Monday, September 16, 2013

No Ride Too Short?

Ready to Ride
You know how these things go. You get ready for a ride. You get dressed, fill the water bottles, top up the air in your tires, stuff your phone, money and snacks into your pockets, drag your bike outside. 

You're excited, because maybe it's been a while. Like maybe you've had the flu and moved house all in the same week. Like maybe life has been nothing but chaos, and your lungs have been filled with fluid, and you've been lying on the couch in a bleak coastal village in Northern Ireland with the wind howling outside, wondering what will become of you now and weeping into your mug of Ovaltine whilst watching that trippy advert of hedgehogs enjoying a pizza on Sky TV (they took medication to manage their lactose intolerance, and now they are so happy, so happy). And you've been missing your bike with a feverish madness, running your fingers along its sleek top tube with longing on your way from sofa to bathroom and back. 

But those dark times are in the past now. Because you're finally feeling good and you've managed to get it together to make time for this ride, and you're ready to go. You've maneuvered your bike through the maze of tiny rooms and awkward doorways and narrow hallways in your new dwelling (which is the antithesis of open-concept in design - a fact you normally love, except when it comes to getting the bike out of the house). And now finally, finally you get out the door and set off.

And a short while later, you come right back. Because this ride just ain't happening. You deny it at first, even though your bike is getting blown all over the road and you see the local air field has cancelled its flights for the day. You deny it even though the skies - blue and sunny above your house - have turned black as soon as you've crossed the railroad tracks. You deny it even as large chunks of hail start to hit your helmet a minute later. You deny it and push on, determined to ride your bike on this day. Only when the wind grows so strong that you are barely moving forward and can hardly stay in your lane around the bends of the A2, do you give in all at once and admit it's over.  

Rolling up to my front door less than 30 minutes later, I ask myself this question. What constitutes the difference between a non-ride, and a very short ride? In that much-quoted tome Just Ride, Grant Petersen assures us that no ride is too short, and I find the idea inspiring. But what are we talking about here - 10 miles, 5 miles, 1.7 miles? Is it a matter of the difference between what you plan to do and what you actually do? Or is it a preparation time to riding time ratio?

Well, no matter. Because damn it, I am calling this one a ride. It was certainly short, but it had a bit of everything: climbing, descending, epic weather, ruddy cheeks, exhaustion, even a tiny patch of dirt. So why not. I will leave the big miles for next time, but for now I am just glad to be back in the saddle.

46 comments:

  1. Ah, dear Velouria, to paraphrase Judith Viorst*, some days are like that, even in Ireland. To quote my mom, "This too shall pass."

    As for short rides, I recall my childhood on a Canadian prairie farm: when each child reach school age a new (used) larger bicycle would be acquired for the eldest and all bicycles would be handed down so the newly-six-year-old child would have a two-wheeler to ride the dirt roads to school. (The family tricycle would be handed down to the younger child, now no longer condemned to walk … possibly while pushing a pram.) From the moment we learned to stay up on that wobbly first bicycle, it was a point of honour that we never walked anywhere. From spring thaw to the first big snowfall our bicycles were left leaning against the back steps at night, to be mounted in the morning to get to school, to cross the farmyard to the barn, to go to the outhouse… We rode to visit the neighbours on our bicycles; we chased cattle on our bicycles; we brought in firewood on our bicycles; I think my oldest brother brought in pails of water slung over his handlebars (but being an Oldest Brother he he was all-powerful and could do anything).

    At 65 I still commute to work on two wheels, and my wife and I do our weekly grocery shopping by tandem bicycle with a trailer hooked on behind.

    Nope, there's no such thing as too short a ride.

    ~ David

    *in Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

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    1. Sir, you absolutely win this one. When I steal this tale for my memoirs I'm going to just substitute Spindizzy for David and S. Texas for Canada and deny I ever read this blog. You and your sibs must have been rock-hard, sounds like you could still rip the arms off the typical Fixter bare handed.

      Cheers...

      Spindizzy

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  2. Plan vs. realization.

    In the evenings a bit before bed, I like to ride up the driveway, up the 1/4 mile of dirt road out to the rural highway and just roll on the pavement for a while, listening to the night sounds. See if there is any aurora that night. Listen for owls or whip-poor-wills talking. And just roll around making figure 8's on the pavement. Back to the house 10 minutes later. Very satisfying if it's all I meant to do.

    But plan a long ride and "only" do 30 minutes. Hard not to feel cheated.

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  3. Numerous times I've ridden my bike to the coffee shop two blocks away just to be on the bike. And I felt satisfied.

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    1. I'm with you, Don. Every day offers a ride and I count it as so even if it's only to the coffee shop and back. Because I've only got the one bike and it's the one I love, just getting outside and pedaling, no matter the distance, makes me happy and provides a spark of energy. Distance simply does not matter. I can see if one has multiple bikes and one of them is specific for long and fast rides it may be easy to discount the other kinds of riding...

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    2. Ah! Somebody with their head on straight!

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  4. The first time I got on my bike after my surgery, I pedaled only a couple of blocks. I still think of it as a ride because it was the beginning of the journey called "the rest of my life."

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  5. The way I figure it, a ride too short for me to bother with Strava is not a ride, it's a utility commute.

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  6. If you're writing about Sunday, Velouria, spare a thought for the pros on the Tour of Britain. Scottish borders, same weather. At least they're getting paid for it. I'm in between, on the west coast of Scotland, and I'm ashamed to report I didn't go out. You tried! So in future, for me, it's an obligation. A gesture, even. Regardless of the weather, I go out. Promise!

    (No offence, but ever since finding this blog, some of my cycling efforts have been 'incentivized' by the thought, if that burd from Massachusetts can do it, so can I! Except I can't, or I haven't so far, but I'll continue to try. You're a proper source of inspiration.)

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  7. ANY DISTANCE on your bike after an illness qualifies as a ride! and btw that Dill Pickle saddlebag looks perfect on your bike!! What a great design!

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  8. Crosswind and Ksyrium bladed spokes - they are mortal enemies!

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  9. My iPhone app showed I hit maximum heart rate briefly and that most of morning ride was in upper end of heart rate rather than moderate, all because of the wind.

    Your post really shows how much we cherish the experience of the bike and who we are when we are on it. Thanks! Jim Duncan

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  10. If your posterior was in the saddle it was a RIDE.

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  11. Not to intrude, but I hope you're happy and OK. It sounds like there is some backstory...

    You seem very nice and write in a interesting manner on an object of shared affection - bicycles and riding.

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  12. For some new cyclists, or those recovering from an injury, a 10 mile or 5 mile ride IS a long ride. I took up bike riding to rebuild muscle mass in my quads and 1.7 miles is a little over my longest ride so far.

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  13. Your effective mileage increases geometrically with linear increases in windspeed above 10 mph. And if you are riding a fixed gear and your route is hilly, you multiply by an additional 1.75.

    You *are* still riding fixed???

    Many of my rides are short -- and fixed is perfect for this. Just now, feeling ill disposed to work, I took a break to run errands -- PO and grocery store. By car the round trip is about 3 1/2 miles, but I always add at least a 7 or 8 mile detour and, with the wind and hills and, on the way back, 11 1/2 miles rt, the last 3 miles with a 25 lb load, it all added up to the equivalent of a metric century. I think. At any rate, it was fun, especially when it all combines to give you a mile-long hill with 25 lb load and headwind in a 70" gear -- standing is fun!

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    1. If you let all the air out of your tires you can claim another .5 on your conversion ratio. You *are* still riding pneumatic???

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    2. I am still riding pneumatic, well most of the time. Sadly I do not have a fixed bike with me.

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  14. when I was 11, I broke my leg. I could not ride my bike. 6 weeks later, when I got the second cast, below the knew, I shouldn't have ridden but I did: I coasted on one pedal to the end of the driveway, then pushed it back. It made me smile, so I did it, and that was enough. Posterior wasn't even in the saddle, but the wheels rotated under me...

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  15. the only thing i don't count as a "ride" are the spins around the front of my house as i dial in adjustments. Everything else is a ride, even if it's 500 feet around the block as i recovery from yet another visit to the Ortho his surgical team.

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  16. Even a short ride is better than not riding at all and it may change your day :-)

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  17. I don't mind a short ride, but if I spend a lot of time getting "suited up" for it, it can feel like a lot of effort for very little payoff. On the other hand, I feel very satisfied when I go for a ride that's no more than a few short miles in regular clothes -- especially if that ride lets me do something that most people would otherwise use a car for, like picking up a few things from the grocery store, or some carry-out dinner.

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    1. Agree here, wholeheartedly. I've found that with the right saddle and proper setup (a mysterious art in itself) I can get away with street shorts and shirts for 30-40 miles, no problem, and this is riding energetically in a "road bike" position. So, no padded shorts, jersey, gloves, glasses, helmet, though I do wear the necessary shoes for my SPD and Look Keo pedals. And no lock, often, since I just wheel my bike into the store or PO.

      I save the bike kit for longer, pleasure-only rides.

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  18. I vote for "it all counts". Twice now, I've fully intended to commute to work, but things didn't cooperate and I only had time to the grocer's for milk (a whopping HALF mile away), which means I probably spent more time locking and unlocking my bike than riding. And still? Happier to have done it than not.

    I recently overcame a vacation-allergies-turned -nasty-cold-then-100-degrees-outside bout of not riding. You seize the opportunity when you can, even if it is for a short ride.

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  19. Every ride counts. You have inspired me to ride again after a very long time away from my beloved bicycles.
    Thank you for every post, hint, suggestion, critique, idea and thought that you have shared.
    PS. Wish I were in N. Ireland sipping tea after a ride.
    Kit Mitchell
    Wellesley, MA, USA

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  20. I'm on board with the "any ride is a ride" crowd.

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  21. grant doesn't kiT up you do big diff.

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  22. You cannot lie to your heart; that wasn't a ride. You can tell because you returned with the question.

    Had it been a ride, there would be no question. Time, distance, speed, intensity; they're just metrics, data. We all ride on different drivers, different daemons and motivations, but simply put, were you for a moment, satisfied? Therein lies the ride.

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    1. well said. You remind us that we are all giving OUR opinion of what constitutes a ride. She deserves our sympathy.

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  23. So, Is it a date if you just meet your girlfriend for a bagel on your way to class? What if you just walk to the mailbox together when you and your husband go your separate ways on a dreary workday, or go to the same cafe every Sunday for brunch because your favorite Ex does too and you can depend on that one strong hug and occasional slap on the fanny once every 7 days...

    If you love your bike it's sort'a like that. At least for me. It counts.

    If your bike is just a tool for maintaining your BMI or the only way you can afford to get to the grocery store than it probably doesn't "count".

    Spindizzy

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  24. Something is wrong with seeing biking as doing "rides." I think it connotes an obsessive emphasis on achievement.

    Sometimes "hike" is used the same way. Achievement hikers speak and think more in terms of miles, elevation gain and difficulty than in terms of place, destination and route. For such achievement hikers, a few miles is not really a hike. Seven or eight miles and a couple of thousand of feet gain is an "easy" hike. You don't really have anything to speak about unless the easy hike was dangerous. On the other hand, if one hikes twenty miles, and climbs 7000 feet, or "bags" a difficult peak, then one can say (boast) that one has done a "hike" even if all one did was to walk a trail. It is the same thing with biking among achievement oriented "ride" doers.

    If an achievement oriented hiker turned back in thirty minutes, they would say "I went out for a hike but had to turn back." A destination oriented hiker would say, I wanted to spend an hour or two on the mountain, or following the creek, today, but came home sooner because the weather was too bad to stay out so long. But the wind and the hail were marvelous."

    In the poem, The Idiot Boy, Betty Foy asked her son Johnny where he had ridden all night. He replied,

    "The cocks did crow to-whoo, to-whoo,
    And the sun did shine so cold!"
    --Thus answered Johnny in his glory,
    And that was all his travel's story."

    I think it is in the spirit of Wordsworth's poem, The Idiot Boy, that Grant Peterson has suggested to "just ride." Her son rode all night long, and never thought of it as a "ride" at all.

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  25. I let my cyclometer determine if it's a ride. I like that, to it, epic, or hills, dirt or the clothes I'm wearing are meaningless. Even when it seems I'm not riding so much it flashes it's numbers at me to reveal the opposite. It's very encouraging ;)

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  26. Any more words on how the brooks cambium holds up? i tried to look for your review 2-3 weeks later and found nothing.

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    1. Not yet. I've given it to some local riders to try.

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  27. The crucial part of the question: "...is it a preparation time to riding time ratio?"

    If, by preparation, you mean whatever you had to do to get over your flu symptoms and clear your schedule for a few minutes, that's one thing. But if, by preparation, you mean donning your cyclist-uniform ("kit"), then the Velouria of yesteryear is truly dead. Who kits up for a wee jaunt on the bike? That's more shameful than a 1.7mile "ride". For the record, a 1.7mile ride is only shameful if you thought you had to change clothes for it.

    I'm holding out hope that I've misread the question, but the opening paragraph is pretty ominous: "You get ready for a ride. You *get dressed*, fill the water bottles, top up the air in your tires, stuff your phone, money and snacks into your pockets, drag your bike outside..."
    I get dressed every day, whether I'm riding or not.

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    1. When I set off on my roadbike on what I think will be a non-stop 40 mile ride over some mountains, I of course like to wear my regular clothes. By which I mean my wetsuit, zebra-print robe, gas mask, and spike-heel slippers with SPD cleats.

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    2. As one does...

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    3. I prefer power grips b/c it means there's no attaching of cleats on the soles of my slippers.

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  28. It bothers me when much chamois slime was applied, and I return home with most of it intact and requiring removal.

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  29. Every bike ride involves two flights of stairs up and two flights of stairs down. And I hate carrying my bicycle up stairs. I think it takes about three miles of riding to make up for the hate I feel for carrying my bicycle up stairs.

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  30. Back to commuting to Midtown NYC from Brooklyn after 2 weeks vacation. Swore to myself I was going to ride a lot to interesting places and meandaneur here and there and eat at places I always pass but never have a chance to stop at.
    Had 3 rear wheels needing attention and said to myself I'll take care of them all first thing.
    So there I was 9:30pm last night, at the bitter end of vacation swapping out spokes and remounting tires on useable wheels.

    Hadn't even seen my bikes for 2 weeks. Was mad about mismanaging the vacation time (of all the ways to think about time off !).

    The docks at my marina are .25 - .3 miles long and a lot of people have lock bikes to go back and forth. If I rode 2 miles at the marina on pitching docks does that count as a ride? hahaha
    Sadly I look on some of the bikes as tools to get to work. The motorcycle is a tool to fit in hard parking spaces. Fun? What's that??

    Anyway, rode the 11 miles in this morning. Glad to have fun, ... on the way to work.

    The MS Ride will be "fun" with this extra weight and loss of tone.

    Feel better, ... it was a "recovery ride"!

    Victor K.

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  31. I seem to have that cold and if I could go for a 1.7 mile ride I'd be glad and call it a ride. I'm in the 'if you rolled on two wheels it's a ride' camp. But its sure disappointing to be forced home early, sorry you didn't get the ride you'd hoped after getting all suited up in your wetsuit and gas mask :-)
    Mark

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  32. I once thought 20 miles was the minimum distance for getting kitted up. Now I just ride my do-almost-anything bike any distance, just with different clothes, usually shorts over old bike shorts with tops appropriate to the weather, for as rides as short as 2 miles. I'd consider hotter if I had a reason to ride it.

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  33. Did your notion of ride change? I've been reading this blog for a few years and remember all the posts about riding in your neighborhood. Problems in winter, roads with heavy traffic, riding to the studio (and what to do when you had too much to carry (zip car?)). The articles on the latest bike you got to ride and review. Were those not rides? Did your notion of ride change? Then you started group rides, clipping in, long rides, clothes and equipment needed. Did your notion of ride change?

    I commuted to work today, 2.4 miles and it was a ride. Tomorrow a group of friends will go out at lunch and do maybe 12 miles at 14 mph pace, lots of talking and catching up. It will be a ride.

    I agree with anyone who says, seat in the saddle, wheels turning, its a ride.

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  34. When one has kids, as I do, you will go on many rides of less than a mile, or perhaps a handful of miles, and they will be rides. Everyone's excited and, hey, these rides can take really long!

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  35. Whenever I get fidgety from too much of being inside, I nip out to pull out any of my 7 bikes and saunter down the drive and back, just to feel the lovely old familiar feeling of being on a bike again. This isn't bad I guess after almost seventy years of cycling.
    The distance? About thirty metres! It doesn't matter if you love bikes.

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