Soul Searching

Since I hurt myself again, I’ve been thinking a lot about why I bike and what I can do to avoid being laid up again in six months, assuming I go back to doing it.

There are two main things I like about biking: I like getting out and seeing the world and I like the hard work. Since I’ve been biking regularly, I’ve really come to love interacting with the west side of LA from a bike. The scenery can be heart-stoppingly beautiful.  I usually ride in sight of the Pacific Ocean for a couple hours and other times along a path through the recently restored Ballona Creek Wetlands. I’ve seen glimpses of nature great and small that I would not have believed.  The other part of West LA that I enjoy is the people. I’ve chatted with many a fellow cyclist, seen crazy hobos running through traffic, heard the most unlikely pairs chatting about the Lakers, and generally been part of tiny slices of life that make my home real.  And I like not burning gas to get around most of the time. I’m addicted to all of that, and I don’t want to lose it.

The other reason I ride is to work my body. I like the feeling of pleasant soreness that comes from dragging myself and my bike a couple tens of miles a couple times a week.  I’ve got a pretty sedentary job and it’s a good feeling to know that my muscles can still do something.  A workout regimen can slip away from you easily, and before I’d taking biking back up, I’d let my other workouts slip to the point where they weren’t working.  Biking is a good workout because I can start from my house every morning and I know I’ve done work because I went somewhere and came back. It does not admit easy excuses or easy delusion.

These two aspects can be contradictory.  Getting a good workout can mean spending more time thinking about form and pushing your body than looking around, and vice versa.  I had definitely noticed that I was feeling more self-imposed pressure to push myself than to look around.  I don’t remember my accident, but I know I was trying to make good time getting home. Also, while biking is great fun, it’s not exactly a balanced workout.  While my legs and cardiovascular system were getting a great workout, I was neglecting my upper body.

Even if I hadn’t managed to injure myself, I would have been wise to think about how and why I was working out.

Given all that, I think it’s time to get back in the pool.  I swam competitively for years and I really like that kind of workout.  I know how to create my own and how to work myself at it healthily.  It works the whole body, and it is low impact so I can ease back into it as a recovery exercise for my hip.  Basically every other time I’ve broken a bone, it’s been my exercise of choice.  There’s every reason to think I can get my workout fix this way.

The question I’ve been pondering with respect to swimming is whether or not to find and join a Masters team.  Masters swimming is competitive swimming for people beyond college age. On the one hand I like the idea of tapping some expertise and the idea that a commitment will make me more likely to stick with it. On the other hand, I have no desire whatsoever to compete.  At some point I’ll probably go to a meet to get some official times, but I really don’t want to race; I just want to work out.  And most of the Masters teams I’ve seen are pretty competitive.

Right now my plan is to start working out on my own at the Culver Plunge.  Assuming that I can get part of a lane there, that’ll be all I need to get my workouts in.  I’m also a member at the Culver City Y, but there’s a lot fewer lanes there.  More info on this as I actually start exploring.

Even with workouts coming in the water, I want to keep riding.  I think mentally separating the workout part from the transportation part will help, but I’m also looking to get some new equipment that will help me stay on the straight and narrow.  I love my old Sanwa road bike, but it doesn’t seem to be keeping me healthy.  It may just be that I ride it too fast because I like to and it will go somewhat fast.  (It’s not a super fast bike – it is 30 pounds or so of steel frame).  It’s also been crashed a few times and I’m not certain that it’s as stable as it once was.  30 years is 30 years, no matter how you slice it.

So I’m considering a new bike that will be more stable and discourage my inner speed demon.  This means a modern commuter bike that favors stability over speed with some wider tires to help keep its feet and slow it down.  Since I’ve been stuck indoors, I’ve been looking and asking around.  Right now I’ve been looking at some of the Surly bikes.  There are a couple interesting machines there, but I’m leaning toward the Long Haul Trucker.  I’ve also gotten a good recommendation for the Trek CrossRip, which also looks like the right kind of bike.  Sporty, but not too sporty.  Sturdy and admitting some larger road-gripping tires.

Since looking at the Long Haul Trucker, I’ve run into several people who own them and the owners absolutely love the thing.  That says good things about a bike.  The crossrip is probably easier to lay hands on, but I have heard that the aluminum frame is rough riding.  And aluminum is light, which does go against some tenets of the project.  (The LHT is steel, and heavy).

So that’s what I’m thinking.  If you’re read this far and have opinions about the bikes or the pools (or anything else I mentioned), I’d love to hear them.

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