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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Re-learning to Ride

The old saying goes, you never forget how to ride a bike. Not entirely true. With March bringing the most rain for the month in recorded history, and with the earlier winter being nearly as wet, I'd only been out for one ride this calendar year. That's a far cry from the cold, dry, sunny winters I'd been used to in Laramie.

Yesterday was partly sunny for a change (at least when I started my ride), but cold at 37 degrees, and breezy. I was riding with a new training partner to whom I'd been introduced by someone I met at last week's Tour de Cure reception in Spokane. We rode 35-miles round trip from Spokane Bridge on the state line to downtown Coeur d'Alene. In accordance with my diabetes exercise plan, I turned down the basal rate on my insulin pump to 50 percent, and ate about 20 grams of carbohydrates every 30 minutes, supplemented by half-strength Gatorade. My blood glucose level was fine at the end of my ride, and I was surprised how good my legs felt so early in the season. But I was disconcerted by my bike handling - until I remembered it was like that at the beginning of every new season.

Riding a bike is easy. You get on, you pedal. Gyroscopic forces keep you upright. But a big part of efficient, safe cycling is muscle memory, and this winter my muscles again forgot the easy spin of the pedals that keep the bike moving in a straight line; the small, gradual leans that handle the curves smoothly; the tiny counter-pressures that keep you from lurching out of control when turning to talk with a training partner or looking behind. During most of the ride, it seemed as if my muscles had developed Alzheimer's during the winter. I'm going to have to get in more miles and smooth out my riding style, rebuilding my muscle memory before riding the May 20 Tour de Cure, which already has registered nearly 100 riders. The last thing I want to do is bring down half the peloton.

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