Yesterday, I rode the 22 miles home from work on back roads with a co-worker. George and I scheduled this more than a month ago based on the fact that this was the annual Bike to Work Day. While I was looking forward to the ride, I was a bit nervous considering I have done almost no cycling in 2013. I have been running, both on the treadmill and on roads and trails around home, so knew that my overall leg fitness wasn’t going to be a problem. What was in question, was if the hills I drove were really as steep as they were in my head when it came to reality. And then that pesky task of unclipping at a busy intersection.
One of the hills goes from the US Headquarters for Lego, past a few prisons, both in Enfield, CT, and down a long hill as you pass into Massachusetts. Of course, I would be riding UP that same long hill. I almost never drive home that way, although I do take those roads into my office occasionally. The hill turned out to be only a slight hill, with a very mild, consistent climb component for all of five minutes.
My bike is a Trek 7500 hybrid, with a fairly heavy frame, a bit over ten years old. I’ve kept it is good mechanical shape considering it was basically unridden for almost seven years after it was purchased. A few years back and after relocating to Connecticut, I found a deal for Tolland Bicycle – half-price, pre-season tune up. Since my daughter was taking violin lessons at UConn once per week, I drove by the front door of that shop every week. I had started with cycling (spin) classes at my local YMCA, so had the notion to start to actually ride my bike that had been sitting idle for the past 7 years. I had the tune up, purchased spin / cycling shoes, and swapped out my regular pedals for clips. Eventually, I had what I thought was enough experience to try the clips outside of the stationary bike at the Y and rode a time or two outside. My first experience was terrifying to say the least.
I eventually found out about the Farmington Canal Heritage Trail, a mature rail trail less than 15 miles west of me, just past Bradley International Airport. Several co-workers told me that it was a fantastic bike trail, fairly flat, and a great way to cover 15 – 30 miles with minimal traffic on most weekends. I started riding there and on the first weekend of riding, found out that I was a complete, inexperienced klutz when it came to clipping and, more importantly, unclipping. I think my clips weren’t quite adjusted correctly, taking extra effort and twisting to quickly unclip. Several bloody knees and bloody wrists later, I finally got the hang of it; maybe the clips became worn-in. Yesterday, I unclipped at intersections with the unemotional ease of an experienced rider. It still takes me a few rotations of the pedals to get fully clipped in, but it no longer worries me that I’ll just fall over at an intersection due to my inability to unclip quickly and before I come to a complete stop.
Overall, the ride home yesterday was a complete success. While I’m not sure I could ride both in and home on the same day, the single direction travel was well worth the effort and will absolutely be repeated!