16 July 2008


File this under the "WTF were you thinking?" headline.

I'm not the only nut in my office who bikes to work. There are three of us. When everyone's bike is in the office, it gets entertaining with the storage of the bikes. Yes, we all could park the bikes in our individual offices, but mostly, we don't want to, so we stash them elsewhere. There's an uneasy truce with a neighboring department, with bikes parked in the hallway between. Talk around the water cooler (figuratively speaking, as we don't have a water cooler) often centers around routes to and from the office and elsewhere around the city.

My route takes me on a well-traveled, busy byway, and I think I've mentioned before that it is mostly downhill on the way TO work, which means that the homeward journey is UPhill, a drag in many senses of the word.

The other day, a co-worker said to me, "Why don't you go through the park? Wouldn't that be a little more even, up and down on the way there and back?"

Well, yes. It would. Problem numero uno, though, is that although I've lived in this city for most of my life, I still get lost in 'the park'. Yes, really. The park's roads are well taken care of, but not well marked; often, driving in the park, I'll look around and not be sure where I am. Getting out of the park in the car is easy; usually, if you just start driving uphill, you'll exit the park in fairly short order. On a bike, that's not so easy or fun.

I spent some time looking at the maps of the park online, and thought, yeah, that's not only doable, but would probably be a hell of a lot cooler on the way home too, because there's shade a-plenty in the park, and on the road route, there ain't so much. I knew it would take me longer; driving though the park is never ever a shortcut, rather, it is something you do either when you want the scenic route or have time to kill.

So I left earlier than I normally would, and with the route I'd chosen firmly in mind, I pedaled my butt through the park. I did NOT take the park map with me. (Clever, eh? My family likes to joke that I could get lost trying to get out of a paper bag, and I admit that they're not far wrong.)

I'm proud of myself for making only one mistake, and having to turn around and go back, a mere 1/4 mile detour. But the park's hills are torture. Huge, un-ending, and ow. Ow. OWW! I actually got off the bike and walked twice, which is quitting, in my ever-so-humble. Unfortunately, it was either walk, or fall over.

On the downhill stretches, the speed is intoxicating.

The route through the park took me nearly an hour. AN HOUR! The street is about 35 minutes. Even without my erroneous turn, it would have been at least 45 minutes. It is definitely the better workout, because once at my desk, my legs let me know how unhappy they were, even whilst just sitting in front of the computer.

I've learned, though, the way around the gears on the bike. All ten of them. I thought that the bike might be a 12 or 15 speed, but up until taking the bike for more than the occasional recreational trek, I'd never used any of them.

My bike, you see, is a found bike. I did not buy it. My father is the king of found objects, and knowing this as I do, several years ago when we moved from our miserable apartment to our current lovely condo, I asked him to please find me a bicycle. A few weeks after my request, his truck showed up at our house, with a very dirty, greasy, green Huffy, with straight handlebars, not the curved ram's horns that I associate with a traditional 10-speed. An employee of my father's had a child who had outgrown the bike; short-stuff me, it fit perfectly.

A spritz of a de-greaser, a scrub with a scrub-brush, and a gentle hosing off, and the bike was shiny and as good as new. I had a local bike shop check it out, grease the gears, test the brakes, and then the bike sat in our garage for two years.

About the second day I biked to work, I started experimenting with the gears, working my way through five of them. It wasn't until the third week of biking that I figured out how to shift through the additional five.

(Yes, really, I *DO* have a reasonably high IQ, but....saying I'm not particularly mechanically inclined would be....polite.)

Cycling through the park required quite a bit of use of the lowest gear.

Near the office, back on the city streets, a pedestrian I rode past said, "You're in good shape, girl!"

I laughed.

"Not really," I said, "But I'm gettin' there!"

What WAS I thinking? I was thinking that since the street ride has become if not easy, then easier than it had been, and that I could hack the high hills. And I was thinking that yes, I *will* have thin thighs. I will.

But the only thing that kept me going through that last set of torturous hills was the thought of a cool shower once I finally DID get to the office. A long, cool, soothing shower.

Does anyone have any ideas for soothing my poor rear end? Damn, that bike seat is hard.


Dawna said...

I have bike seat issues too with my over large posterior.

We'll be buying the wide, extremely padded and springy traveling ones. The word for them escapes me but they're akin to a saddle. If you go to any bike shop, I'm sure you can talk to an associate who knows what you need.

Erin said...

That is awesome, Luce! I'm so proud of you! I could never do it...I'm sticking with my rollerblades!

Lucy Arin said...


I have an exercise bike that has a GREAT seat; unfortunately, it doesn't fit on the bike. I'm not willing to spend big $$ on a new seat until I have a few other things purchased; namely, a helmet.


Biking is the way to go!!! Someone is making me a small bike trailer so that I can take it to the grocery store, too. Word in my work world is that gas is headed for $7/gallon...I will be thinking 3x before taking the car ANYWHERE.

On the other hand, blades are great for thin thighs too!