Monday, March 8, 2010

Cycling Exposed

"Marcus, dah-ling, I don't have any panties on ..."
- Eartha Kitt as Lady Eloise, Boomerang (1992)

So when it comes to chamois cycling shorts, commando is the way to go. I didn't know this and have been incongruously wearing underwear under my attire.

"You'll be asking for saddle sores if you keep that up," one of the guys at R&A Cycles told me on Sunday before he explained how chamois cream is applied directly to your shorts. I guess I'll keep my panties down, I replied - but I only said that in my head. I try to be selective about when and where I let my corny alter ego out in public.

After working until 4am yesterday at job #2, I dragged Maddy down into the subway at 7 o'clock to meet my cycling coach in Brooklyn for my second cycling lesson. Three things of which I made note: [1] Never underestimate the power of Starbucks lattes, [2] there is a small hill in Prospect Park that shamefully has me rethinking my likelihood of successfully making it over the Rockies (and did I mention it was a small hill?!), and [3] I don't know how I'm going to suppress the desire to stop every five minutes and take photographs of my surroundings during my big cycling adventure this summer.

The two-hour ride along the Shore Parkway bike path, under the Verrazano Bridge, was absolutely stunning. We looped along Coney Island and back through Prospect Park, and if I hadn't been mercilessly driven forward by my coach's commanding and unapologetic exercises and drills, I'd have stopped every five minutes along the Brooklyn waterfront - to take a photo ... and breathe.

During our ride, amidst the verbal hammering of my coach (I should probably note somewhere in this post that I do actually like him), I also tried to remember the advice I had read on Helen's blog. Helen, and her daughter Al, will be riding with me across North America this summer. And, although we've never met, she has generously dispensed a wealth of information on me directly via email and less directly via her blog, as was notably relevant to yesterday's ride:
  • Hold your head down and look out of the tops of your eyes. That saves on neck strain.
  • Bend your elbows to maximize the use of your hamstrings.
  • Keep your weight forward on the downhills to avoid wheel wobble.
I wonder if everything will eventually begin to come naturally. Does proper cycling ever become second nature? Are true cyclists only born or can they be made?

At least it appears that the relationships can be. I made another new friend and cycling partner in one of my coach's clients who joined us yesterday morning. She is a budding triathlete in her 40s and has already begun recruiting me for her triathlon team. I need to tackle my big cycling adventure first, but with or without the triathlons, a long friendship may be inevitable.

After our ride, we accompanied our coach to R&A Cycles, where he also serves as their professional bike fitter (yes, the blunt individual, who graciously pointed out everything that is wrong with my body, is now employed to tell me everything that is wrong with my cycling). There, I exchanged my expensive Arundel Mandible water bottle cages for a cheaper variety in order to spend my money better elsewhere: lighter handlebars and a better carbon seat post. I also returned my unused Selle Italia SLK Lady Gel Flow Saddle to opt for the Specialized Toupe 143 Gel Saddle that my cycling coach's wife has on her bicycle ("It's purely a matter of ass"). R&A didn't have any in stock so I'll be searching the Internet for a good deal. Lastly, I exchanged my (also unused) red Polar 24oz Water Bottles for two white Polar 20oz bottles - a better color for my bicycle and sizes that made more sense, according to my coach (since there will be regular SAG stops on big cycling adventure and, aesthetically, my bicycle is too sleek for bulky water bottles).

By the time I returned to Manhattan in the early afternoon, my 7am subway trek to Brooklyn seemed like a distant dream and the idea of my bed felt nearly as exciting as my morning bike ride. I cleaned Maddy's wheels with a wet paper towel and wiped down the frame before forcing myself into the shower. Once in my bed, I'm not sure that sleep had ever felt so good.

P.S. After three cycling outings with underwear, I'm happy to report that no saddle sores have formed. And for those of you who like reading about that sort of thing, I'll be sans panties from here on out.


Helen Steussy said...

Sounds like you have a great cycling coach, Katie.

I don't know if I've told you, I really admire you. I think it's really gutsy to take on this challenge without having years of biking under your chamois.

Yes, bikers can be made. I started from scratch - only able to bike 11 miles at a stretch to begin with. I increased s-l-o-w-l-y, failed many times, learned from failures.

You'll just have to learn faster. But you are so young, you can do it.

Katie said...

Ah, but there is a fine line between "gutsy" and "foolish" ... and we'll find out where my line is soon enough.

But thank you. :)

Sara Komo said...


I found out freshman year it was silly to wear undies with Spandex as well. Also, our crazy coach didn't like us to have underwear lines! WHAT DOES THAT MATTER? I'll never know. Now I can't even wear them with yoga pants lol.