Tune-ups & Revelations

Yesterday morning, as I made my way through the early morning darkness along Prince Road in west Windsor, I suddenly noticed my back tire sliding. Looked down and saw that my tire was flat. If there was one area in Essex County where I most dreaded getting a flat tire, this was it. Never, in the past hundred years, would west Windsor be mistaken for the affluent section of the city, but in the past couple of decades it has experienced a precipitous slide. I won’t conjecture why, but a friend who worked as a police officer in that end of town a decade ago has previously confirmed my impression.

That said, I rolled to a stop in front of Maryvale Children’s Mental Health Centre, and looked around for the junkies and serial killers I always feared would swarm me. I looked around and saw nothing. Well, that’s not exactly correct. I saw a beautiful morning. I began that morning a little later than usual, and the sun was already rising. The neighbourhood was quiet and peaceful, and my fears and speculation suddenly seemed quite ridiculous.

I carry tools and a spare tube, and if the spirit had been upon me, I could have changed-out the flat tube with a new one, and been on my way. But it was one of those damp, cold mornings — more winter than spring in the April air — and the idea of raking my knuckles on the spokes of the wheel (which invariably happens multiple times whenever I attempt even the most rudimentary maintenance on the bicycle) dissuaded me.

Having cycled nearly 300 km already this week, I was tired, and just not feeling it.

I called my wife, and my family came in the minivan to pick me up.

If all I had was a flat tire, I would have fixed it later on at home. My tires, however, were both quite bald. Gear-shifting had become a clunky, haphazard effort in recent weeks, the gears not catching right away, or at all, in some cases.

It had been many months since the bike was last looked at by a professional technician, and I knew I was long overdue for a tune-up.

So, into BikeCo I went. My usual bike tech’s meh expression was on his face when I entered. The techs are maestros with fixing bikes. I don’t go there for their jokes and bonhomie. He informed me that my chain was severely stretched — accounting for the increasingly horrible experience shifting gears. My rear gear cassette was probably worn, too. He agreed to put gator tires on, which he said would afford me extra flat protection. Best of all — he could have the bike ready for next Tuesday.

This morning I hit the frozen road riding my back-up bike: the sky-blue mountain bike on which I began my kilominating odyssey. It still rides smooth and fluid. That said, after riding a full carbon road bike for most of the last year, the mountain bike’s 30+ lbs. is now noticeable. When I first bought it, I was just buying a bike. It’s weight was irrelevant to me. I wanted something durable, something that would last through all the kilometers I could put on it.

It has.

When I took the carbon bike in for a tune-up last year, and got back riding the mountain bike, I was acutely aware of the weight difference — also, the seat configuration, the wide, the sub-part drink cages, flat, carpel-tunnel-aggravating handlebars. One day in the wind, I just had to stop and rest. Back when I began kilominating on the sky-blue bike, there were certainly some tough outings, but I always got through them without pulling over. I trudged, and chugged, and struggled, and swore, and strained myself in head winds.

That was the year I got down to the preternatural weight 182 lbs.

Although I rode more kilometers last year, I struggled to stay within the 190s lbs weight range. I rode further, faster, venturing 810 km in one week in the summer — and that was with skipping a day; a six-day riding week, rather than my usual seven.

Today, I realized why. The effort of riding the sky-blue mountain bike is about double what it takes to kilominate on the carbon bike.

A 50 km ride on the mountain bike (this morning) has left me feeling as fatigued and achy as a 100 km ride on the carbon bike. Or, thereabout.

I suppose if I were that much into fitness, I would just stick with the mountain bike, but as I approach 51 years of age this year, there is not a chance I will skip a ride-able day on the carbon road bike.

What this means is I must re-calibrate my eating. Last year, I found myself coming home from riding the carbon bike, and simply eating the house, totally negating the calories burned during the ride.

I’m sure there is training potential in strategically riding the mountain bike, even after getting my road bike back, but at this point, I’m just interested in clocking up the kilometers. That said, I am striving for a 400 km ride in the next month or two, so maybe this old beast can play a role in readying me for that trek.

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Matthew St. Amand

Matthew St. Amand

Husband, father, amateur ghost hunter, online-ordained minister and writer. Learn more (but not much more) at www.mattst.biz