Sunday, August 13, 2006

Biking Lessons Learned

I have taken two big (for me) rides on this beautiful weekend in preparation for our “Tour de France" in October, which will definitely be laughably shorter and less difficult than the real thing. We won’t even be tempted to dope, preferring instead to take Alleve for sore muscles.

During our 2-week stay in Lourmarin, I picture myself using my rented bike to get baguettes from the village patisserie for breakfast, visiting local vineyards, riding into the country for leisurely gourmet lunches, or perhaps visiting a regional farmer’s market for dinner ingredients.

Yesterday’s trip took me from Capitol Hill to Georgetown for lunch and then back, by way of the Capitol grounds (fantastic sights), the river (never more beautiful), and the mall (thronged with tourists). In addition to affirming my insistence on wearing a helmet, I learned that I prefer any street (even one with Metrobuses) to a sidewalk full of pedestrians. Sometimes they give you killer looks as you politely say “On your left.” I learned that I hate all those posts they have installed for security reasons. I never did well in bicycle obstacle courses as a child and I still have a real aversion to going straight in tight places. This extends to the 2-foot bikeways under some of the overpasses along the river. I actually knocked my rear-view mirror off going through one of those. I learned that the important thing for me is fully taking in the sights and sounds along the way, not holding to a steady pace. I learned the value of those lowest gears for going uphill. I managed never to need to get off my bike and walk it uphill.

Today’s trip was quite different. My husband and I rode from our house to Four-mile Run and back. It’s a great trip going, mostly downhill with a lot of chance to just coast and breathe in the warm but not hot summer air. Then you realize at the bottom of all those hills that the trip home is virtually all uphill – that would be for most of 3 miles. Once again I became a tortoise and just inched up those hills. At one point I was passed by two serious bikers, standing up and pedaling as they talked about being taken out on the inside of curves. They must have looked at me and thought I should be in an old folks home instead of laboring on a bicycle going up that hill.

On both trips I learned the importance of being aware. Drivers are not always watching for pedestrians and cyclists, sometimes being far too absorbed in a cell phone conversation or the loud music from their stereo system. If you can’t see their eyes, they can’t see you. Even a helmet will not save you in many such cases.

But probably the biggest lesson from my weekend on my bike was the reminder of the freedom that it presents to me. From time to time walking is a challenge for me because of some longstanding structural issues with my body. But on my bike, it’s just the strength of my legs that matters, not every little crack in the sidewalk that might cause me to trip. I love riding my bike!


Blogger Kristin said...

Your preparation for travel continues to amaze me. I cannot wait to hear (or read) about the differences between biking in France and biking in the US. You observe so much.

6:05 PM  
Blogger Old Lady said...

In my town bikers aren't allowed on the sidewalks. It should be more bike friendly as tons of people bike especially in the urban areas.

6:48 PM  

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