I’ve been getting a bit serious about my bike rides. I started out in October, building up from just a few miles. After these few months, I’ve managed to work my way up over the fifty-mile mark. I can tell a definite difference in muscle tone in my calves and thighs. I’ve also seen improvement in my ride stamina and ability to make it up some tough hills. I’m definitely not a fast rider but nonetheless have seen my average speed increasing.
What I haven’t decided yet is whether or not a biker’s bottom adjusts to long rides on a narrow seat. It does seem that I am able to ride farther before discomfort turns into pain. My first few rides last fall found that point occurring after a dozen miles or so. Now it seems that I can make it up to twenty or so before the first serious fidgeting starts. Around thirty miles and the fidgeting turns into serious searching for some slight change in position that can bring relief.
On this past Saturday, I was significantly induced to seek that relief through extraordinary measures. I had to get off the bike for a while. And so, in broad daylight on a breezy, sunny day, only five miles away from the end of a fifty-mile ride, I took a break.
I pulled off the shoulder of US-166, a few miles east of Ark City. I rolled the bike over about thirty feet from the edge of the pavement and lay it down gently against the sloping bank. I took off my hydration pack, set it in the tall grass and lay myself down beside it. “Just gonna close my eyes for a few and not feel my butt bumping against that skinny seat for a while.” In spite of all the stems and stiff blades of dead grass pushing up against my neck, back, legs, arms and ankles, it felt surprisingly comfortable lying there in the sun. Sixty-five degrees and out of a strong north breeze was a pretty good combination.
In a few minutes, I heard the sound of tires on the shoulder. Figuring someone had pulled over, I sat up. There was a big, white Chevy Silverado quad cab sitting in front of me. A big guy with a gray beard called out through the open window in a concerned voice, “Are you okay?”
I gave him two thumbs up and said loudly, “Yep, just taking a break.” He waved, raised the window and the driver did a U-turn and they headed back east on the highway. I realized that they must have noticed me lying on the ditch bank and turned back to check on me. Later, when I checked the time, I also realized that I’d slept for over thirty minutes! Apparently, my rear end wasn’t the only part of my body that was tired.
Eventually, our bodies will demand the rest that they need. When you can sleep in the rough grass with cars and trucks and tractor-trailer rigs flying past at sixty-five-miles-an-hour, it’s a pretty good bet that you need to rest. And it’s more than a little comforting to know that strangers will take time to make sure that old guy lying in the ditch is just tired and sore and not in need of something more.
Sometimes, just knowing that others care is enough to help us make it a few more miles up the road. Especially once our lower parts have rested a bit…