Monday, August 10, 2009

Back That Thing Up...

A few months back as the road bike was becoming a reality I found a T-Mobile jersey on E-bay decorated in hot pink flames. I was immediately drawn to this jersey for two main reasons. One…it is bright and I like to fool myself in believing that a motorist will notice BRIGHT colors before decorating their hood with my spandex covered carcass. The second reason….quite frankly, it was bad ass. I sent the link around to a few friends….and one responded, “you gotta be able to back that up!”. I knew what he meant.

Anyone can go out and purchase a bike and just the same, they can purchase a jersey (and all the OTHER crap that goes along with cycling) but this does NOT mean you know HOW to ride a bike. I know what you are thinking…you are thinking back to when you were three, four, or five and the moment your training wheels came off….you are thinking, “I know how to ride a bike Melinda.” Trust me, I thought the same thing….but also trust me when I say this…when you get a road bike in your thirties…you have to learn ALL OVER what you thought you already knew.

When you finally invest in a serious road bike, you have to learn NEW rules. Clip in…clip out…lean with your hips, stand up, sit down and avoid the things that you aimed for as a child like, puddles, mud, and curbs. There are rules for passing, drafting, pulling and hand signals for stopping, slowing, turning, and flatulence (okay, there is no known gesture for this but if you watch the signals for slowing, it would be easy to convince the riders behind you that Mexican night is still lingering). So the rule goes…when you start out on the bike, you have to pay your dues, learn as much as you can and practice as often as you can find time. You cannot come out of the gate and act “badass” , suited up in a badass jersey unless you are truly badass and let’s face the facts…I am not badass….I am still waiting for the training wheels to come off (metaphorically speaking).

A true definition of “Badass” are the guys (and gals) I rode with Saturday. They make a 50-mile ride look like a quick ride to get milk and eggs at the store. While they are making overt sexual jokes laughing out loud-- I am hoping I packed enough food, drank enough fluids and find my not-so-Christian self praying that I can keep up with their pace. While they are pulling on each other’s jersey’s and popping wheelies like teenagers, I am negotiating my cadence and clipping in and out at every red light. Another seasoned rider whose sarcastic sharp wit holds him upright on the bike rode beside and begin coaching me NOT to clip out at every stop light but telling me to pull up slowly and wait for green, the early formations of a track stand and a way to conserve some energy. IT TOOK EVERY BONE IN MY BODY TO RESIST A HABIT I HAVE BEEN DOING ALL SEASON…I could feel my ankle turning at the first sight of a light and then I would hear him bark, “DON’T DO IT!”….immediately like a greenhorn jarhead staring back at his larger than life commanding officer, I would respond, “yes sir” and quickly survey the street that I may be scraping with my elbows soon. But there were no falls….a seasoned rider knows what they are talking about. A jarhead is required to listen and respond accordingly.

I spent most of the ride responding to his yapping orders…”close that gap!”…”get up here”…”lay off those brakes”…and when you are thirty-miles from home and still somewhat worried about bonking, you find you will listen to someone who has been there, someone who knows because your goal at that point is to get home, in one piece, alive and well.

Once home, I peeled off my one and only jersey, a brightly colored Cannondale Volvo jersey that also was found on ebay sometime back. It makes Rainbow Bright look tame. It lacks the “badass-ness” of the T-Mobile jersey with flames but you can’t half ass…badass…

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