By Zulu Delta
This past September, I completed a charity bike event with the California Coast Classic Bike Tour for the Arthritis Foundation. I rode my bicycle for 8 days from San Francisco, to Los Angeles California; 525 Miles, and climbed 26,278 Feet of Elevation. It was extremely challenging, rewarding, and amazing. I will be blogging multiple segments here about my journey.
California Coast Classic-Day Zero
“This shirt wouldn’t fit an 11-year old boy!”
That was the first thought that went through my head as I stood in the bike shop in San Francisco, California. It was Day Zero; a name that was given by tour riders, which meant that there were no full days “left” until the start of the CCC bike tour began.
I had gone over to the bike shop to buy a new cycling computer. That’s the small device mounted on your handlebar which “reads” out, distance, speed, etc. If you’re reading this on a bike website, you’re probably aware of that, but I have included this note for all the millions of my devoted followers (hahahahah) in Mongolia who constantly read this blog to learn and improve their English Comprehension (yeah, I know; I’ve probably set back an entire culture, decades!). I had a cycling computer set up on my bike, but I had left the “head unit” in my car in Boston (along with my phone, my limited common sense, and any pre-COVID “traveling mojo” I had acquired over many years of exploration).
The guys at the bike shop were great. I picked out a new unit and they agreed to install and program it on the spot, as I didn’t have the tools or the time for this relatively simple task. As I waited patiently for the new install, I continued to browse the shop looking for more bike equipment that I didn’t need. I came across the shirts. I had been thinking; and not for the first time, that a biking shirt from the local bike shop in a visiting place would be a cool memento to have. Milliseconds went by until a familiar concept over many years and bike shops rolled over me; there is no way any of the shirts on this rack will ever fit me. “The largest shirt here wouldn’t fit an 11-year old boy.”
Let’s talk about people who ride bikes, and what I have learned over the last few years. I consider myself a decent athlete. I have been involved with sports and exercise my entire life. Of all the people I have been associated with, in these activities, I believe participants who ride bikes have the widest, and most unassuming range of body types as well as the physical and mental aptitude of all the athletes and people I know out exercising. I’ll also point out that additional characteristics such as ability, endurance, balance, and road skill, can be lurking deceptively behind, gender, attitude, and especially age. I’ll start with my very first spin class.
I had never been to a spin class before. I only had a vague idea of what was involved, and to be honest, I resisted going because I didn’t want some crazy man or woman leading the class screaming at me like some kind of television-inspired, ultra fitness-crazed boot camp drill Sargent. I would not have responded well to that in my U.S Navy Boot camp training; besides we didn’t have psycho boot camp Sargents in the Navy; only Petty Officers. In subsequent years, I only had ONE crazed spin instructor who I told very firmly and politely, to step back 5 feet from me, stop yelling, and don’t EVER touch the controls on my bike again while I was pedaling.
So back to my first spin class. Being new to spinning, and to gym membership, I somehow was under the false impression that the fitness instructor would show up in a multi-colored bodysuit with tights; rail-thin, and wearing a headband; straight off the cover of a Jane Fonda workout video (sorry, no time here to explain what a work-out video…..or just a video is). Not knowing better, I was a little surprised when in-walked Becky. She didn’t look like a “Jane Fonda” type. She was not thin as a rail and dressed like a model, and being honest to you and myself, I didn’t think she looked very fit to be teaching a spin class; because never having been to a class, I would know. For the record, it was not my intention to “body shame,” anyone or be cruel, but if I am talking about cyclist bodies, I do have to tell you of my observation. At the time, I may have been misguided and slightly clueless, but I was also not rail-thin or very fit myself; and yet, there I was, enrolled in a spinning class.
Becky turned out to be kind, patient, an excellent instructor, and one of the most powerful riders; man, or woman I ever met on a spin bike, or out riding on the road. She was just that strong and fast. Lesson learned. I met many riders like Becky since then; some of them actually were rail-thin and came close to fitting into one of those shirts in the bike shop. I initially had my doubts about them as well, wondering whether they had enough “meat on their bones” to survive and endure a long bike ride.
Luckily, It didn’t take long for all my “caveman” pre-conceived notions to crumble about what the “average” bike-riding cyclist should look like. There is no “average” biking body type.
For the purpose of this blog, I’m discounting the body types of the top-tier professional cyclists in general; although I am also amazed and perplexed how the human body can continually support the speed and endurance of their epic racing adventures with the bodies they have. We’ll skip over the doping and cheating escapades of Lance Armstong for the time being.
Let’s use our time machine (yes Azzedine and Kevin C; everything “IS” about time travel!), and jump ahead one day to breakfast on Day One, and the start of the California Coast Classic Bike Tour.
As I stood on the edge of the seating area, I surveyed the group of 150 participants. This being my first tour, I was still trying to work out what the ride, riders, and scenery would really be like. I had been talking to a few previous participants, and reading all I could about previous rides. The only instinct I could trust at the moment was recalled by the ideas conveyed in the words of this blog about judging body types of cyclists; DON’T do it! There were the young, the middle-aged, and beyond; even a woman who was 80. Men, women, mothers, fathers, and grandparents. The bikes themselves ranged from the ultra-high-end carbon fiber to the recumbent, and the amazing electric assist bike. In years past, a man rode a Unicycle. Most were from California where the opportunity to cycle large hills and mountains was abundant, to 2 riders from Rhode Island who had to search extra hard to find suitable training grounds to prepare. Rosemary from Rhode Island was a “machine.” She spent many days in the gym terrorizing the spin bike and flew through the tour with ease. The other rider from Rhode Island spent days riding around in search of M&M cookies and peach-flavored ice tea, all the while thinking up crazy blogs and dreaming about time travel! More about him later. Many were multiple-tour participants. The body types ranged from rail-thin to “not so much.”
To the untrained and un-enlightened observer, I wouldn’t doubt someone making the comment that in general, the group resembled a gathering of a retirement community. If this were true, it would be a gathering at the retirement sanctuary for Big Cats! The people I met and rode with had the hearts of African lions, the strength and riding ferociousness of Tigers, the speed of Jaguars, and the balance and agility of Mountain Lions; all the while with the kindness and generosity of house kittens.
I recalled all of this weeks later when thinking about the shirts in the bike shop. There were a few tour riders who might be able to shop there for bike clothing, but not many.
Do you know what?
I don’t need or want that damn shirt anyway.
I’ll leave a few more pictures with notes!
A few years ago biking over the Golden Gate Bridge on a sunny day.
One of my favorite Chinese restaurants in San Franciso on Day Zero. Dicy dietary choice, but beneficial endorphin benefits for the ride ahead!
I did get to have dinner with the Mighty Michelle R. who appears in a blog on this website;
” LO MEIN!!! LO MEIN!!!………….LO MEIN!!!!!!!!!!!!”