Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Rise and Ride


I do not mind admitting that finding itself on a roadbike first thing in the morning is not a circumstance which my body finds natural, or agreeable. That is not to say I am not a morning person. I wake up early and am often at my most industrious in those hours. But that industriousness is mostly mental. When it comes to physical activity my body is slow to wake up. There is a long warm-up process, accompanied by copious coffee-drinking and low-level shuffling before I am ready for anything intense. The earliest I would feel naturally inclined to set off on a spirited bicycle ride is probably 11am or so. But better still would be to wait till the afternoon, when I feel most energetic of all.

Unfortunately, that kind of timing breaks up the day into pieces and isn't great for productivity. It's also difficult to find cycling buddies who can ride at such random hours. So even though I work freelance and in theory have a flexible schedule, more often than not practical concerns over-ride bio-rhythmic preferences. I have been known to set off at 6am with friends who could only ride before going to work - feeling sluggish, stiff and half-awake through the whole thing despite my best pedaling efforts and attempts at good cheer. And I have joined 6pm club rides, growing unbearably hungry for dinner by the second half of the hilly 30 mile route, to the point of visualising roasted chicken rumps in the place of the pace-lining girls in front of me.

Don't get me wrong, I am not complaining. Cycling at a time of day that isn't my favourite time of day is of course far better than not cycling at all. It's just interesting to observe that the body does have its preferences. We may think of ourselves as a morning/ night person and that could generally be true. But what we are on the bicycle might not correspond.

One case in point is a cyclist I know who's a well known night owl. Because he was so used to staying up all night, he assumed he'd be great at overnight brevets but was surprised to discover he could not do them. He may be able to sit at his laptop and go out drinking till the wee hours, put pedaling from dusk to dawn proved somehow different and his body could not cope. A sense of utter exhaustion set in, he explained, when the clock approached midnight and it sunk in he was heading further and further from home with no prospect of rest. Funny, because in me that same realisation instills a sense of calm and relaxation. Pedaling in the pitch black dark I often feel as if my legs are lighter and the tiredness drains out of me. There is an overall sensation of weightlessness that helps me along on the journey as night transitions to morning.

Alas there was no sensation of weightlessness this morning, as I heaved my groggy body onto the bike and pushed off. "You have a busy day ahead, so it is now or not at all," I told myself. And then I pedaled, pedaled, pedaled as if to shake the cobwebs off.

I find it interesting that around here roadies describe their rides in hours rather than miles. "I went out on the bike for an hour and a half this morning," one might say - whereas in the US it would be "I did 30 miles this morning." Oddly, this is the exact opposite from the way people describe driving distances - whereby in the US it would be common to say that a place is "20 minutes away" by car, whereas here they will give the actual distance in miles (or "k"s!).

Because I need to be back at specific times these days, I too have begun to measure my morning rides in hours. As a result, I have noticed I've grown more economical - stopping almost not at all, and pedaling quicker than I feel inclined to, as if attempting to squeeze out milage value. "How much will an hour and a half buy me this time?" I wondered, as the sun warmed me weakly and the pedals began to feel less leaden. It may not be my thing, to rise and ride. But there are worse ways to start the morning!


33 comments:

  1. I love my morning commute to work, and I'm not a morning person. I don't even start with coffee, I just carry it in my thermos and have it when I get to my desk. I arrive feeling invigorated.

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    1. I am fine with morning commuting, if I roll casually in my regular clothes. It's the effort and the donning of cycling clothes that I find difficult to face!

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  2. if I were free and say living on investments in Martinique getting up at 630 for a cycle would be balmy. But I am a slave in cold wet London instead. however, here's my alternative: get a very relaxed geometry roadbike (something like a slightly large b'twin triban will do nicely). then the heretic part: fit a cheap but cheerful pedelec system (something like oxydrive). now there is no hills, or sweat (unless you want it) - the only thinsg left that cant be changed is the weather.

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    1. Oh god, balmy at 6:30 in the morning sounds like my nightmare climate. The temperature in Ireland is actually pretty much ideal for me. Now the bouts of gale-force winds I could do without, but nothing is perfect.

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    2. we do all have different thermostats I suspect, but I strongly recommend a break in the Caribbean, it's way special (specially early mornings).

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  3. Might also very somewhat with the age and life circumstances of the person you are dealing with; when I was younger I took a rather sadistic pride in the number of miles I could crank out after work in a week. Now that I am older, time is at a premium so I measure how long my ride will be by how long it's going to take me. Additionally, I kinda know in my environment how long it's going to take before I am pooped. I still like to know how many miles a route is at least the first few times I ride it, but mostly so's I can gauge time in the future. It also highlights the difference between riding for recreation and riding for transportation, when riding to get somewhere, how long it will take is far more important then how far it is. - Mas

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    1. yes, but this is tricky: being older can mean having loads of effing obligations - and little time for leisure. And an ever shrinking time horizon, and so not wanting to waste time in those long dissociative fugs riding can induce. But then ambivalently another part of me wishes I felt more free to just get lost in those fugs. I mean planning what one is going to do all the time can feel such a complete waste of life too.

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  4. I love night riding -- at least, away from cars. Riding alone, on a country road at night, it feels like I am the only person in the world. It is a mystical experience.

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    1. There are country roads here where I might be the only person around even in the daytime. But yes, at night, when the moon and stars and the occasional aurora are out, it is a different world altogether. Dream scenario is something like this, only on bikes.

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  5. And another advantage of early morning rides: Your photos just don't get that dazzling low-angle sun when you ride in the middle of the day.

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    1. You think so? I actually have a harder time photographing in the morning. But when cycling the light is less likely to be in my eyes than later in the day.

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    2. Taking outdoor pictures of people at high noon can be a challenge. Dark shadows on the face and squinty eyes can be problematic, unless you use fill flash, of course. The above photo has a lovely fresh glow, which I like. To me, it says, "Good Morning!"

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  6. My morning commute is about an 8 minute ride, for better or worse. I also prefer a noon-ish start time with my rides. My body is awake, the air is a bit warmer and I don't have to layer up. I often find those early morning starts really tough to get warmed up, and I hate being cold.

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  7. Last Sunday at the request of my cycling buddy, we started an hour earlier than normal. This was to allow him to attend another sporting event that afternoon. Boy did I resent it. Not my normal behaviour at all but for some reason the early start did not appeal, the interruption to our schedule really irked me. Still I suppressed ,as is normal and turned up fully kitted and enthusiastic. As it turned out we met up with other pals of his who were out at this time and we had a really good ride.
    More competitive than normal, due in no small way to the presence of two new expensive bikes, and a need to keep our end up, in the face of unfamiliar company. Pride and vanity and natural testosterone to the fore. We had a really good time and have agreed to do it all again soon.
    Next Sunday we start at the usual time, I suspect we will be pushing ourselves a bit harder, can't wait to see what happens. I have done a couple of extra miles this week on the QT , just in case !

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  8. So is this your first Rocky moment?

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    1. Can't say for sure that it's the first, but certainly not the last!

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  9. Today's ride, 2 1/2 hours, left at 11:10, returned at 1:40, nearly non-stop, stopping only for traffic lights and stop signs. No cycle computer, when I want to know the distance I retrace the route on gmap-pedometer. Fairly typical since I ride alone on weekdays. First ride of the year in shorts, which was nice, even though it was only 50 degrees F.

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  10. We are strange beasties. The physiological and psychological traits of our bodies often do not make sense. Determined to get out in the fresh air, I did a 23 miler last Saturday and battled headwinds and my own impatience to get round, finishing disgruntled, washed out and cross with myself. I had set out to "do" the 23 miles with the end result already in sight. I really hadn't enjoyed the ride much. I wondered what would happen if I stopped fighting - stopped fighting the wind, fighting the bike and fighting to cover the miles quickly and so I resolved to do the same ride again the next day, last Sunday, with a small shortcut to avoid a long and boring stretch of roadworks along one country lane, this would cut a couple of miles off the Saturday route. I was determined to ride and drop gears whenever the headwinds or my legs started to hurt, even if that meant walking pace. I would take my flask of coffee and park up on a village bench and enjoy the leisure of not hurrying. I would get back, well, when I got back. I eventually got back on Sunday with no aching knees or lungs, I had really loved the ride, I'd day dreamed during my coffee breaks (I took two) and I was ... 15 minutes faster than I'd been on the Saturday! Notwithstanding the slightly shorter mileage, I still can't explain it as I write this now. Maybe I learnt a lesson about bicycles, sometimes they won't be hurried!

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  11. Years ago I had to get up in those godawful hours of 4 or 5 in the morning to take my kids to hockey practice. What I surprisingly saw during the ten mile drive were dozens of individuals, alone, either walking their dogs or jogging. There were no cars on the road (other than hockey parents) and it was eerie quiet while these soldiers marshaled on. Then I remembered, maybe a decade or two earlier, how I'd get up in the dark to cycle several miles to a fitness center in order to work out before heading off to work in a bike shop. So, is it being young or being dedicated and disciplined? I dunno. We all take interesting paths on these bicycles, don't we? Today I took my daily five mile route to the top of a hill (to buy groceries) and I sorta felt like your photo…'Yes, I did it again, I am great!'….But, instead, I just locked up the bike, filled up the panniers, and enjoyed the downhill ride home. ;) Welcome to the tribe.

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    1. In my 20s I used to walk very early in the morning and still remember that particular flavour of ghostly quiet. It wasn't discipline, but more like an anxiety-driven compulsion. I couldn't stay asleep for longer than 5 hours a night back then, and would wake around dawn with a jolt, feeling compelled to walk. It wasn't intense exercise though, more like a wandering. Who knows, in retrospect maybe it was even like a mild form of sleepwalking. Thankfully I'll now sleep 8+ hours a night quite happily if I can and feel quite relaxed in the mornings. I do miss being out in those misty dawns, but I don't miss the anxiety that enabled it.

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    2. That's a whole other and interesting discussion. The first marathon I ran was totally anxiety provoked -- unable to sleep and a need to move -- it wasn't a race, just me moving in the dark for hours at a time. Eventually, clocks came into play, along with responsibilities, and I'm understanding about choices and taking control and still enjoying escapes. Goals are now simple, pleasures embraced, kids now having kids and I enjoy watching them deal with this thing….;)

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  12. Looks like you were not alone on this ride. It's usually sweeter with a companion. Congratulations for yet another milestone.

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  13. I enjoy early morning rides just because there is something special about being out and about when the day is so young and fresh - especially during the long, hot summers here - though I don't consider myself to be a 'morning person'.
    I would never force myself to get out on my bike because for me that would ruin the experience from the outset - then again nor do I conform to a pre-determined ride in either hours or kilometres and as I ride by myself I have no need to fit in with others requirements.
    Those who are still raising children or work full time or for whatever reason, have many calls upon their time, must schedule in riding time as part of their routine.
    The photo of yourself is lovely - and in such a wonderful landscape.

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  14. It's a given in the racing world that how you feel at the starting line has no bearing on how well you race. Having a cold and a temperature of 101 does not make you slow. It might make you quit and it might make you not start but it does not make you slow. It might even make you fast and it often cures the cold.

    Perhaps even more basic, races rarely start on time. A racer needs to be ready to race at the published start time. He also has to be ready to race three hours later when the race finally starts. Then put your feet on the pedals and go. Racing is a distant memory now. Put your feet on the pedals and go continues to work well.

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    1. I was just talking to a friend about this earlier in the day. Racing is so abstract for me, that no matter how many stories I listen to or books I read describing it, I have a hard time imagining it. Seems the only way is to try it. Some day.

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    2. It's all about street cred….You've got to own up.

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    3. The point of my original note up there was to,agree with you. It matters not if it's a race or a trip to the post office. Feet on pedals and go. Then you feel better.

      About racing -- you don't have to. My sweetie has never raced and never will and she is a complete rider. And a great rider. When I bump into Greg in these later years I can spot that guy a kilometer away. Just nothing else is like his pedal action. Unforgettable. My sweetie has a very different style, it's every bit as good. Last year I saw her get hit by a car. Not something I ever want to see. She bounced off the curb, kept the rubber down, chased that driver down at the next stoplight. I have done similar myself, not with the grace and style she displayed. When you are at home on the bike what I just recounted is not so unusual.

      If you race there is bumping and banging. Usually not from excess aggression, usually because the rider next to you is as in over their head as you are. Your bike is a piece of gymnastic apparatus, you are going to perform some acrobatics on it. You do already. Rubbing is racing. If and when you are ready you'll know. And then you still don't have to.

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  15. I do a 30km commute a couple of times a week, leaving just after 4am. There's hardly anyone on the road and it's one of the only times that Sydney actually feels peaceful. I was never a morning person through my 20s and early 30s, but my job requires me to get up early and I've adjusted pretty well. I now even get up around 4 or 5 on weekends for solo recreational rides: the roads are even quieter than weekdays and everything is so still it's just incredible, and watching the sun rise over bushland is pretty special.
    Strangely, I rarely get taken up on the offer for a quick 80km ride followed by a coffee when the cafe opens at 7am...

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  16. I have the awful habit of waking up early - even when I don't need to - but not wanting to do much, when I'm awake. So there's always the mental battle of saying "Yes, we're going to take the bike in to work today and not drive, so chop chop." That I'm commuting on a fixed gear these days makes it a slightly tougher conversation as the gearings a wee bit too tall and mentally I know that in the evening, my and my tall gearing have to make it back uphill to the house.

    A few years back, I was freelance consulting and had a fairly flexible schedule. I found that rides (or hikes, or runs) were best had after 10am, or so (when the schedule allowed).

    Also: "...in the US it would be common to say that a place is "20 minutes away" by car..." That's something I picked up once I moved to the Bay Area. Because normal time to distance relationships went by the wayside when you're on a road that's designed to hold approximately 1/3 less of the cars that are on it, at any given time (that drops to 1/2 at rush hour).

    But off topic: In relation to the picture, how can a place known for it's wet weather have yellow (ostensibly, dead) grass?

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    1. Ah, that would be the mysterious bog. You make a good point and I do not know why it turns yellow (sometimes even blanched-white) in winter, which is the wettest season of all; need to look that up!

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  17. that looks like a brutal landscape. was your choice of bike for this ride based on the course road conditions?

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    1. The gravel surface in the photo is actually a lay-by; the road itself is paved. That said, the "paved" here is more like chipseal, and draggy chipseal at that, with loose bits and oftentimes moss/grass growing down the middle of the backroads. I can do these rides on both narrow and wide tyres. But I ride the fat tyre bike either when I think there will be some genuine unpaved stretches, or when I want to carry my camera, or just because. It's a fun bike.

      The real brutality of the landscape though, is not the road surface or terrain (very hilly), but the wind. Last weekend we did a 30 mile ride in what soon turned into 28mph winds over exposed roads, and nearly a week later I can still feel the havoc that wreaked on my body. I think I overworked every muscle trying to brace myself against cross winds and later battle the headwind.

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  18. I almost allways ride only on weekend in early morning. Because all my familly members are able to sleep until 10AM so when I wake up in six I have about four hours for myself, nobody is missing me. When I am back I just join them with breakfast. And then I can do regular weekend stuff. Anyway I preffer morning to evening, it's optimistic when dark becomes a dayligth. On the other way when riding in evening I'm nervous that I would have to ride in nigth, what I don't like at all. So late afternoon and evening I have somethnig like pesimistic moood and I would rather be at home.

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