Monthly Archives: August 2012

The debut of the Rubenesque Cyclist

My name is Iris Murasaki and it seems I’ve become known as the resident cyclist on a particular weight loss-related internet forum.  This past year I’ve fielded more and more questions from overweight women who are curious about bike riding as a re-entry to exercise, and eventually I got the idea that a blog might be a good idea.  I polled the women and was overwhelmed at their positive response!  So, here I am.

As a kid I rode a bike everywhere.  I loved being mobile.  I could pop wheelies.  I could jump curbs, both up & down, without fear.  I was a crackerjack at riding without hands.  As a matter of fact, my memory of learning to ride a bike is that I was four years old, and I simply got on another kid’s bike and started pedaling.  Yes, I just did it….but it took me a while to learn how to use the brakes, and I have some scars to prove it.

I rode a bike for a while during college.  I spent the summer of my junior year in Germany, where bikes are common, and when I returned to school in the fall I dusted off my brother’s old Austrian-made three-speed from Sears.  I rode this until I got hit by a car and bent a wheel.  (I didn’t get hurt beyond a few bruises, and I was riding where I shouldn’t have & assume most of the blame, but that’s another story.)  The following year I managed to buy a new bike, a Specialized Hard Rock mountain bike, and I rode that bike all over Pittsburgh for a couple years, until I got a “real job,” bought a car, and moved away.

Fast forward oh, ten years, and I hadn’t ridden a bike in a while.  I got a Specialied Crossroads hybrid around 2003, and started riding to work occasionally, and riding on bike trails.  I really enjoyed it, and I knew I wanted to get more involved with cycling.  I met my husband in 2007, and since he was already a cyclist, he really helped me DO IT.  In 2008 I bought my road bike, a Trek 1.2, and since then I’ve ridden more and more.  I currently ride to work on a Specialized Rock Hopper mountain bike that my father-in-law got cheap at an auction, and my Trek road bike for longer rides, usually with the local cycling club.

Cycling has made my life better in many ways, and I’ll talk about this more on this blog.  But this is enough for now.  I hope that I occasionally will say something that helps you consider taking up bike riding or even become a better cyclist.

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Doctor, should I be concerned?

This morning on my way to work I felt HIGH ON LIFE.

How often do YOU feel HIGH ON LIFE during your morning commute?  I’m talking EUPHORIC.

Well, it’s been happening to me more and more frequently.

I live roughly two miles from my office, but this summer I mapped out a six-mile scenic route that goes through a nature preserve.  I have ridden this way to work almost every day, except when I was running late and had a meeting or other time-sensitive obligation.

I leave my house & head west.  Soon I cross a bridge over a marsh where sometimes I spot deer from the bridge.  At the end of the bridge I turn right & ride a bike path through the woods for a mile (this is the nature preserve part).  At the end of the mile I turn around and go back through the preserve in the direction of work.  There is a very long, not-too-steep ascent that I can take casually, or in a more aerobic fashion.  There’s another two miles on bike path, then I enter a road.  I zip down a hill, negotiate a traffic light, and turn onto campus.  If there’s no traffic, I spend about eight blocks riding hands free down a smooth stretch of road, until I approach the roundabout,  where I usually get that HIGH ON LIFE feeling.    After the roundabout there are two stretches of road that had parking spaces marked with white paint…then the marks covered up with black paint to take the parking away.  Anyway, if there is no car approaching behind me, I slalom around all the parking marks. I feel like a little kid!  I’m having so much fun!

Then I’m at work.  I lock up my bike in front of my building, roll down my pant legs, detach my bike bag from the rack & sling it over my shoulder, and take off my helmet & sunglasses as I enter the building.  Today might be a mellow work day, or it might be a stressful work day.  My time might be all my own, or I might have meetings one after another.  It doesn’t really matter;  I’m already having a good day.

On Not Riding One Hundred Miles

(Reposted from Facebook)

Today I rode my bike 84.5 miles.  My spouse & I did a 72-mile ride with the cycling club, and we rode six miles to and from the terminus.

Among many cyclists, the century ride, or 100 miles, is a badge of honor.  It’s a BFD.  “Have you ever done a century?”  “Susie rode her first century!”  Hip hip…who cares?  Hey, I used to dream about doing a century ride.  And then I did RAGBRAI.  The last day of RAGBRAI 2011 was about 80 miles long, and then we had to ride five more miles to get to our %$#@! bus.  I realized then that 85 miles was a very honorable distance, and that I could live quite happily without ever riding longer than that.

The ride we did today was hard.  Was it hard the entire time?  No!  But it was long enough and had just enough hills to be a challenge.  When we showed up for the ride, Andy asked me which distance we were riding, and I felt very ambivalent!  Long, short…I didn’t know!  My rational mind told me my body could do the 72-miler, but my emotional side was not sure I felt like doing it.  I reached for the 72-mile sign-up sheet because I knew the people & figured I could keep up with them.  As we reached our first break after around 16 miles, I seriously considered ditching the ride, but I didn’t.  I spent a lot of the ride just concentrating on my breath, watching the road ahead of me, and brushing away all the thoughts going through my mind.

I saw some amazing things today.  Just ordinary nature things, but they still amazed me.  Mist over the bog and the river in the cool morning air.  Many, many red tail hawks, swooping down from telephone poles to catch prey in fields.  Morning glories growing with the soy beans.  Sunflowers shooting up out of the middle of corn fields.  A gathering of buzzards in a field, landing and flapping.  Six or eight deer crossing the road up ahead, and two more deer bounding through the corn field to our left.  It was the most beautiful day we have had in a very long time.

This ride took a little over eight hours, so it was a bit like going to work for the day, complete with lunch and a few shorter breaks.  I thought a lot about Grant Petersen’s philosophy, which is basically to keep cycling fun.  Petersen advocates for keeping our bike rides to three or four hours, and that sounds nice to me.  Spend half your day on the bike, and you’ll still have energy to do something else today.  After riding for eight hours, I am not sure I’ll do anything productive today.  Maybe I’ll sit in a chair and knit for a little while.  Margie gave me a good knitting idea at book club last night & I might have just enough energy to try it.

Next Saturday is our cycling club’s annual ride.  If I ride at all, I will probably choose a shorter distance, like the 33- or 47-mile options.  And I’ll keep doing my daily 4- and 6-mile commuter rides, at least until the weather turns cold and I start my winter walking.  Yet today during all my mental machinations about distance and speed and how my leg was starting to hurt and how tired I was and how angry I get when put in a position to keep up with others and what was the point of all this anyway, my spouse asked if he should send in the membership dues for the Iowa cycling club we rode with last year, meaning, “Should we start planning for RAGBRAI 2013?”  Oh, what the hell.  I’ll probably say yes.