Biking - A New Hobby
I am currently honeymooning with road cycling. This new hobby is invigorating – I am constantly engaging my mind through new experiences. Every time I bike, I feel like my legs are rapidly becoming stronger and that I can bike faster and through steeper climbs. A few months ago, I would have never thought I would be someone who would bring my bike on road trips, and yet here we are.
I wanted to write down some of my main thoughts regarding cycling so far.
Experiences (so far):
- Met a veteran biker on my Mount Tam trip that volunteers with bike-fitting for high schoolers, which led to some free advice. I learned that my handlebar was too short for my body so I bike with a slight hunch. Also on the Mount Tam trip, a mountain biker got airlifted away after crashing on their ride. I hope they ended up okay. Witnessed a male turkey flirting with a female turkey. It was exactly how you imagine it would be like - feathers puffed up to the max and plenty of gobble-gobbling
- Saw a really long snake in the boonies of Livermore. It was slithering across the road while I biked by, but it had to be at least 8 feet long. Talk about a hair-raising encounter.
- Top speed of 40.5 mi/hr (according to Strava)
- First flat tire and replacement (thanks Neil).
Things I have learned
- Being on the other end of the “bikers are assholes” sentiment. When you are driving in the mountains and encounter a biker that you can’t pass immediately, it is very easy to get frustrated and annoyed at the cyclist. Now that I have been on the other end, I understand how scary it is to be biking with cars behind you that you know want to pass you. All your attention goes to making sure you stay biking straight and to the side of the road. The intrusive thought that I could just slip and fall into the road always freaks me out a little bit.
- Headwind and hills make a huge difference. Biking on flat ground is so different than biking with a headwind or biking up a hill/mountain. Strava keeps a “power” metric that roughly estimates how much power you output as you bike, but it doesn’t account for wind. A direct headwind on flat ground can make the bike ride much more difficult than anticipated.
- Bike lights give a lot of peace of mind. I underestimated the time it would take my two rides to Mount Diablo to complete and was caught in the mountains with nightfall looming close. Having a bike light flashing behind gives a lot of comfort knowing that drivers can see you.
Challenges I am proud of
- Biking up Mount Diablo: This bike ride was one massive, never-ending uphill battle, with a 3,866 ft elevation gain. On the ride up, I was passed by a high-school kid in a Jansport backpack in a normal bicycle (not a road cycle) who outpaced me for the next hour or so. It was extremely impressive and I can’t figure out how he completed the ride so casually. At the peak, I heard him calling his friend and telling him directions – I ran into his friend on the ride down, who was struggling to make it uphill (albeit also in casual clothes/bike). Props to both of these guys – I felt like this climb was just as hard as running a half-marathon on my road bike.
- Biking up Mount Tam: Biking through the forest alone, through pockets of hot air and cool fog, was very therapeutic. The climb was shorter than the Mount Diablo climb at 3,287 feet, but it felt much easier overall because the ride wasn’t just straight uphill without any stops. I met an old-timer biker that told me he biked about 10,000 miles a year, which is super impressive.