Sunday, July 13, 2008

My other ride is a LSR

In the course of human evolution, our prehistoric ancestors crawled on the ground as mammals, lived in trees as more advanced prosimians, then came back down from the forest and began to walk and run as proto-humans. Because of this, walking and running are easy enough to learn; we evolved to be good at this. Bicycles have only been around for 100 years, giving zero time for our species to selectively repopulate the earth with scrawny yet oddly pear-shaped and totally hairless uber cyclists. As such, training is not a natural nor intuitive process.

To follow common cycling lore, one must first collect a large sum of miles, between 500 to 1000, before real training can commence. This acquisition of miles is referred to as base miles, named such because this set of miles is morally devoid, dishonorable, illegitimate, and has a pH over 7. It is not recommended to exert maximal effort during these, and hence the name Long Slow Ride (L.S.R.) is apt. It is during this establishment period that the body becomes attuned to the demands of the bicycle; capillaries branch, the heart becomes stronger, and unique muscle groups get used to working together. Like a funeral home beautician applying foundation to a corpse, the base miles serve to fill in the gaps.

LSR to me has come to mean Long Solo Miles, because at this point in my S.A.D. cycling career, no intermediate cyclist really wants to ride with me. Its not just the slow but erratic pace I likely ride at, but the lack of something referred to as bicycle "handling skills" which can realistically put others in danger. From what I can gather, all it really means is the ability to keep your bike upright, usually going in a straight line, but sometimes turning. The difficulty arises due to inconsistencies in the terrain and is further burdened by increment weather, traffic patterns, relative fitness and exertion levels, time of day, and of course the trajectories of the other riders. It seems simple enough.

Because I'm new to this city and because I'm much too cowardly to venture out forging paths of my own, I choose to do the bulk of my LSRs on a 24 mile paved bicycle path to Valley Forge. A somewhat lackluster rail-to-trail, this concrete strip hosts splendid views of industrial parks, busted-out industrial parks, and even: industrial parks under current construction. Yet it ends at a giant valley that is paved, pre-forged, and even chocked-full of somnolent colonial chronicles, so it has its charms. The park also features practical amenities which I take complete and unbridled advantage of; these include a clean-ish public restroom and close proximity to some off-highway mini-marts.

Two hundred years ago, this was the location that Washington and his troops spent a miserable, epic, and treacherous winter (however with so many stories about soldiers being naked and socially isolated it couldn't have been that bad); where they seemingly lost all hope only to meet a bountiful spring that restored them body and spirit, and changed the course of the Revolutionary War and thus the history of the United States. And it is here that I go on epic, treacherous LSRs then refuel with abundant, glorious amounts of gas station junk food. It's like my rides are microcosms of historical suffering being repeated on the hallowed ground, the ghosts of Freedom and Revolution urging me to keep riding, to forge on, and to promise "just this once" and to not tell anybody when I get back to the city.