Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Cycling Hero

Ministry is not conducive to good health. I mainly sit around and read and think and pray and worry. (One of those is sin, by the way, and I am by no means promoting it.) When I am not sitting, thinking, praying, reading or studying, I am riding around to meet with someone, usually for a meal. None of these things will help to shrink my waistline or give me a healthy heart. So I have to seek out ways outside of work to exercise this body.

One of the ways I seek to do that is through gardening. This year, my garden is 25 feet wide by 45 feet long. That'll keep me pretty busy, and it is a good form of exercise and will be, God willing, a good source of healthy food. But my newest and greatest love, the love for which I have basically abandoned running, is cycling.

There are so many wonderful dimensions to riding a bicycle that I am surprised that more people are not involved in this sport. If you can get past a few pride-killing issues, it is one of the most manly sports I've ever participated in. Let's do the bad end of it first, because I am convinced that if more men could get past this part we'd have more cyclists.

First, there is the spandex. Nothing says "sissy" better than a pair of spandex shorts. After that, there's the goofy helmet you have to wear. It seems to be made of a combination of Styrofoam and plastic. It does not give me the feeling of safety and only makes me feel like an idiot. Then there are the jerseys. You've seen them on the Tour de France...maybe. If you have, you know that they are quite often bright yellow or even polka dotted. And they often fit like, well, spandex. They are not flattering in a manly way. Next thing that comes to mind are the fingerless gloves. These might be manly in the right environment, but in combination with those things mentioned above, they only seem sort of Michael Jackson-ish. The only redeeming factor in this ensemble are the sunglasses. They are sort of like the stinger on a honeybee. There is no way that you get get away with wearing that much yellow without some sort of edge and that is precisely what the sunglasses provide. Just as you are about to laugh at a cyclist for his apparel, he looks at you with those razor sharp glasses and you think, "Whoa. Better not."

I freely admit that all of the above are a little difficult to get past. But if you can get past the outfit, what you will find are manly elements that more than make up for the uniform. Allow me to mention just a few.

First and foremostly, there is the bicycle itself. Mine is a Giant TCR with a combination carbon/aluminium frame, a Compact crank, and Shimano 105 components. Fully loaded that baby weighs in at slightly less than 20 pounds, and the paint job on her is something you really must see to appreciate.

Then there is the speed. My personal best is currently just over 48 mph. I cannot do justice in mere description how much fun it is to go 48 mph in a 35 mph zone on a bicycle. My goal is to break 50, which I expect to accomplish within the next few weeks.

Finally, and probably my favorite part of cycling, is drafting off of other riders. If you get a group of guys in a line and you are tucked in behind a couple of them, you can go the same speed as the lead man with at least 20% less effort. That makes cycling a genuine team sport. By taking turns being the lead man, a group of riders expend far less effort than a single rider and can average much higher speeds. On the last group ride I made, I averaged 15.9 mph over the course of 25 miles. I was, regrettably, dropped from the main group or I would have averaged a little better. I can't keep up with the guys yet being the newbie that I am. I look forward to be a little more competitive. For now, I am content just to be riding.

If you happen to be in the area and see us while you are out driving, remember these tips please: One, give us plenty of space when you pass. Two, we will not be as easy to pass as you think because we'll be rolling at around 20 mph. Three, not every guy in spandex pants is a sissy. I'd wager that most of us could still outrun, outplay, and outdo you even after riding 25-40 miles. If that doesn't convince you, then just look at our cool sunglasses.


St.Lee said...

Brad, thanks for the tips on dressing for riding a bicycle. I didn't realize it was a uniform that you had to wear even if it made you feel silly. Here the past couple of summers I have been doing a little bicycling, but just wore whatever boots I happened to have on, bluejeans, t-shirt, and a cowboy hat. Now I feel silly, finding out that I was out of uniform. Guess I was just lucky the fashion police didn't see me :)

Gerald said...

Brad, my name is Gerald Hodges - I'm a Pastor in Roxboro and a friend of Ben Durand. I've been a cyclist for 8 years - and I agree with all you write. I was hit by a truck last september and am still recovering. It is a silly looking helmet, but it saved my life!! Just ordered my new bike - and can't wait to get some new shorts and get back in the paceline!!
Thanks for a good blog.

Brad Williams said...

St. Lee,



Whoa brother! That's every cyclists nightmare. I'm glad that you are still here to be able to recover. I'm glad to hear that you are able to get back in the saddle. This is precisely why I am buying "highlighter" color jerseys and gloves.

Brian said...

It is a sad day when a man give up redfishing for spandex.