Continuing the theme of my reinfatuation with cycling brings me to the topic of bicycles and health. Some people believe that when you catch a cold you need to lie in bed with lots of blankets, drinking soup and being generally incompetent. I, on the other hand, believe you need to ride your bicycle.
Yesterday morning I woke up with a distinct coldy-feeling in my throat. Ugh. I just got over one bug and I seem to be picking up its ugly cousin barely a week later! It was a teaching day, so I went to work anyway. As the day progressed I developed a fever and by the time the bell rang for my final class to begin I was delirious. Personally, I don’t mind fever induced delirium so much. It’s like being drunk, but without the alcohol. My students also think I’m hilarious when I attempt to teach class in a fever induced semi-stupor. Overall it was a good day, you know, except for the part where I was sick and teaching class in a fever induced semi-stupor.
I went home right after class, not even bothering to go back to my office for my things. At 7pm I was in bed and while I knew I was incapable of doing anything that involved being out of bed, neither could I sleep. The reason was that my fevered brain kept sending images of thigh-rippling, spandex clad, fierce eyed cyclists burning lap after lap across the back of my eyelids. On through the night they rode, chasing each other up hills as if they didn’t understand how gravity works, and around corners as if their wheel secreted sticky juice like spider man. By midnight I knew I had a problem. By nine the next morning I was facing a decision: is the sickness of my legs stronger than the sickness of my face (also known as a head cold)?
It turns out that my legs do not like reasons. I tricked them into a baby ride by picking a road that, as far as google maps can tell, dead ends along a river 10km from my house. It doesn’t actually dead end, just sort of wanders off into the mountains, but the pavement gets nasty quickly and I figured I would promise my legs a ride up to the God Rock if that wasn’t enough, but was hoping they’d be too distracted by the second half of my plan to take me up another 500m of climbing while still mildly feverish.
The highlight of today was my cornering practice. I read an article on cornering on a road bike that said smooth is the most important goal. It also explained what the apex of the turn is, which apparently I never knew and that’s why cornering was scaring the shit out of me all the time. In case you’re wondering the “apex” of the turn is the innermost point of the road that you will pass with your bike. The “exit” is the outermost point of the road you will pass after which you straighten your line and are no longer turning. If you’re a “roadie” or some other hot shot and disagree with me, go crash your bike somewhere because this understanding changed my life! On the descent, which had me in my full gear most of the way, I focused on taking every turn smoothly and safely. Specifically, I made braking, looking at the apex, then looking at the exit my main priorities. There were some turns that scared me quite a bit, but I promised myself that I would follow my instructions — brake, look, turn, look, exit — no matter what. If I spooked, I said I would give myself a meter space between me and the edge of the lane and if it looked like I was going to ride into that meter, I would use it solely for braking in an upright position.
And you know what? I DESTROYED those curves! Some spooked me at the onset because, being in the mountains, most of them were blind and some were blinder than others. However many of the spookey entrances turned out to be nice smooth sweeping corners that were only blind because the mountain was cut close to the road. Others spooked me mid way through. But the amazing thing was that I didn’t have to bail on a single curve the whole way down! When my internal alerts went off all I did was recheck my edges: Had I reached the apex yet? If not then I could still turn in harder. Was I approaching my meter margin already? Look at the exit and correct your line. At no point did I actually have to brake mid-turn just by using these rules.
At one point near the end of my descent there was a long high speed (40kph+) S-curve that really pushed my mental edge. I wanted to get out of the saddle. I wanted to hit the brakes midway until I was back at a rolling speed again, but I did neither. I kept to my course, followed my own instructions for success and BAM! out the other side of the curve without so much as feathering my brakes! I was so happy I cried. I’m trying, but I feel like I can’t come close to explaining the amazing difference in sensations I felt on those final corners. It’s like, before I made myself this recipe for success I would just panic. Now, I would sense fear but also maintain control. I can say with certainty that I was well within the physical boundaries of safety on those turns, even in the wet conditions of the day.
So, to sum up, what have we learned today? First, we learned that being Sick means that being sick will not keep you off a bike and you will be better for it. Obviously, my cold is already in remisison. It’s just that the symptoms haven’t gotten the word yet, but they will. On my next ride. For sure. Second, we learned how to corner like a motherfucking adult! Ok, that’s not quite right. We learned to corner like we know what we’re doing! …not as satisfying, but yes. But perhaps most importantly we learned that riding makes everything better. Take a day that doesn’t involve riding your bike. Then consider what that day is like when you ride your bike. Instant better, right?