Internal Detours
Monday, April 10, 2006
  of rain, prior commitments, and the exercise bike

For weeks, I'd been looking forward to a special club 50+ mile ride that young Andrew Evans had plotted out. The route includes several miles of dirt roads, and it sounded promising.

Then it emerged that the forecast called for massive thunderstorms Saturday, so the ride was moved to Sunday. Unfortunately, another I had another commitment so I missed the rescheduled running of the Ware Shoals-Roubaix classic. As so many race fans have said, "next year."

Saturday I rose a little later than normal and checked the weather. Maybe there was an opportunity to get a few miles in, I thought. I ate breakfast, puttered around a bit, then stepped outside to get the paper. It was starting to rain, and I figured it would probably become torrential soon enough, so I decided to stay in.

It was frustrating. The rain played hide and seek most of the day. When it did rain, it was just enough to convince me that I'd just wind up somewhere in the middle of nowhere and get buckets of rain dumped on me. The forecast called for really scary thunderstorms, and there were all sorts of dire warnings about dangerous weather. Riding the rain is normally not a big deal to me, but I didn't feel like it, I didn't feel like being struck by lightning, and I didn't feel like riding alone, so there.

Finally, about 11:30 I decided I'd settle for an hour on an indoor bike. I dug out the folding exercise bike I'd bought for $5 from a local thrift store a couple of years back and set it up in the garage. I hung a water bottle cage on the bars, fished my heart monitor out of the drawer and strapped it on. I moved the folding repair stand closer to the bike to hold a towel. I stepped back and looked it all over and pronounced the arrangements good.

Ruby the cat had never before seen the exercise bike in action, and bless her heart, she got a mild thump on the head when she walked into the path of the pedals. I apologized, she looked at me and sat down a few feet away. I settled into pedaling, working on turning perfect circles and all that.

The bike flexed a bit under me, encouraging my pursuit of form over force. It's a strange exercycle. Unlike most of them, it doesn't have the usual chain driving a heavy wheel with a strap or brake pad providing resistance. Instead, it has a flywheel arrangement on the left that whirls around four times for each crank revolution. As I warmed to my task, periodically I'd reach up to the Huret shifter near the stem and adjust the tension of the felt-covered brake pad inside the housing.

The bike might have had Raleigh transfers, but even if several parts weren't stamped "Bianchi" the old style Celeste paint would have given it away. It's the old, old version of Celeste, not the pistachio color they use today. As always, I remembered the story of Jim Cunningham of CyclArt at an Interbike show. As he relayed it, the Bianchi reps were giving away Celeste-colored buttons. Cunningham asked, "Is this really THE official color?" They said yes, it was, so he asked for something like ten of them for his workforce to be used as color references for restorations. Almost immediately all present began laughing - there were several obviously different shades of the color just in the small sample of buttons he received.

I continued spinning along, feeling the sweat beginning to come down my forehead. I was grateful I'd left a towel within reach. My heart rate settled in just under 100 bpm and I sat up long enough to peel off my shirt and drape it over a projection on the repair stand. Periodically I'd stand up on the bike to ease my posterior - the ancient Wrights W3N saddle isn't quite what my hindparts are used to - and I'd gingerly keep the pedals turning.

I avoided putting too much force into anything, because the exercycle isn't the most stable feeling example of its breed I've encountered. For that matter, the ancient French AVA handlebars don't lend themselves to powerful standing riding - this particular variant started life on a Peugeot PX-10E equipped with the infamous AVA "death stem."

After I felt sufficiently warmed up, I started accelerating, driving my heart rate up to around 120, then letting it wind back down again. It seemed to me I was generating the same amount of power I'd been churning out on the exercise bike last year, but at a lower heart rate. My memory is that this level of exertion ran me up to 140 or so last winter.

I was pouring sweat by this point - a fan would have been a VERY good thing, I decided - and the cycle of revving up my heart rate, then taching back down, began to happen in shorter bursts. At fifty minutes, the half-full water bottle was empty. I spun the cranks up to full speed one last time, the heart rate monitor registered 140 or so, and I sat back and watched the numbers come back down. It was down to about 90 bpm in approximately 1 minute, 15 seconds, down around 80 bpm another minute later.

I toweled off and went in to have lunch. That would have to do.
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Location: Greenwood, South Carolina, United States
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