Surviving the First Bike Ride of the Season

Recently I made the calamitous mistake of thinking I was ready to hop back on my bike after 5 months of cold winter and riding.  Only about 10 km, maybe 30 minutes, not really long at all.  At least that’s what I thought.
The mistake was felt mostly the morning after, as every leg muscle, including the little tendons that hold everything in place, were wondering WTF just happened?!  They rather loudly exclaimed their displeasure.
This year, Winter had actually gotten me down for the first time.  Newly relocated to Toronto after living mostly on the west coast, I’m a cold weather rookie, alarmed that nose hairs freeze at -16 degrees.  Of course any born and raised Toronto native will tut and roll their eyes.  For me, months of dark subway rides shuttling me back and forth with no breaks outside, meant I was eager to boldly declared “April I will bus no more!”
Out came the bike from the (literal) closet.  A walk down to the bike salon to brush her off, pump the tires and add sparkling new breaks (which were desperately needed as not stopping and nearly hitting an old lady ended the last bike season), and she was ready for spring!
Well, spring had other plans. The day I went to pick up my trusty (but heavy) ol’ thing resulted in almost a foot of snow. My bold statement was delayed. Grumpy AF, I separated myself from a wad of beer money for a respectable metrocard instead.
Thankfully, a fresh Sunday appeared a short while later, sunny and light, and the bike was ready for an adventure. It got a tourist route through the Gothic arches of the University, which, on reflection, was nice enough.  To work we went, remembering with every bump and jolt how long it took last year for me to get used to the bike.  But we got to work on time.  8 hours of standing later and we were at it again, pushing through an “uphill” ride home that my British Columbian heritage helped me crush! (a 4% rise a hill does not make).

The spark has returned!  And thankfully, bike paths mean I don’t have to fight with traffic or risk wayward drivers.
For me, cycling gives me the freedom and energy that winter had stifled. Days at work feel so much better with that burst of morning endorphins. Maybe this will lead me towards actually working out more? Maybe. Well see…
The moral of the story boils down to if you have decided to embrace the beautiful and warm spring weather, I do urge you to take small steps.  Short, leisurely rides around a flat park to ease your muscles back into it.  One of the most important things is to get used to being with traffic again. Most city councils have created great resources for searching out safe bike routes and even Google does a pretty good job! But make sure to re-learn your hand singles, put your helmet on and be aware of what’s around you.  I would also deeply recommend you run the idea of padded shorts through your mind. They may not be the most beautiful looking creations, but believe me, your sensitive areas will thank you as you get used to sitting on rather uncomfortable seats (and they can hide quite nicely under most clothing!)
**UPDATE: My lovely heavy old bike was stolen!!!! A new bike was in order and was dutifully purchased to mark this milestone, but stayed in the hallway acting more as a clothing rack while winter decided to rear it’s cold head once again.  So I got to experience the first bike ride of the season twice!  Once on the old bike, and once on the new bike.
I may not ever right about the joys of working out, but cycling for hours and kilometers to explore new places, that is totally my thing. With the landscape changing and new details to see, I am so much more engaged than at any spin class.
Note to self: by new bike seat.

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**Photo’s by both Amelia and Jayne

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