Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cycling Musings

5/21/10: I am watching a movie. It is about bicycling.

I watch two movies about bicycling whenever they are on. The first is Breaking Away the classic 1979 that made me want to get back into cycling. I loved the coming of age movie about four young friends in Bloomington Indiana making life choices to break out, break away, from the lifestyles that seem cast for them. At least, this applies to two of the four. One of these two is also obsessed with cycling and racing. The movie climaxes when these “townies” enter and win the Little 500, a rite of spring 125 mile relay bike race at the University of Indiana. Breaking Away is, of course, also a cycling term for a rider or team moving out in front of the peloton leaving the rest in their dust.

I actually bought Breaking Away a few years ago. I bought it because I had not seen it for years and it was rarely on TV or so it seemed. I bought it watched it. Almost immediately, one of the cable networks began showing the movie. I have seen it at least three times fully and probably five more times in bits and pieces.

The second movie which I am watching now is more recent. It is called The Flying Scotsman. This 2006 movie is about James Obree who participated in a Velodrome sport called world hour competition. It is quite simple. It is very simple in concept. How far can you go in one hour on a velodrome. I read about Graeme Obree in Bicycling magazine. I learned about Obree and watched the movie after having gotten back into cycling. He had to deal with bipolar disorder, what used to be called manic depression. He even tried to commit suicide at least once.

The fictional Dave and the very real Graeme are much better cyclists than me. Graeme, in setting his hour record, did 52+kms in one hour. That is 32 miles and change. The best I have ever done is 17 miles and change. I am proud of my personal best but it does not compare.

In both movies, the main characters rode fixed gear bikes at some point. Fixed gear bikes have only one gear and no coasting. They are the bike of choice for velodrome and track racing. They are also popular with bike messengers for many years and more recently urban cyclists and commuters. I have two of them and really enjoy riding them. So, you can see that I clearly relate to both Dave and Graeme.

It is after 11 pm on Friday night. Tomorrow morning, I will hit the road and try not to be passed by cyclists much younger and in better shape than me. Of course, it is, long term, a losing proposition and I am no John “The Legend” Sinibaldi (1914-2006). He was an Olympic champion in both 1932 and 1936. He was US National Championship 18 times, presumably in different age classes. Up until his last months, John Sinibaldi rode 30-40 miles a day adding up to 7,000+ miles a year. And I was elated to have logged a personal best of 3,845 miles last year which was quite an achievement for me. I had a lot of free time last year. This year I will be lucky to log 2,000 – 2,500 and actually that is a good thing because I am busy.

All three stories are fascinating. The Obree and Sinibaldi stories are fact, the other is fiction.

5/22/10: I woke up early this morning. I took my sweet old time to really truly wake up and for the temperature to warm up. I jumped on my Schwinn Paramount and did 17 miles with never being more than five miles from home. It was a rare non-windy day here and I did well. I was not setting any personal best records but I was in the top twentieth percentile of what I do. I did not pretend to be in either of these movies. Rather I kept practicing and memorizing the song I would have to sing later that afternoon. Singing and pedaling go well together. Usually when I concentrate on anything but riding, I tend to slow down. I do not even know it until someone passes me and wakes me up. Hmmm… it is hard to find a multitasking combination that actually works.

I am certain Graeme Obree or John Sinibaldi would have buried me in a New York minute. I am even sure that the fictional Dave would have left me in the dust. But none of this thwarts me.

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