Monday, December 27, 2010

Random thoughts while riding around working off the pumpkin pie

Random Thought A: Pop Quiz! Choose the best answer.

1. Bicycle lanes are for:

a. Parking your SUV
b. Walking your beagle
c. Running your laps
d. Strolling with your honey
e. People riding bikes

2. Match the following:

Column A

Column B
Parking lots
Chew toys
Bicycle lanes

Random Thought B. Pageantry versus posing

The other day I was out riding and I'd stopped at a light. A car full of teenagers pulled up alongside me and one of them rolled down his window. Thinking he might be getting ready to ask for directions or something (since this actually happens a lot), I turned toward him and smiled helpfully.

He said, "Is that a four speed?"

It took a moment to sink it, but then it did: He was mocking me. Once he saw that realization hit home, he triumphantly rolled up the window and the other people in the car burst into howls of laughter. The light changed and they drove on.

Here's the thing: I am fifty-three years old. I don't really frakkin' care what you think about my cycling outfit. Furthermore, I quit caring a few years ago. That is the beauty of being my age. I expect that this liberation from the petty constraints of worrying about what others think will continue to grow, until one day, I will be so light and carefree I shall float heavenward as if on wings spun from the light of a distant star.

When you grow up, you can hope for the same.

Which brings me to the difference between pageantry and posing. Sadly, as in the rest of life, there are divides in the cycling community, and it all revolves around that miracle fabric, lycra. There are the people who sneer at wearing lycra and defiantly wear anything but. There are those who wear lycra who sneer at those who don't. There are even those who wear lycra who sneer at others wearing lycra because they deem them not worthy to wear it. And they all call each other "posers."

Enough with the sneering already. You are not yet ready for wings spun from starlight. Go sit in the car with the others.

A) I don't care what you think about what I'm wearing (see above).

B) Do you really think I'm delusional enough to pose as something I'm not? I am middle-aged, slightly overweight, slower than cooling magma, and I don't bother kidding myself: I would not under any circumstance be mistaken for someone who races bicycles. That isn't the reason I am wearing a cycling jersey and bibs (or tights, or arm warmers, or toe covers, or whatever). I am wearing them because they make me smile. They are festive and daring and colorful, like flags snapping in the wind at a grand medieval pageant. I am wearing them because life is very, very hard and part of the solution for getting through it is to embrace pageantry whenever and wherever you can find it.

Here is a jersey I bought as a souvenir on the single best vacation day ever, in which Walu and I rented bikes and rode them through Acadia National Park on a rainy day, stopping at a lodge to have clam chowdah and pop-ovahs:

In the photo, I am wearing the jersey on my best training ride ever, when my buddy Jill and I rode to a bakery in the nearby town of Slaton, and I had an apple fritter to celebrate surviving.

I also own a kit like this one, shown here on Jill. We both got this one to show our support for our favorite local bicycle shop, Broadway Bikes:

And this next one is a recent purchase for me, and I made it to show my support for this professional women's cycling team, Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12

And why would I buy a cycling kit to show them my support? Firstly, because they raise money for the team this way, and secondly, because it is the twenty-first century, and professional women athletes still do not have parity with men. Come, come, good people. There are other amazing cyclists out there besides just the ones getting all the press and big sponsorships, and they happen to be female. 

Riddle me this: When was the last time you saw a women's bike race on the Tee-Vee? Exactly. I'm looking at you, Versus Television. 

Athletes are athletes. Daughters and sisters are no less so than sons and brothers. Go Peanut Butter & Co Twenty12! Get a shorter name!

Flags snapping in the wind, my friends. They make the bitter medicine of life go down easier.

Random Thought C: Commercial break

These Pearl Izumi Select thermal tights I'm wearing on my ride are comfy and toasty.*

Random Thought D: Life is change.

It's official: Jill and her husband are moving away. I am verklempt.

Jill was the one who got me training again, some eight years ago, when she talked me into doing the running leg of a team triathlon. She also introduced me to the joys of cycling, and taught me how to clip in and clip out, and how to fall when I couldn't. She's been a friend, coach, mentor, cheerleader, and on occasion, a swift kick in the butt.

A typical exchange on any training ride goes something like this:

Me: "I'm still trying to get some conditioning back, so I want to take it easy, no risking over-doing it. I need to protect my knee/back/shin/neck/whatever, and not push it too much. Really. I need to go easy. Nice and slow."

Jill: "OK."


Jill: "Want to race to the top of the hill?"

In her honor, here are three of my favorite Bike Garden posts, all of which, not coincidentally, feature training rides with Jill:

"It's 100 degrees in the shade. Can Thanksgiving be far away?"

"I am humbled by the Sunday ride."

"John Deer and I are the same color"

Godspeed, Jill. Kansas is ready for some pageantry.

Random Thought E: Want ad

Wanted: Riding partner. Must be willing to go slow and not very far. Must be willing to listen patiently to my litany of ailments and then challenge me to a sprint up the hill. Must understand that the training ride is really just an excuse to chat about life. Must have a kind and generous nature. Must replace an irreplaceable friend.

*Note to the FTC: I have received no remuneration from Pearl Izumi for saying that I like their tights. Pearl Izumi doesn't even know who I am.**

**Note to Pearl Izumi: Call me.


  1. Yay for Susan :D What a great post.

  2. I love this post. Funny, heartfelt.
    I love your cycling kits and wish I had one. Do they make maternity cycling kits? :)

    Also, I'm kind of shocked to hear you refer to yourself as overweight. That can't be right. I remember a certain professor rocking a sports bra one summer in Montana :)

    I'm sorry to hear Jill is moving away. I'm sure she's equally sad to be losing her training partner, too.

  3. Amen!

    And someday maybe I will achieve the lightness... still working on it. Though we trail runners aren't supposed wear matching outfits ;->

  4. Susan, I have found that age gives you sense of profound satisfaction in knowing that little s!@##head will one day be me if he lives that long.
    I also found that dressing as you please and not giving a hoot what others think leaves a profound sense of freedom and comfort.
    I look forward to your post.

  5. And you say I make you laugh. For pity's sake, I may need depends after reading this. Not really.

    I'm so sorry for your loss. A riding partner can be a metaphor for a partner in life.

    You are not overweight. You are cute beyond believing. I'm joining the gym tomorrow.~~Dee

  6. I kinda feel like I was riding along with you there for a sec, except I am warm inside on a frigidly cold day, laughing and nodding at your post.

    Happy New Year!

  7. Thank you for all the laughs! I hope you find another riding partner. It is so fabulous that you are out there riding! I so admire you for your wit and athletic prowess. Best Wishes for the New Year!

  8. Lovely post Susan. Take that, youngsters! Sorry to hear about your friend moving away. May you find another riding compatriot soon.

  9. Hi everyone--Geez, thanks for your responses. Let me clarify something, though: I call myself "slightly overweight" only in the sense of training and racing (running, not cycling--I don't have the reflexes to race bikes). I am currently 8 pounds over my regular training weight and 12 over my racing weight. Am I concerned about this? Oh, sure, you betcha...enough so that I JUST CONSUMED HALF A PUMPKIN PIE! Ha!

    Truthfully, I'm perfectly happy with my weight as it is, and only mentioned here as an illustration for why no one would ever mistake me for someone who races bicycles.

    Love you all.

  10. What a cute post Susan. I saw it mentioned from two of my facebook friends and thought I would click over to read. I love the part about posing and pageantry. It amazes me the attention people give to what others are wearing, and wether they are worthy or not...please!

    Although, I do tend to shake my head when I see people wearing tank tops or flip flops in below freezing temperatures. It's just not right.

    Good luck to you finding a new riding partner!

  11. I just discovered your blog. What a great post. Sometimes I wonder if I 'ride to eat' or 'eat to ride'! I also 'collect' cycling jerseys from places I visit (just bought a cool jersey as a reminder of a cruise to Alaska this past summer). Keep on posting!

  12. Jayme--Glad you found your way over! I worry about people who wear shorts and lip flops in freezing weather, too...

    Uncle Tractor--Love your name. My husband and I went on a cruise to Alaska, too, and I bought a jersey from that trip as well. They make a great souvenir.

  13. Look at you--you marvelous 50yr old--I hear ya--I'm with you--and you show em! or don't show em...either way--you are in tons better shape than me.

    My favorite part is being 50ish and not caring what anyone thinks....I'm there! yep, I've arrived.


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