Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Revolution of a cyclist: What do you mean, climb a mountain?

For Ride #5 my most adorable husband said "Sure Lucy, Michele and I would love to ride with you and John up to Fiesole tomorrow!" We need to have a discussion about when he can and when he can't speak for me.

Innocent sounding words, aren't they? And yet, they made me start sweating and working on my "I can't go for a ride because...." reasons. These reasons, in no particular order are:

Lucy is a triathlete. I swear Leif doesn't know any women who aren't triathletes or your garden variety super athlete in only one event. Her husband claims to be a non-athlete, but I think he's really saying in comparison to his super-wife he's not an athlete.

Fiesole isn't at the top of a small hill. It's at the top of a mountain and the route they chose is a loop that climbs the mountains behind it as well. I haven't climbed an actual mountain with my road bike. For all I know, it's impossible. I'm just getting the hang of riding it on the flats.

I still only have half the gears I should because they are worn and the chain won't hold in most of them. It takes a lot of experimentation sometimes to find the gear that won't slip but is right for the incline, and mostly I end up in a gear that's slightly too difficult and I look like a cartoon cyclist trying to ride up a cliff. Or I can't move the bike at all and I look like I've frozen in place till I start to tip over. It ain't pretty.

I've only ridden with one other person besides Leif and while she's a cyclist she's also a good friend and I don't mind totally sucking in front of her. In front of complete strangers that Leif respects and likes? Um, thanks but no thanks. This was bound to be one of those situations where a perfect storm of physical limitations, bike malfunctions and Italian traffic would converge to make me look and feel like the rankest of amateurs. I just wasn't sure if my self-esteem would survive an entire morning of saying "oops, wrong gear," and "sorry."

Maybe most importantly, it's only my fifth time on this bike and I kinda thought I'd get to practice a bit before tackling a ride that experienced riders choose when they want to really work a bit. You know, a couple of weeks on some fairly flat rides followed by a couple of weeks in those "rolling hills of Tuscany" before attempting to climb a mountain.

But he said yes, and by my silence my agreement  was implied so the next morning we got up and prepared to ride. We met them near our house and started off on our adventure.

I've walked this route a few times so I know what the incline is like. Truthfully, my heart was pounding before we even met up with these folks so I wasn't approaching this climb with the calmness I should have. But I did the best I could, which meant that I only had to stop three times on the way up. And then only for about fifteen seconds at a time. Just enough for me to mentally shake myself and catch my breath and make the tingly ache in my legs go away. Because as I said before, the bike doesn't let me use the gears that I need for steep inclines.

The first part was the worst, both mentally and physically. The rest of the ride was just beautiful.....and long......with more hills but not as killer as the first one. We stopped twice for coffee which I really, really needed.

The second coffee stop was in a little town just before we started back downhill. The elderly man behind the counter was sweet, asking about our ride and when I showed him how cold my hands were he held them till they warmed up a bit. Then he showed us his picture on the wall and darn if he isn't some kind of famous cyclist from years ago. His name is Guido Boni and he loves to talk cycling. I'm sure we'll stop there again. Because yes, Leif will probably get me back up there sometime.

After a quick picture with Signore Boni (he managed to get himself  squeezed in between me and Lucy) we got to throw ourselves down the mountain, which as you know is my favorite part and my reward for climbing all that way up. Absolutely fantastic, just like flying. But don't worry Mom, I never got above the speed limit. That's probably not as comforting as it was meant to sound.

Our ride can be seen here if you're interested. I climbed over 2000 feet that day. I kinda rock. At least for today.

I wonder how long he'll wait before deciding I can start using clips. Nothing like being nearly permanently attached to your pedals to make an exciting ride even more fun. And I wonder who he'll have invited along to witness my first (and certainly subsequent) fall as I struggle to tear my foot away from the bike. I can hardly wait.

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