Today, I rode a bike.
Not a spin bike. A real bike, with those curly-looking handlebars and real gears that shift.
It was awesome.
I hope you are prepared to hear every single detail about my morning ride.
So remember on Monday when the hip/knee/shin/cholera doctor told me that maybe I should chill on the running slightly for a few days and engage in some lower-impact activities? As much as I wanted to slap and dismiss him, I decided to take his advice. He has a medical degree and, I know this is shocking, I do not. (I did, however, minor in Spanish, so if you need a translation for some Enrique Iglesias music, I can help you out. In fact, I’ll help you right now: Enrique is saying, “I love you, Ali, let’s dance, let’s shimmy, mambo, passion.” Always. That’s what he’s always saying.)
What was I talking about?
Don’t run today, be able to run forever. I swear I repeat this to myself 600 times a day. Sometimes out loud. Sometimes I call random strangers and whisper it over the phone.
No. I don’t do that. Anymore.
I love spinning, you know this about me. I love making my legs get all whirly in a dark, sweaty room with loud music. Really, I dig it. It’s a workout I’m very much on board with.
But the Wednesday morning spin class at my convenient gym is the one with the crazy instructor I’m not so fond of, and now that it’s springtime it hurts me to think that I can’t be outside in the morning.
Rent a bike.
When I started dating Brian, I knew he was a cyclist. I thought that was cool, though I had no desire to straddle a bike myself. I’d stick to running, and he could engage in the groin-busting activities. All set with that, thanks.
Then Brian started running with me, and that was great, but now he’s back on the bike, training for a century ride (100 miles!) in June.
And lately, Brian has been suggesting I take my quads from the spin studio to the open roads. I believe his exact quote was, “For what you’ve been spending at SoulCycle, you could have bought a real bike by now.”
He thinks he’s good at advertising, but I see a future career in finance for him.
Last night I went to a bike shop conveniently located around the corner from my apartment, and I was all, “Hi, I want to ride a bike.”
The customer service man asked if I wanted a “hybrid or a something else I forget” and I said I wanted the one with the skinny tires and the fun handlebars. He found one that was cool and then brought me outside to “hop on.”
Let’s get serious for a second: I’ve been riding bikes my whole life. I grew up as part of a very active family, and we all had mountain bikes and we used to ride them all the time. We’d go camping and one time we went on a crazy bike ride through a river and my dad had to drag me through the water on my bike because I was small and really, Dad, biking through a river? That was a weird day, but I survived it. Becky, you remember this, right?
So I’m not afraid of biking by any means. I’m quite comfortable on a bike.
But these bikes are different. I didn’t plan to ride with the clip-in shoes, but I was still nervous about popping a tire (they’re so skinny!) and shifting gears, since the gears look and feel totally different than the ones I’m used to up in New Hampshire with the big bikes.
Also, riding in Central Park didn’t terrify me, but getting there, on the crazy NYC streets with the cars and pedestrians and runners who don’t look both ways before crossing the street — that was overwhelming to me.
I told the bike shop man I didn’t need to ride around his little bike shop area and that I’d “figure it out in the morning.” He seemed super confident that I wasn’t going to crash his bike. He also delivered the most dramatic eye roll of all time when I asked him if my helmet was adjusted OK and if it “looked cool,” when apparently I had it on backwards.
Now I know.
The hardest part of the whole experience ended up being getting the bike into my apartment. I had to carry it up the building stairs, get it through the two double doors in the entryway and then up another flight of stairs and into my apartment that is currently a mess of boxes and crap. I’d say that entire process took roughly 16 minutes.
Around 9:30 PM — prime darkness time in NYC — I packed a little backpack and brought the bike outside to ride the 10ish blocks to Brian’s apartment. I was nervous at first since I still didn’t really understand how the shifting of the gears would work, but Brian said to just “ride with traffic and be careful.” So I did that.
And hey, 2nd Avenue subway construction, thanks for being so fun to ride around. That was cool.
I made it to Brian’s in one piece, though, and I was on an immediate biker’s high.
I loved it.
I was so excited to go to sleep and wake up and do a real ride.
Now we can talk about the actual bike ride. Sorry it’s taken so long to get to this point. I’m really excited. Bikes! Cycling!
Today was an “active recovery day” for Brian, so it was the perfect time for me to tag along. I basically said I just wanted to follow him, get comfortable and cruise around the park for a while. Of course breaking a sweat would be a nice bonus, but mostly I wanted to be hanging out outside, taking in Central Park a little differently than normal.
Brian hooked me up with front and rear lights and adjusted my helmet so I was all secure. I wore way more layers than I would while running, and I’m glad I did — that wind is chilly on the bike!
I don’t have cool bike riding clothes. I wore compression socks, capris, shorts OVER my capris, and a bunch of layers on top. Most of my clothes are packed for the move. This stuff worked just fine, even if I don’t look legit.
So then we started to ride. I followed Brian and he was very helpful with his hand signals and his instructions. He’d tell me when to start moving over and gave me plenty of notice before turns. So Brian, I guess if advertising doesn’t work out, and then the finance thing doesn’t work out, you can be a cycling instructor! You’re good at it.
As soon as we turned into Central Park I felt like a kid on Christmas and Hanukkah, which is accurate because growing up I celebrated both. Not because I’m greedy — because my parents had “mixed religions” and were diverse.
I had little fears — that I’d be the slowest rider out there, that I’d get in someone’s way, that I’d turn a runner into a speed bump — but they were eased pretty immediately. Biking is not as scary as I thought. It took me a a full loop of the park to get comfortable shifting gears, but eventually that started to feel second-nature, too.
I loved the downhills and the flat parts, and I was psyched that each time I went up Cat Hill I was faster than the time before. I also didn’t find Harlem Hill terribly challenging, which is cool, but I also wasn’t breaking world records blazing up it.
I didn’t have the clippy shoes or cages for my feet, so Brian was constantly telling me to adjust my feet. Apparently I was riding too much with the pedal under my arches instead of under the balls of my feet. Or the other way around? I don’t know. I forget. I’m a terrible listener.
But what I do know?
I had a stinkin’ blast riding around Central Park this morning, and now I really want to own a bike. I’m sad I have to return my Trek to the store tonight.
Riding with Brian was also a great way to catch up. We’ve had a crazy busy couple of weeks and haven’t seen too much of each other, so it was fun to ride together and chat.
By “chat” I basically mean I was asking, “Is my form OK?” every two seconds, and Brian responded by singing lines from “Party Rock Anthem.” I guess our relationship works because we are such good communicators. Always on the same page.
We ended up covering 18 miles in a little over an hour. I don’t know if that’s good. It was a recovery day for Brian, so I’m going to go ahead and assume I am a “slow and/or average rider.”
I didn’t get back to my apartment smeared in sweat like after a hard run, but I did feel giddy happy and all blissed out and stuff. Plus, biking was way easier on my stomach. Even though I’m mostly back to “whatever normal is” in that area, sitting on a bike is much gentler on the insides than running. On the crotch-area? Not so much. Ouch.
It was fun doing several loops of the park and getting to see so much, though, despite the bit of crotchal pain. Definitely a nice change of pace that I would love to make part of my regular routine.
Question: Does anyone have, like, $1,000 I can borrow so I can buy a fancy bike? Also, I won’t really be borrowing it, because I don’t intend to pay you back. Let me know! Great, thanks.
And now, because I am clearly in a wonderful mood (Remember when I was a crazy bitch on steroids? That was fun for everyone!), how about another giveaway?
It’s chilly in NYC today, so maybe, regardless of where you’re located, you’d like some legwarmers to keep you cozy?
I love these legwarmers. They’re wicked soft and cozy and they are obviously stylish because they have multicolored polka dots on them. They are new, unworn, sweat-free and straight-up delightful. They are also versatile, as you can see. You can wear them running. You can wear them to and from the gym. You can wear them to meet your boyfriend’s parents for the first time. You can wear them to an ’80s-themed party. You can definitely wear them to a black-tie wedding.
Want ’em? Let me know.
HOW TO ENTER: Leave a comment and tell me you want the legwarmers. That’s easy enough, right? I’ll pick a winner at random tomorrow (Thursday) at 9 AM. Good luck!
BONUS ENTRY: If you buy me a bike, you automatically win the legwarmers. Such a good deal, I know.