The Right Coast

April 18, 2005
If you can suffer, you can cycle, or, Don't get hit by a truck
By Tom Smith

I have decided to take up cycling. This is a rational decision on my part. I was not moved by any overwhelming passion to join the lycra clad bodies I see on the roads by my house. I just figured, it must be very good exercise; it gives me the opportunity to spend lots of money on equipment; if I have to interact with another stone dumb employee at Fitness 24 I might go insane; and I can do it right outside my door, as I live right on a very popular cycling circuit in San Diego County (called the "Great Western"). Also, I should note that when I was in Peru, climbing the blah blah blah, I noted that quite a few climbers were also cyclists. Climbing and cycling have an affinity. They both involve pointless goings uphill in a way that produces much suffering, and yet gives participants an intense feeling of superiority to those who do not indulge in the pursuit. Relatedly, there are lots of opportunities for posing, only cycling is better in this respect, as there aren't many Starbucks above 9000 feet. Also, like alpine climbing, it really does not involve nearly as much skill as what is politely called "endurance." On the downside, I don't think anyone has ever suffered numbness in the male parts from climbing.

So far, I must say I really like it. It is actually kind of fun, compared to say the Step Mill, and in addition, you don't have to listen to any stupid cell phone conversations, or be ignored by the haughty, beautiful thirty something women having them.

I may be able to dispel certain misconceptions you may have. You may think you are too fat to cycle. Not so. I am a good 30 pounds overweight, and I think I zip around quite handily. I have seen people out cycling who for all the world most resemble lycra coated weather baloons perched atop tiny little bikes. Yet, they move. Fact is, they have a lot of courage. At the local cycling Starbucks, I saw this guy with some sort of severe spinal affliction, beaming with accomplishment from having completed, I presume, the Great Western, or some part thereof. That was the day I decided to stop putting it off and buy a bike. If that guy, who couldn't even stand up straight, could do it, so could I. Of course, may be cycling had caused his affliction, but that is another story. My goal is to do the Great Western. It is about 40 miles and has about 3000 feet of climbing, I have heard.

By far the scariest thing about cycling is the trucks, meaning cars and trucks, but mostly what I delicately refer to as Redneck Peckerwoods in Pickups, Who Hate You and Hate Life. I have only been out a half dozen times on my new bike, and already I have had probably four incidents where drivers obviously cut closer to me than they had to, just to be assholes. In one case, a pickup pulled up behind me on an otherwise empty two lane road, where he could easily have passed me, and laid on his horn, deliberately trying to startle me. I would have given him the finger, but he was the one with the 2 ton killing machine and long, greasy hair. I tell myself to think about it as a Christian, and remind myself that he is the guy who pumps out septic tanks, disposes of cattle offal, or whatever, for a living, while I am the academic on an expensive carbon fiber and titanium racing bike, and so really, I should pity him, unless he actually does kill me.

Here's a picture of my precious. I know it's more bike than I need or deserve, but you have your mid life crisis only once. I bought it at the Trek store in La Mesa, and while they don't seem to have a concept of "I'm in a hurry," I feel they did right by me. I bought the 2004 model at a deep discount; they were sold out of lesser models in my size, which is why I bought a bike so much above my cycling merits. However, the exchanges with my sales person went mostly like this:
Me: What do you ride?
Him: Well, I used to ride a [super duper expensive bike], then I was hit by a truck.
Me: Can you get up the hills [where I live] without a triple crank?
Him: Oh, yes. But I'm a professional cyclist, or I was, before I was hit by a truck.
Me: Where do you like to ride?
Him: Well, I used to ride out in the blah blah blah, but then I was . . .
Me: Hit by a . . .
Him: Truck, yes.

So watch out for those trucks.