Last weekend, I took a friend on the 20 mile loop I enjoy doing through Alameda and Bay Farm islands. Though that ride is near completely flat, there is a sometimes strong headwind which is pervasive for more than half of the time. I have always found that wind to be irritating, and can often be found sighing heavily or just yelling at it to please, for the love of god, ease the hell up. 18 miles into a ride is not when I want the wind to start getting worse. I tell myself that every time I do this ride, it gets easier – there is some truth to that, of course, but not enough. My friend, who is still new to cycling and has never done a ride this long, was looking worse for wear towards the end. I warned him about the home stretch – about 4 miles on a long straightaway, into a headwind the entire time. There is no coasting. Despite my offers to have him draft off of me, there was nothing for it – he is still too new to be comfortable being that close. Stopped at a red light, slightly out of breath, my friend looked at me in disbelief and asked me ‘so, you knew about this headwind and you still decided we needed to ride directly into it?’. Fair point. But to be honest, I had never considered doing it any other way.
Today I decided to ride the same route, but backwards, taking a right rather than a left off a bridge in order to start the ride. I admit I am pretty pleased with several things about the alteration. Firstly, the boring part of the ride gets done with first. There is a stretch through some pretty residential areas which are pretty, but not as interesting as riding with or near traffic. This is also the longest section not near water. Secondly, though shallow, is the view. I was concerned that coming from the other direction would detract from my captivating view of San Francisco. But the view is just as interesting, so I feel consoled and somehow eased by doing the ride this way. Most importantly, the section of ride with least protection from headwind, in which I on my upright handle bars am doubled over with far less control than I would like for the sake of being streamlined, is no longer a concern. What was once a labor of mixed affection is now a kickass, flat-out, speed-infused ride down the waterfront. I was going so quickly, I jumped off the trail and back into the street so I would not need to brake constantly or slow myself down. It was brilliant and liberating. Somehow, I felt more tired after this ride – I think I forgot to anticipate headwinds where tailwinds once were and pushed too hard rather than pacing myself – but it was a gratifying two hours. In fact, I finished in even less time (though, not by much. 1 hour 41 rather than 1 hour 58, which is my usual without stopping). I had some mechanical issues along the route, but once fixed, I was able to just enjoy moving quickly, rather than laboring my way through. A nice change.
I also received alot of acknowledgement from other riders today. Maybe because I was moving quickly, with ease, on a more well thought out route, rather than looking like I wanted to die or like I was about to drown in my own sweat, but I got a great many head nods of approval and recognition, which always makes me feel like I belong, rather than pitied.
The roads are, so far, dry and ready for riding. 20 miles is starting to feel like less and less distance, which means I am working my way up to riding a consistent 30 miles on a day to day basis. It is a delightful burden to have my routes require real effort not to feel like I’m running out of space. I guess that means I should start acquainting myself with hills. But not yet. For now, I will content myself with proximity to water and navigating headwinds.