Not just for transportation anymore

Just as “Leinenkugel’s beer ain’t just for breakfast anymore”1, riding a bike ain’t just for transportation anymore.

How do you get ready for bicycling season? First, disabuse yourself of the notion that there is A Season. Any season is a season for bicycling. For some, the winter is for fatbiking. For others, it’s indoor cycling. For still others, it’s cyclocross. For me, it’s mostly for transportation. It’s how I get to work, the store, the library. Riding just for the hell of it is not common except for my New Year Ride.

New Year Ride. If you were sitting at home nursing a hangover, you missed this.

On the other hand, if “just for the hell of it” is not part of most of your rides, it’s time for an attitude adjustment.

Do you need a special pre-season exercise program? No. You ride your bike. Start slow and easy. Gradually increase speed, distance, time. You don’t need to be a slave to numbers. Listen to your body.

For me, spring is the time to feel the wind without the word “chill” attached to it. It is time to explore the back roads and watch for potholes. It is the time to look for the first robin, the first crocus; to listen for the Spring Peepers; to smell the earth and the lakes come to life; to watch the grass turn green and buds appear on the trees; to notice all of the different greens as they appear. Notice that tree flowers are a different green than the leaves. It’s a time to ride with friends again.

Sunday I rode with friends. We chatted. I still needed tights and a jacket. We rode through “The Only Waunakee in the World” to get high on Bong Road. Monday I rode alone, in shorts and a short-sleeve jersey. I rode beyond Hope and into Coffeytown. Was it a week ago that I shoveled snow?

Part of the half-fast cycling club, at the top of Bong Road. It’s all downhill from here.

Do you need a special bike? No, you need the bike you have, if it is well-maintained and fits you. If either of those criteria are puzzling to you, talk with a knowledgeable friend or visit a reputable bike shop (with your bike). I am riding my commuting bike. It reminds me that I’m not in the shape I’ll be in come July. It makes me get into a rhythm to climb hills rather than just charge up them. It is better suited to spring road conditions, with wider, lower pressure tires, and fenders. When I switch to a bike that’s 6 pounds lighter, I’ll feel faster. When I switch to the bike that’s another 6 pounds lighter, I’ll feel ready for a century, or to ride across the country. I won’t be, but I’ll be in that frame of mind.

Which brings us back to paying attention to your body. In these early spring rides, I don’t have a power meter, a heart rate monitor, an altimeter, a speedometer, odometer, or a clock. I ride how I feel. The “goal” is to have a good time. Numbers do not add to that good time. I know my heart is beating. I know when I’m exerting myself. I know the sun is high in the sky so I don’t have to hurry home before it gets dark. I don’t need more data.

Do you need special gear? Depends on the conditions. Bike shorts are a lot more comfortable than jeans, but I wear regular clothes to ride to work. I’ve written extensively on clothes for winter. It’s not winter. Wear a helmet that fits well. Try a few on. Lean forward into the position in which you ride. Can you see under the brim of the helmet? Ask for help in a bike shop if you’re not sure. If they steer you straight to the most expensive helmet, try another shop. On the other hand, even the most expensive helmet is cheap compared to a craniectomy to relieve bleeding on the brain. You might argue that helmets are unnecessary. That may be true until you hit your head. You might argue that folks in the Netherlands ride more than we do in the US and they don’t wear helmets. I’m not in the Netherlands. Yes, I’ve read the study that claims that people ride more dangerously with a helmet on. They had people ride through a course with and without helmets and they rode marginally faster with helmets. Were they riding dangerously, or without helmets were they overly cautious? The study was not clear. Remember that, if you’re going to quote a study’s conclusion and jump to your own conclusions from that, you might want to read it. I know a hill that I can descend safely at 40 mph. I’ve ridden it at 50. Would I ride it at 40 without a helmet? No way. Did I ride without a helmet in the 1970s? Sure, but then I also rode in cars without seatbelts in the 50s.

1 Song lyric from “Guys on Ice”, book and lyrics by Fred Alley.

Author: halffastcyclingclub

We are a group of friends who ride bikes. Some of us are fast, some of us are slow, all of us are half-fast. In 2018, one of us rode coast to coast across the US. It was so much fun, he's doing it again in 2022! If we meet Sal Paradise, we'll let you know.

10 thoughts on “Not just for transportation anymore”

  1. I can’t ride until I get my Garmin back from warranty service. Don’t want to get any miles in unless they can be recorded and then uploaded to my computer so I can analyze my watts, cadence, miles per hour, average speed and anal temperature 🤒


    Liked by 1 person

  2. I have reached the point where I can get my leg over my bike, and I’ve practiced mounting from the right enough that now it’s second nature. This year the bike’s (a not-super-fancy Diamondback soft-tail, the small size that fits me) is getting a professional tune up and new tubes (thorn proof) and every other day it and I are going to ride around the loop at the Refuge. In our blazing speed we’ll avoid all the deer flies. I will be very very very happy to be out there. I’d ride TO the Refuge but it’s a narrow 2 lane state hwy w/a 65 mph speed limit and hay trucks… Of course, I’ll be careful not to grin or breathe with my mouth open so I don’t have to scrape bugs out of my teeth…

    For years I rode my bike as transportation and loved it. It made the perfect transition between work (teaching) and home. Also during my years as a clerical drudge. Also in China in the 80s (of course).

    Bike shorts are nice. I wore them on the bike to nowhere, but now I don’t. Around here people don’t wear that kind of sissy stuff (ha ha) because we’re rugged individualist cowboy type people. I met a guy at the refuge on a fat-tire bike who actually had a cowboy hat over his helmet. How and why I do not know. It wasn’t even a sunny day so it wasn’t for shade. I’ll wear bike capris on my summer excursions, probably. Why suffer?

    Riding the bike made everything better. I’ve had some cool bikes, but I think my two favorites were the single speed Wu Yang I had in China and my 10 speed Raleigh Record road bike from the 70’s. My first mountain bike was an $80 Nishiki hard tail and I had blast with that. For me it’s about the fun and the freedom. If I could ride between those hoarfrost trees on that snowy road in your photo I’d be in total bliss.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mounting from the right is fine as long as you’re not wearing a sword, and you have to be careful to avoid the greasy leg tattoo. As long as you’re fast enough that the flies don’t bite, you’re plenty fast. I used to wear chaps to ride the mountain bike, but they got caught in the chain. 😉

      Liked by 1 person

      1. That’s where Chinese bikes had it going on back in the day. The chain was covered. But the greasy leg tattoo will just add to my already overwhelming coolness. No worries there. I hadn’t thought about the sword, though. That could be a problem. I’ll work on it. Maybe transition to a dagger.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Or you can become left-handed and then the sword won’t be a problem mounting. Those full chainguards are nice, because the greasy leg tattoo won’t really add to your overwhelming coolness. Were you not overwhelmingly cool, people would snicker behind their hands. This will bring you down to normal coolness. Or, you can try what one person I know did, and get an actual tattoo to duplicate the greasy one, but that is only cool if you don’t have to keep cleaning grease off of it. It is a particular kind of cool, because you can then laugh at the people who are laughing at you, as you know it’s not grease.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I’m so cool I don’t care if people snicker at me. It just reveals their total lack of coolness. It might mean they’re jealous they don’t have a bike, but usually it means they’re just abysmally uncool. Sad for them but whatever…

        Liked by 1 person

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