Since I began working weekends as a part-time cocktail server at a lounge in Midtown Manhattan [job #2] to fund my big cycling adventure, I haven't seen nine o'clock on a Saturday morning in months. That changed this weekend when I cut my shifts down to one night. Unfortunately for my 7:30am cycling lessons on Sundays, that one night per weekend needs to be Saturday since it's generally a better money-maker than Friday, but at least I will have Sunday afternoons to recover.
I woke up this morning and went straight to the gym for a strength training workout. I tend to interchange upper and lower body weight training workouts on alternating days and supplement daily core exercises. This morning was an upper body day. And I was greeted by such a beautiful, blue sky and a shimmering Manhattan that I decided to face fear head-on and take Maddy out for a bike ride. Have I mentioned the mounting fear (no pun intended) of riding my bicycle by myself?
Oh, I haven't introduced Maddy in this blog yet, have I? My Trek Madone was dubbed Maddy after several days of deliberation over suitable bicycle names. Going to ponder bicycle names while I serve overpriced alcohol at job #2. Do I want something exotic like Veronica? Or asexual like Pat?, I had tweeted one evening. Pat received a high approval rating from my friend Patrick. No surprise there. Among the other Twitter responses, my friend Christine suggested Muriel. I mean, I'm not riding somebody's 55-year old aunt, I tweeted back.
"Ah ha!" I yelled to my roommate through our shared bedroom wall at the exact moment of nickname conception. "I shall dub thee Maddy!"
My [job #1] coworker Madeleine seemed to appreciate my bicycle's name most of all. In response to moderate praise for her assistance in the office one day, she later replied via email: After all, there are bicycles named after me.
But I guess I can't bring up the fear in this blog post without addressing it. Yes. Sigh. Fear. I've had gradually building anxiety as I lay in bed at night, staring at Maddy's darkened outline against the exposed brick walls of my tiny Midtown Manhattan apartment. The sparkling lights of the Time Warner Center and the Hearst Tower giving my bedroom its nightly incandescent glow and reflecting off the black, gray and silver carbon frame in the corner. The Shimano STI Levers. The clipless pedals. The sleek, racing geometry. I was beginning to feel like I had bought a machine that was too much for someone who occasionally rents rusty bicycles in Central Park.
Today, with only one cycling lesson under my belt (last weekend's lesson had been canceled due to snow), I decided to just go for it in the streets of Manhattan. I pulled on my Pearl Izumi '09 Women's P.R.O. Shorts, AmFIB Tights and Shimano SH-M161G Shoes. I threw on a light jacket and crammed my Bell Array Road Helmet over my roommate's black Nike sweatband (thanks, B). I peered into the full-length mirror hanging in the four feet of arbitrary space between our bedrooms that we call a hallway and, again, saw a wanna-be cyclist standing awkwardly with the chamois between her legs. And I don't mean this chamois. I mean this one.
And what happened? Maddy introduced me to an entirely different Manhattan. Manhattan by bicycle. And I loved it.
I took to the streets briefly as I cautiously pedaled through Midtown to the bike lanes along the Hudson River, where I found hundreds of cyclists, skateboarders, rollerbladers and joggers taking advantage of one of the first beautiful days of 2010. Before I knew it, I was downtown, being lured by Water Street to explore the architectural canyons of the Financial District. I yielded to the traffic exiting the bottom of Broadway and then pedaled right in.
"Bicycling Street Smarts" by John S. Allen, a booklet that was included in my America By Bicycle Tour Kit, had initially created an intimidating and seemingly overcomplicated view of street cycling, but I was grateful to have read it as I utilized various traffic maneuvers. I'm not naive to the fact, however, that I have a lot more to learn before I jump into the weekday rush-hour flow, but I was reminded of some of the most fulfilling moments I've had in my life thus far. They were the ones where I just went for it.
And suddenly I was under the Brooklyn Bridge, half a Manhattan from home, and falling in love with Maddy and a new New York City.