It’s Never About the Bike, Except When it Is

Yesterday Ms. H. and I cycled through three Detroit-area Metro parks on a 26-mile bicycle ride. A paved, mixed-use bicycle, roller blading and walk path connects the Lower Huron Metropark, Willow Metropark and Oakwoods Metropark. For a period of time this path parallels and provides access to the I-275 trail.Willow Metropark

This is our second time on this trail. The more dynamic rides occur in the Lower Huron and Willow Metroparks as the paths follow the meandering Huron river. Much of suburban Washtenaw and and southwestern Wayne county is either boring or simply ugly. I am continually reminded, though, how a short drive away from any of these areas and I find myself in farm country, with a river not too far away.IMG_0304

There are several points where we must stop for cars, but the vista is broad enough I find it easy to spot the cars and unclip from clipless pedals with enough time to spare.

Willow Metropark LakeThe highlight of this continuous path is, for me, the visitor center at Willow. The lake is spectacular. The area quiet. We sat on the grass for about ten minutes and ate a carb fest of sesame sticks from the Trader. If for no other reason than I can ingest massive amounts of carbs, I cycle. Yes, my arse will hurt and it did last night. But getting out into the sun and moving – and doing both with Ms. H. – make the pain worth it.

trader joe sesame sticks
The bike caused more pain for me yesterday than Thursday, when I was drenched by a steady flow of rain enhanced by several showers courtesy of rain drenched trees. This particular bike has been problematic since I bought it. Within my first seven miles of purchasing the bike I had an accident, which resulted in a broken right elbow and thumb and a cracked mandible requiring 18 stitches on my chin.

The bike, a Raleigh C700, has a very grabby front brake. I pulled too hard on the left brake and went over the handlebars. That was in 2004. I’ve only ridden it about eight times in the ensuing nine years. Last year I fell hard from my Townie. I experienced a trashed tire tube I wanted to replace myself. As luck would have it, the tire failure occurred within a few days of the Tour Detroit 2012. So I pulled out the C700 and found the bike a revelation.

C700 RaleighThe lightness and manuaverbility as compared to the Townie helped me to see the bike in a new light. My renewed confidence of the bike came about because I had learned some solid bike handling skills while on the Townie. The importance of learning these skills cannot be overlooked. When I had my accident I was wearing helmet. But if I had some core bike handling skills within my reach I would not have pulled as hard as I did on the handle. Helmets are helpful. Sending anyone out on a bike with a helmet and no skills is rather like putting someone in a car, telling them to buckle up and good luck!

These skills have proven invaluable as I commuted to work on the Raleigh this past week. The more I ride the bike the more I don’t like it. The geometry is uncomfortable for me. The aluminum construction makes every vibration that much stronger. I’ll probably purchase an all-steel bike later this summer.

Jay on the bike in the rainIn the meantime, though, I’m committed to commuting to work the 25 miles round trip on this bike no matter the weather. What I learned on the bike is this week is successful bicycle commuting is about preparation and confidence. I could have decided to drive into work or asked Ms. H. to drive me to the bus during the worst of the rain, but I have wanted to be a bicycle commuter in Ypsilanti-Ann Arbor for years. One of the hippest women I know commuted in Ann Arbor in the early 2000s, when the infrastructure was worse than now.

I want to be like her, and what that means is biking in all kinds of weather, taking the time I need if the weather is poor and rejoicing in my middle-aged body for all it has given me and continues to serve me as I attempt to push the boundaries of a physical lifestyle in middle age.

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