comfort on the ice. It was ignorance and luck, not grip and comfort. Mother nature soon gets the last laugh.  A crisp spring day, almost no snow but plenty to be worried about as the banks on one side or the other melt and drain onto the path where it freezes into shiny, slick sheets of ambush.  I anticipate it being there, I see it there confirming my anticipation and it still manages to fling me to the ground adding more scuff marks to the Ridley and abrading holes in my beloved Pearl jacket. This is the end of my patience, the end of rationalizing the pavement kiss.

I pick my days carefully – snow, melt, freeze? Not riding. Melt, freeze? Not riding. There is  not a lot of riding in March until I can’t justify it any longer.  I’d ridden the entire winter, put a couple of thousand kilometers on in the snow and here I am being stymied by a couple of patches of ice. Bah. I ride 9 kilometers before another slippery patch sends me down and puts the Ridley in the hospital.

It stays there for two weeks waiting for the right parts to show up. I bring it home and tuck it away uncleaned and ignored for a week before leaving town. It sits idle another week. I get fatter. I return. Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday I drive the car until…finally I can’t take the drive any more. I’m sick of the car, sick of the commute and can’t ignore the bike any longer.

I set out on marvelously snow-and-ice free paths after 2 months of not minimal riding. My legs are soft and disconnected from my brain. My lungs burn. The air feels thick, solid. There’s no speed to be had, no cruising at a respectable pace. Fighting for every kilometer, I barely managed posted path speeds. My heart is absolutely hammering out of my chest. I chase a distant tail light in futility, unable to keep any semblance of pace. 10 kilometers in my legs and my brain reconnect – aha! This is how we pedal. There’s still no speed. Legs burn, lungs burn, heart still pounds.

You idiot! I’m thinking.  Why didn’t you ride the Rescue bike? Why didn’t you ride the trainer? Why didn’t you do something? I stand to climb in places I ordinarily float up. The ride finishes. I’m trashed. Asthma squeezes my lungs.  Garmin says the heart averaged 170 bpm! I don’t examine average speed – I already know it’s slow.

170bpmThe return trip is much the same. Much panting. Much wheezing. Much heart-pounding. Much slowness. Much standing.

It’s good to be back in the saddle. Lead legs and all.