The Rural Rider

Contemplations on cycling

Archive for September, 2007

The long road to Chico

An hour into my ride to Chico, turning northwest from Knight’s Landing
on California 45, I know I’m not in Kansas anymore. There aren’t rice
fields in Kansas, I’m fairly certain of this. I’ve crossed the mouth
of a slough feeding into the Sacramento River and then I’m down off
the levee and riding with rice fields on my right and tomato fields on
my left. I don’t think tomato fields play a large part of the Kansas
agricultural economy either. In the slanted morning light the Vaca
Range lift tall and distinct to the west, a bank of cloud rises
ominously along their far north-western flank, threatening for the
afternoon’s ride, perhaps.

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Two Rides

Early on Friday morning as I turned west onto Road 29 I found myself behind a trio of massive farm machines making their way to the next field for whatever task they were designed to perform. Making about 15 MPH, they were going slower than I wanted to go but would take a bit of effort to pass. Also, at 8:30, there was a lot of traffic on the road, mostly on-coming but sometimes passing. So I hung back until I crossed Road 98 and then carefully passed each of the behemoths in turn, making sure someone in a hurry wasn’t about to run me down from behind. Then, chased by the evil blades and clashing gears, I fled westward, speed up to 18, then 19 for a while, heart rate rising to 145 then 150.

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I want to write about the joy I find in cycling so maybe I understand why it matters so much to me.

My serious cycling began while I was doing a substantial weight loss program. Starting in January of 2006 I began a nearly 9 month long medically monitored supplemented fast. You might call it a kind of liquid protein diet although it was more complex than that. I began to look for an exercise component that I liked and there was my Peugot PX10 in the garage. So I took it down to Davis Wheelworks, got it spiffed up, and began to ride: slowly and not very far, maybe only a few miles and not even at 10 MPH.

But over time I started to ride further and instead of riding the bike paths inside Davis I began to venture out onto the roads. Davis is an urban island in a sea of farmland and one Saturday I boldly chose to make a 10 mile loop out along the county roads south of town. It felt good and afterwards I felt good. So I began to ride further and then, as I finished the fast, I treated myself to a new bike: a Felt F75. Wow — it was a revelation. My rides became longer but then the weather got cooler. I didn’t have a lot of energy reserves coming off the fast and as winter came on cycling became less important.

But the kinetic part of riding called. In Arizona I rode to Prescott, the first long climb I had attempted. And when I came back to Davis, early in March, the Davis Bike Club was doing their March Madness event – challenging each other to see how many miles could be ridden. I joined the bike club, did 250 miles in the remaining days, and I’ve been riding over 200 miles/mo since then.

Riding has changed the way I drive, the way I travel, the people I know. Maybe I can understand why. And, perhaps, share the passion.

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