Jun 1, 2005

Bicycling to Brixton

So if you've got two personalities living in your head, does that make it a bi-psyche-skull?

Way back in the day, when dinosaurs ruled the earth, I used to be a kid. And as a kid who also had a kid brother, I rode bicycles. I rode the wheels off of bicycles. I rode a lot, because there wasn't a whole lot else to do in the country when you don't have a lot of friends. So I rode my bicycle. The first bike I remember well was lime green and electric yellow, and had a banana seat, sissy bar, and ape-hanger handlebars, and was so utterly cool that it was guaranteed to score me a foxy lady.

The last one I recall was the one that I built at my toy store job from scratch. I was in charge of, amongst other things, contacting all the manufacturers and ordering replacement parts for damaged items to make them sellable again. I got the bright idea by seeing this lovely metallic dark green Magna bicycle called the Zanzibar, a $99 cheapie, which could fit other, light-weight aluminum and composite parts like rims and handlebars and everything else. I started off by ordering a replacement frame in that lovely dark green from Dynacraft/Magna, then over the course of six months or so I built this Frankenstein's Monster of a lightweight mountain bike from many different contributors. Every single part of that bike had a quick-release lever, I swear. I could take it apart and reassemble it in thirty seconds flat.

The day I brought it home (free, because it had no barcode or price) the store manager laughed with me over the story of how I had obtained this beautiful steed of a bicycle, then told me that if I ever did it again she's personally crucify me on the bicycle rack. During store hours. And sell tickets and popcorn to the event. I believed her. About three years later my friend had that beautiful bike stolen from under his nose in New Orleans. That was the last bike I officially owned, and that was quite a few years ago.

I don't own one right now, unless you count that 500 pound Honda Red V-Four behemoth in the garage. The thing is, tho, is that now that the office is moving to something like 3.5 miles from my home, I have been saying that I might just have to take up riding a bicycle to work, for health and because it's rather foolish to drive a vehicle that short of a distance for anything.

It happens that my brother, having three kids, has some bicycles around his house. Quite a few, to be exact. And since he's all about interacting with his kids when he has them, he bought himself and his wife one. And he managed to leave his bike up here the other day.

It's quite the nice bike, it is. It's one of those Schwinn beach cruiser bicycles, with the wide, spring-softened saddle, swoopy chrome fenders, two-tone green and creme paint job, and wide longhorn handlebars. It's even got a springer front end, to make the ride that much nicer. And I decided day before yesterday (that'd be BD, or Before Deluge) to take it out and see how out of shape I am.

What an eye-opening experience that was.

I was quite aware of the fact that I'm not in the best of shape, so I didn't plan a road trip out to the new building. I also kept firmly in mind that wherever I went I would also have to GET BACK, so my estimated trip distance would have to be doubled, since I would only be thinking in terms of how long it was to X point. And since I didn't want to be gone all day, I decided to bicycle to my brother's house, which lies approximately 1/8th of a mile behind my house. That would make my final trip total just about 1/4 of a mile, and should be plenty to see how I faired.

When I was in college, 1/4 of a mile was simply the distance I walked preparatory to starting a two-mile jog around the campus jogging trail. When I was home in the evenings, 1/4 of a mile was 1/2 the distance to where my brother's house is now, and I would walk that to warm up, then jog a mile and a half, and then walk that last 1/4 mile down to cool off. It was no problem, and I did it until a bout with the flu floored me for two weeks, in which time I had ample opportunity to realise that exercise was in fact making me violently ill, and that I should stop immediately, which I did.

Bicycling 1/8th (or even 1/4) of a mile, then, should have been a handful of peanuts and a swallow of iced tea for me.

Which it wasn't.

Don't get me wrong, I made it. I even made it without wheezing, and the morning after I didn't feel any of that tearing ripping pain that comes with over-exertion of the larger thigh and calf muscles. But I was worn out after I got back to the safety and security of my garage. Sad. Utterly sad. I'm badly out of shape. And I then realised just how far three and a half miles (seven by the end of the day!) can be for a bicyclist who used to ride that distance every few hours just because he felt like racing his brother down to the end of the road and back seventeen times. On what was likely a solid-steel framed BMX bike with knobbly dirt tires, one of which was probably half flat, all the while dragging a wagon full of rocks behind me, which was tied to the seat post with a piece of logging chain, just because I could.

I've such a long road to ride to get there again.

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