I used to blog about my mundane life, my artwork, my daily existence in Calgary. When I moved back home to southern Ontario, my adventures ceased and my life became job-hunting, coffee, and long bike rides to calm my swirling mind, and my blog fell by the wayside. Then I thought, maybe I can use this space to share the bike love… So that’s the plan. I want to entice you to get out on a bike by talking about my bike obsession.
Before we get to the bike love, here’s a thing I want to put out there: I kept my blog around for months after moving home from Calgary, updating it periodically (rarely), but left all the posts for posterity. If you follow me (and you should! I’m awesome), you’ll notice all those postings have miraculously vanished, along with my connected art and photography blogs. Ok, the art and photography blogs are still around, they’re just guarded about as heavily as a bank vault. Let’s think of this as an entirely new adventure.
I was 17 when I discovered the joy of cycling. A little late in the game perhaps, but I wasn’t looking at it like a sport – it was my transportation to and from school, to and from my best friend’s house, and later, to a small riding trail on the east end of my city. And then the competitive bug bit me, hard. I learned what all the gears on my mountain bike could do, and what my legs could do with those gears, and I out-paced my friends by a long shot without even really breaking a sweat. Then I met the road, literally and very painfully.
Ten years ago, I met the chewed up pavement a block from my house, while riding my trusty old mountain bike. I left a large swatch of skin on the road, and hobbled back home, blood dripping from my knee and probably a few other places. I knew right away that I had done some serious damage, because I couldn’t straighten my knee or bend it more than 30 degrees without searing pain. But I have this gene that says, “No, I just need a very large Band-Aid and the problem will heal!” Except it didn’t. The skin healed over, eventually, but I still couldn’t fully bend my knee or put any weight on it. I was terrified to get back on a bike in case I couldn’t ride, but I also knew I had to try. I didn’t feel like an athlete, by any stretch of the imagination, so rather than seeking professional help, I devised my own rehab program involving a stationary bike with zero resistance, just to get my knee moving. The first week or two of this, I thought my bones were shattering where they meet at the knee joint, but eventually it became a tolerable pain. And by the following summer, I was back on my bike, just on a slightly lower gear, and doing significantly shorter rides.
Fast-forward about seven years. I’m in my last year of grad school in Calgary, super confident my knee’s at 100% (I mean, I could run the hell out of the elliptical trainer at the gym, even if I couldn’t do a squat to save my life). The constant pain was so tolerable by then, it was barely even noticeable, except on stairs. And ice. And if I sat too long or put too much weight on that leg. And all winter. And if I wore heeled shoes. But that’s nothing, right? That’s barely anything. One winter day, as I was making my way up the steps to the C-Train platform after class, my knee decided that was it, it had had enough, and it gave out and I went tumbling down the steps – splat. After some initial embarrassment and some reassurance to my fellow student travellers that I was fine, I hobbled my way straight to the campus clinic and saw the doctor, who did some (rather painful) pushing and pulling on my tibia and concluded that I had somehow torn my PCL and stretched/weakened the ligament on the inside of my knee. Oh that? Gee, that was seven years ago… I had a biking accident, landed with some serious force on my bent knee, scraped off a bunch of skin. I thought that would’ve healed by now. No? Yeah, no. Apparently ligaments don’t heal themselves the way skin does – who knew? Ice the new swelling, I was told, buy a brace and wear it, and do this long list of leg exercises if I ever wanted to get back on a bike, even for amusement. Except I felt like a complete dork walking around in an uncomfortable brace, and I figured my tree-trunk thighs were strong enough, thank you very much. Who needs a PCL anyway? I didn’t even have a bike while I lived in Calgary, so decided it wasn’t a big deal.
And really it wasn’t, until I moved back to southern Ontario and became reacquainted with my two-wheeled soul mate. My rides didn’t last long, but it was a start. And then I set myself a goal: I wanted to complete a charity bike ride within the next year (preferably 100km, but the realist in me said 50km would be the better goal). With that goal at the forefront of my mind, I spent the winter months diligently building up my leg and arm muscles and working on my core strength – all the things I would need in order to survive a long-ish distance ride. It paid off, though. At the end of May, I completed a 54 km charity ride for the Ontario Lung Association, completing the course in roughly 2.5 hours (not counting designated hydration stops), and I had a blast. Then a few days ago, I did another charity ride – a 57 km circuit in support of the Canadian Mental Health Association, which I completed in 2 hours and 5 minutes. My endurance has improved, and so has my cruising speed, since I managed to shave almost half an hour off my previous time. I’m not a racer, but I am always challenging myself to beat my previous time . Sometimes I succeed, and sometimes I don’t, but I am always aiming higher, always giving myself a new challenge to overcome.
I have a new goal now. A normal person would probably take the next step and aim for a 100 km ride, but I am not a normal person. My goal is to ride almost 1,000 km, from my hometown to Toronto and back. It’s a lofty goal, sure, but entirely doable over the course of a few days. That goal will be the central focus of my blog, but I’ll also talk about everything else bike-related, from equipment to maintenance to common and uncommon problems of riding. And maybe, somehow, I’ll be able to inspire some of you to pull out your old bikes (or get new ones) and join the cycling revolution.