I may have mentioned that the building where I now work, at Knorr Brake Corporation is only 7.5 miles from my house. As such, I could not wait to begin riding my bike to work. Riding to work always guarantees a great day. I always feel fantastic after spending a half hour or so, on the bike in the morning. I commuted to work in NYC a bunch of times which was really exciting; blasting up Broadway through the Bronx and into Yonkers. And years ago, from 2003 to 2007, when I lived in downtown Baltimore, I carried out my longest streak of bike commuting ever; four years. I was a machine. I was regularly racing crits and I rode my fixed gear to work in rain and snow; my body was über race-hardened. Very unlike my body today which is … über slug softened.
This week, my first week at the new job has been awesome. Though I do not have my own office yet (I’m waiting for the guy who I’m replacing to retire in June) my temporary cubicle is pretty sweet. The people I work with are awesome and professional. And I could not wait to top all that awesomeness off with the added bonus of riding to work. So, last night I prepped the fixie. Nostalgically, I prepared my bike the night before. I dug out my lights and mounted them to the bars and seat tube. I slapped my fender on; lubed the chain and aired the tires to 90 psi. I blew the dust off my messenger bag and pulled my U-lock from its shelf. After I ironed a set of clothes and packed them neatly in my messenger bag I settled into bed with visions of a chilly but fun ride to work; just like the good ol’ days of my hipster, in-shape youth.
In the morning I squeezed into my winter riding gear. Over the years, my chamois have managed to shrink somehow, but I fought myself into them, like pork into a sausage casing. I wrapped my feet in tinfoil, for an extra layer of wind protection & reflective heat on my piggies. One day, I'll have to break down and buy a pair of booties. As I pedaled out of the porch-lit driveway and into the dark and arctic 14°F morning, my ass and rock-hard saddle, "Rocky", were painfully reunited. “Mamma mia!” I sucked it up and pushed my 48 X 17T combo up the first hill where the road then leveled off gradually, and pleasantly descended through the darkness. Though my ass bones got sore quickly, I got used to it and I settled into a comfy rhythm. Under my face mask, a smile stretched across my already snotty, snorting face as I enjoyed my silent propulsion though the chilly dawn. The fixie is dead silent; no creaks; no chain noise at all. Total silence.
At about mile 4, reality struck; holy crap I’m out of shape. I wondered if any of the passers-by had a set of charged defibrillator paddles in their car. What I thought would be a 25 minute commute began its stretch into a 45 minute pain game. I had hoped to get to work well before my 7:00 start time so that I could hit the locker room, and shower before anyone got there. The goal here was limiting the amount of time I had to be naked in that locker room. The hills and my single fixed gear were working hard against me. They mocked me; laughed at me; became so vane in their very topography. Not only the climbs, which I attacked with all the speed of a slug on a salt lick, but also the descents. I flew down a long steep stretch of Route 27 with a death grip on the bars and flames shooting out of my quads. I thought my legs were going to jettison from my hip sockets and flail off into the bushes along the roadside. My tachometer was redlined as I tried to keep my RPMs down to a leg-sustaining cadence. Oh, how I wished for the freewheeling beauty of my road bike. To coast would have been divine. When I reached the bottom of the hill I was so exhausted, that I was already dreading the imminent Bataan Death Ride that would be my commute home. What have I gotten myself into?
Work ensued. My ass bones taunted me all day. BUTT, it was a great day, and I felt like a warrior for toughing it out on such a chilly morning.
The ride home, surprisingly; nay miraculously, was not as painful as I had imagined. Yes, I climbed the long hill on Route 27 at a walking pace, but I refused to quit. I have walked hills when mountain biking. This I will admit. But, I have never walked a bike on pavement. I couldn't let that happen. I just couldn't let myself be that guy on the side of the road, walking his perfectly functional bike home. I just put my head down and slowly pushed myself home. And, I made it! By golly, I made it!
The road to fitness is a long one, I think I’ll take my road bike.