Thursday, December 24, 2009

Going Pro

Being a beginner on the bike can at times be multiple lessons in humility as you are often reminded of your place in the pack. If you show up to a group ride in a set of flat pedals, worn out cotton North Face shirt, and a Huffy bike…do not expect anyone to acknowledge you or even take your seriously. From the time you start on the bike, you work to become a better rider and understand a very complex sport. This requires lessons in things you already thought you knew, again and again.

Most new riders start in the spring and summer. These early months establish your skills but it is the winter months that define your dedication. Real cyclists ride no matter what the weather (usually). The most obvious obtrusion to winter riding is the dipping mercury. It slows the muscles down. Ten minute warm-ups turn into an hour, if at all. I believed, as most novice likely do, that this was another one of those aspects that I was suppose to “suck up” and “deal with.”

Rewind to mid-September and on the second morning of the inaugural century ride, I came across a rider sporting the most polished and shiniest legs known to man. They did not look “human” but more “ken-doll.” Most male cyclist shave their legs and honestly, you do get used to seeing it. You fight off jealousy if their legs are smoother than yours. However, this set of cycling sticks were not only hairless, they were darn near glossy. My sarcasm has been known to get the best me and I recently learned that not only did I inquire about the “shine” through the internal dialogue in my head but some of my thoughts spilled out of my filter-less mouth (sarcastic tone intact). I believe I asked, “what’s up with the shiny legs?”

Fast forward to the early throws of winter and while acknowledging that my small legs do not like the cold, I was asked about what kind of emboracation I was using. I like to pride myself on a vast and growing vocabulary but I still had to ask, “what’s embrocation” and I received the logical response, “embrocation is pro.” Lacking the full explanation, I had to inquire further.

The best way to describe embrocation is a lotion, lubricant, emollient that stimulates your muscles and skin….creating a warm sensation…the same as when you swirl a bunch of red hots in your mouth. However, this is worked into your legs, causing a near perfect reflective sheen (the explanation of the glossy, shiny ken doll “like” legs). I admit my skepticism…even after the creator of the jar I was purchasing took 30-minutes of his life to explain the advantages and the appropriate application process (also indicating that my jar was 93% vegan…not sure what the other 7% is). So, I sauntered home with a jar of brightly colored gunk to slather my legs up, carefully trying to remember all the specific details I had been given: (I should have taken notes)

Important details to remember:

1. Apply more than one coat

2. Let it completely dry

3. Apply an oil over it

4. Do not shower with a loofa after

5. Do not use the embrocation as lubricant for anything else (really? Did I HAVE to be told that?)

6. Avoid touching any other mucus membranes on your body

7. Enjoy it!

With both legs covered, dried, oiled and repeated, I went out for a brisk thirty-degree-ish ride. I was sold less than 10-miles in. Winter rides usually extend my warm-ups to 30 or 45 minutes…but thanks to my evergreen scented legs (yes, evergreen), I was warm quickly and consistently. The ride was smooth and I was able to concentrate on the things that matter versus fighting frostbite.

The after ride shower, which is always a welcome ritual, was disrupted by the fact that water “activates” the embrocation a little more. Like match sticks, I found my legs literally catching fire even without the use of the loofa (I can only imagine how bad it would be had I infused my body wash, loofa, and scrubbing action together). I could have roasted marshmallows with my knee caps or seared steaks with my thighs (of which the guy at the bike shop did not warn me about).

While I appreciate such an appropriate invention, more importantly, this is one of those little details that puts me further up the experience chain. It is similar to the day you cycle off your flat pedals or actually learn what a hub is. Honestly, I am pretty far from ever reaching pro but I like the chase. That’s what it is about anyway.*

*What’s next? Booties? Probaby not.

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