August 14, 2016
This morning our dog summoned her mistress with a series of bemused barks at the front screen door. Bet commented: “It wasn’t her intruding-car bark. She seemed to know it was you, but she didn’t understand what that yellow thing underneath you was.”
After considerable thought I had hopped onto one of the bikes in the garage and ridden it around the lawn, nearly falling off, twice. The forks of modern bikes don’t have as much caster as the old iron ones of the 1970’s. I’m sure of that. They steer harder too, I think. I soon learned that it would not steer itself, and that I would have to turn the handlebars, not just lean.
On the other hand a Bandit with disk brakes (I don’t know the language yet to describe the other features) has front shocks and many gears with toggles for shifting, rather like a Porsche. It’s light and taut and far too good a machine for my toe-dip into the maelstrom of physical fitness.
Gradually I became more confident with orbits of gravel and lawn, and glided down the long driveway with growing trepidation. Memories of wipeouts on fresh gravel flooded back to where I desperately wished I could shift my weight further aft, away from the front wheel. No chance on this bike. Then came the U-turn at the paved road: turn up the hill or down? I chose down, only to feel the front wheel start to slide on the sand washed onto the road by yesterday’s rain. I kept the bike upright, thereby losing the downhill apex of the turn and steering perilously close to the end of a culvert. The only way out was to track through a flower bed, but I stayed upright and the front shocks protected my arthritic wrists from vibration, so that was a win.
Then came the climb up the 500 feet to the house. With any other vehicle the slope is not significant, though it does help a 2WD tractor push a bucket of snow all the way down and across the road, regardless of traction. Backing up same hill in winter without tire chains on the tractor is out of the question. Still, it’s a gentle slope compared to that of Young’s Hill Road, which I’d have to master if I ever work up the nerve to leave the property on the bike.
Downshifts are effortless on the Bandit, even for the uninitiated. I tried to maintain a decent pace, because after all, it’s a very gentle slope. Legs quickly began to yelp, but I persevered, adding extra power with the balls of my feet. Feeling a bit gassed, I rode the bike back into the garage and dismounted without mishap.
Conscious of the precise location of every muscle the bike had used, I winced my way back to the recliner in the living room, the unfinished cup of coffee, and my computer.
By the end of the week I should be ready to tackle the hill.
UPDATE: 27 August, 2016
The following day I faced excruciating pain when I sat on the bike seat. Charlie had told me this would happen. It’s a high-tech woman’s seat, and the pressure points are all wrong for the male pelvis.
The new seat still felt very much like the head of an axe for a few days, but eventually the pain dulled, and by August 25th, I rode flat-out for 25 minutes in the rain and felt pretty good, actually.
I had given up on the hills. I own a truck. I found my bike rack hanging from the side of Tony’s shed in Newboro after I had loaned it to him about ten years ago. I bolted it to the hitch ball. So now my bike ride consists of flat runs on Hwy 42, the Cataraqui Trail, or the paved Forfar Road, with the Tacoma parked in my field at the corner.
Oiling the bike’s chain also increased the gears’ efficiency enough to let me cruise in eighth gear, top sprocket on the flat. I still can’t look other cyclists in the eye because I have gone only a short distance while they have come from afar, but if can almost keep up to their pace, now, and the nurse yesterday said I have dropped 10 pounds.