On the DL

It’s taken quite a while to stop feeling like a circus clown on a tricycle in the Tour de France while riding my bike in San Francisco. It’s no secret that the City by the Bay is also the City of Bad-Ass Cyclists, which can be a trifle intimidating for someone who’s been riding for [...]

It’s taken quite a while to stop feeling like a circus clown on a tricycle in the Tour de France while riding my bike in San Francisco.

It’s no secret that the City by the Bay is also the City of Bad-Ass Cyclists, which can be a trifle intimidating for someone who’s been riding for just a few years. Initially, it showed. Used to be that, at stoplights, I’d barely have my feet on the pedals, anticipating the first flash of green, when scores of fixie-mounted hipsters would scream past. I’d have to dismount and trudge, gasping for breath, up monster hills. And the misery wouldn’t end once I arrived at my destination: Locking up my bike used to look like a crocodile wrestling match, and I’d walk in sweating like a whore in church not just from the exertion of the ride but the effort of making sure SF’s notorious bike-theft scoundrels didn’t make off with my wheels.

Things have improved, though, and I’m pretty comfortable riding in traffic, up hills and even at night. I’ve even survived getting hit by a car. (OK — it was more like bumped, and I wasn’t hurt, as some moronic driver backed into my wheel while I was in a crosswalk. But seeing the speechless shock of an elderly passer-by – all she needed was a strand of pearls to clutch — was validation that I’d cheated death.)

And Chris has really ratcheted up his pedal prowess. He’s a bike commuter and rides at least 15 miles, usually more, to and from the train station every day. A few months ago, he tried out for and made a local cycling team (with the awesome name Roaring Mouse) – no small feat in these bike-obsessed environs – and even once slogged through 82 rainy miles from our house to wine country. Here’s what his legs looked like after that journey (and no, he’s not wearing leggings):

We’d always enjoyed riding in Atlanta, but here, it’s become ingrained in our lifestyle. We ride whenever we can: to dinner, to meet our (admittedly few) friends, and, best of all, around wine country. Biking has become something we cherish as a couple (and no, we don’t always dress like such buffoons — this was for a circus-themed ride, a terrific monthly party-on-wheels called San Francisco Bike Party. But now that I think about it, this getup would have perfectly matched my initial feelings of ineptness.).

But, at least for the next few months, biking will be on hiatus, as Chris had an accident about two weeks ago and injured his shoulder. It will require surgery, which is scheduled for next week, and he’ll have at least six weeks’ worth of physical therapy before he can ride again. And while we both know it could have been so much worse – his helmet took a significant ding after he launched over the handlebars – the whole situation just really bites ass.

Perhaps it’s out of compassion for his plight that I’ve ridden exactly twice since his accident. Aside from missing him beside me, I’m amazed (and disappointed) how much bike-specific fitness seems to have slipped from my body in just two weeks. En route to run some errands in the neighborhood, I huffed and puffed like the Big Bad Wolf up hills I’d barely broken a sweat over before. My quads groaned, my calves squealed and my messenger bag felt like I was hauling a bowling ball, and a few self-deprecating thoughts began to bubble up in my brain.

But I quickly silenced them. Because at least I can ride – or run or do yoga or whatever other form of sweat-inducing activity I choose – unlike a sweet, sling-wearing man at home on the couch, watching the Tour de Whatever and biding his time until he’s back on the saddle.

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