Friday, the Thirteenth was my lucky day. My bike shop called to say that my reconfigured Trek Madone bicycle was good to go and ready for pick up. The last time I rode my bike was May 4. Two months ago tomorrow I was injected with Cortisone to reduce the inflammation and the bulging discs in my neck that caused so much pain and forced me off my bicycle in Natchez, Mississippi. At that time I was cycling my way up the Great River Road to the source of the Mississippi in Northern Minnesota with 28 awesome women. Since then my healing has progressed on a reasonable timeline, but not without some challenges and frustration especially for an active person like me. For some consolation I can always think of people who are worse off than I am, so I kept feeling sorry for myself at a minimum. At the same time I was terribly jealous of my girlfriends who were riding their bliss.
Given the positive rate of my recovery, my PT seemed to think that I could start riding after the Fourth of July. When the folks in the shop wheeled out my bike from the storeroom, I winced a little. The plastic surgery they performed did not look very pretty, but they had followed my instructions to a T. The drop handlebars were gone. In its place was a straight riser bar with new brakes and new shifters in a different position, but just like the ones I'd given up almost ten years ago when I replaced my hybrid with a road bike.
Dave warned me that the front wheel might feel a little twitchy since I was now putting more of my weight on the rear tire and less on the front. "60/40 is what the distribution used to be," he said, "but now it's more like 80/20." He told me I needed to be extra careful on descents and on slippery wet roads.
"No worries, " I said, as I walked out the door to go for a spin. As soon as both feet were clipped in and I started to move, I could feel the front tire shake a little. I felt like I was eight years old again and riding a bike for the first time. I wobbled back and forth until I got my balance just right. Oh God, it felt so good to spin my legs again and feel a breeze blowing in my face. Something wasn't quite right because I felt like a klutz. My ego was up front and center. I'm not saying I looked like a racer before, but the drop handlebar position definitely gave me that sense because of the lower position I assumed while riding. I'd never given much thought to my image on a bike, after all I'm 68 years old, but I definitely felt like a newbie. I'll get used to the new configuration eventually, but the ego thing might take more time.
Mike from the shop rode with me for most of my 30 minute ride. He wanted to check me out to be sure I knew how to use the shifters and the repositioned brakes. Of course, I was horribly embarrassed to be breathing so hard, especially since we were riding on Foothill which is very flat. I'd already told another friend I wanted to do my first ride alone, but having Mike along was important so he could see if any adjustments needed to be made. I preferred holding my hands and arms closer in to the center of the bike and not so far out on the outside. "That's easy to take care of," he assured me. "We'll just saw off the ends to make the handlebar length shorter, but not compromise the bar ends that will give you a second position for comfort and climbing hills.
I was breathing hard and sweating a lot because I was wearing a jacket on an 80 degree day. Mike and I chatted amiably as we rode along. I was really pushing and pulling the pedals, but I could tell from the noise coming from his wheels, he wasn't pedaling much. We were going 9 or 10 miles an hour at the most.
My butt felt right at home in the saddle and by the time my ride was up, I'd pretty much figured out how the shifters worked. My neck didn't give me any trouble and my legs felt o.k. which surprised me given how little exercise I've had in the last few months. Later on that day I felt some minor twinges in my neck, but I couldn't tell whether this was from the ride or a new exercise I stupidly incorporated at the gym earlier that day. Today I feel fine.
I don't care what anyone tells me, my bike doesn't look as pretty as it used to. The blue bar tape that matched my bike is gone, replaced by a black straight metal bar that looks industrial and far from sleek. But that's the way it's gonna be and I'll just have to get used to it. But more important than how the bike looks is how the bike behaves and how my neck feels. By the time the 30 minutes were up, the twitchiness of the front tire didn't seem to be an issue. At least it wasn't as noticeable. I harkened back to the time when I converted from a hybrid to a road bike and remembered how quickly it took me to feel comfortable, so I know adjusting to my new handlebars is just a matter of time.