Thursday, June 02, 2011

Bike Commute 2011 - Day 19 Practice

Practice makes perfect, but repetition breeds complacency.

I would have thought that by now I'd be very good at this whole bike riding thing. I commuted 30 times last year, 19 times this year. I estimate that I've ridden 288 miles so far this year and at least half again that many last year.

Yet I feel like I'm still at the novice stage. I'm more wobbly than I think I should be on the straight away and when I look behind myself. When I stop I sometimes get off balance. I could have sworn that I was a lot better when I was young and my bike was my vehicle, my mode of transportation. Maybe I just don’t remember the bad things.

I wonder when I'll get really good at this. I wonder if I'll get really good at this. I wonder if I've reached a plateau. I wonder if I want or need to get really good at this.

I mean, I don't want to race, that's not my goal, I'm not in any competition and I don't want to be. Why am I concerned about being good at it?

My biggest concern probably should be, am I safe at it. I think I am. I think I know what I'm doing and I'm at least as safe, if not more so, than when I drive. I certainly pay more attention and I'm more aware of my surroundings.

I'll have to focus on practice without complacency and hone my safety skills.

IN (1 Jun 11)-

Warm and clear this morning. Started very early but the gate was open.

Seemed slow, but it was actually only 34 minutes. Maybe it's because I lubed my chain last night. I also put air in the tires and tightened my back brakes. The back brakes are still too loose though and I may have to replace them.

I have noticed a few things before, but I hadn't mentioned them. One is that I don't cast my own shadows. What I mean is that I know when a car is coming up from behind me because I can see my own shadow on the street signs and the street. It's not possible to cast that shadow with my own lights since the white ones are all facing forward from in front of me. It's a little thing, but sometimes in the mornings it my big front light is so bright it seems like a headlight to me. I can tell when it's not me and a car, which I think is pretty important.

The other thing is that the white lines are quieter. Early in the morning it's so quiet that the only sound (other than birds and frogs) is my tires on the road. When I ride on the white lines it is quieter than on the bare asphalt. I'm guessing that it's less rolling resistance, but it takes a bit of balancing to stay on it which may offset the resistance advantage.


The big thing going home was going to be the wind. I didn't check, but it seemed like a hundred mile an hour west wind right in my face. It was one of the hardest and longest rides home I've had in a very long while.

I say that was going to be the big thing, except for one tiny little thing that really caught my interest in a big way. A squirrel hit me.

I was riding along on the trail and I saw a small brown thing in the middle of the path. At first I thought it might be a very old tennis ball that had gotten muddy, but as I approached I saw that it was a very small squirrel hunched over. I thought it was dead because it didn't seem to be moving at all.

As I came up beside it so that my front tire was just to the right of him I said, "Hello Mr. Squirrel." I guess he didn't hear me or smell me coming because he jumped as if he had had no idea I was there. He turned right and ran into my front tire.

I was moving so after staggering back he dashed right again, this time between my tires and under my pedals. I was afraid I might have run him over with my rear tire, but I looked back and he was darting into the underbrush.

I've never seen a squirrel startled before. They are usually so nervous and twitchy that they are sort of pre-startled and so ready to move that they seem to anticipate any danger. I've seen them scared on the road and not know the way to turn, but sneaking up behind one and basically saying, "boo" and having it work is a new one on me.

I guess it was my own fault for not ringing my bell earlier and passing on the right.

It does serve to remind all of us bike riders just how quiet and invisible we really are. I think that squirrel is going to be on my mind every time I wonder if a car driver sees me.

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