Archives for posts with tag: cycling

It’s ALL about the bike.

My first road bike, after the banana seat and streamers phase, was the most expensive bike in the shop. Italian-made, red steel, and with Campy parts. I spent an entire year of babysitting money to buy it. And I felt really cool on that thing.

Paul Nolan got me interested in riding even before Breaking Away came out. We’d head out early Saturday mornings and go on long rides on the country roads of Berkey, Ohio, where nary a car passed by, there was not a hill in sight, and the biggest danger were the barnyard dogs from the farms. And they were dangerous – baring their teeth, biting at the tires. Paul liked to smack ’em with his portable tire pump. I doused ’em with water. Sometimes we carried a spray bottle with ammonia. That produced a lot of great dog noises and could probably be classified as cruel and unusual. But then so was the bared teeth and biting.

When I moved to Southern California, nothing prepared me for the hills. Whereas before I could whip off a century in four hours, now I was facing brutal climbs where I couldn’t crack 10 miles per hour. Or really even 5. I hung up my bike for film school. The only riding I did was for the first film I made at CalArts, a one-minute short featuring that red Italian Torpado.

Twenty-five years later I was still riding that thing… Until I hooked up with a couple of guys for early morning training and one of them, Steve, told me I could shave 10% off my time and limit the road vibration with a new bike. Done.

I used to come to the Rose Café every morning. For a scone and a cup of coffee and a table all my own. I’d prop open my laptop and the creative juices would begin to flow. I did some of my best writing at the Rose. There are certain comforting fixtures: the man who cleans the tables who provides a ready smile; another who works the parking lot wearing a brimmed sun hat and an easy laugh. Every day I would greet these men like friends. And then I stopped going. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was just a routine whose time had ended. I also got a job for a couple years, and the life of lazy mornings and creative cultivation went on pause.

SconeAndCoffeeToday I came back. I have needed to write again. I have needed lazy mornings. And I have especially needed creative cultivation. Everything about the Rose is both new and old. New outdoor patio. New succulents. New paint. New bathrooms! Same old staff though, now much more gray to my surprise. But today, even after all these years away, the men smiled at me and greeted me as if I hadn’t missed a day. Well, now THAT is like coming home.

The Buddhists have this saying, “beginner’s mind,” which is an attitude of openness, a lack of preconceptions. I am embracing the concept fully today. And, as a close associate of beginner’s mind, I have beginner’s legs. Because after several months of waiting for the early morning temperatures to stay above 55 degrees, I have once again pulled my bike out of the garage and started all over. Several months of not riding takes its toll. I have an extra EIGHT pounds I put on over the winter, which is eight more pounds I have to drag up San Vicente Boulevard with legs that have gone a bit flaccid and lungs that launch their protest. San Vicente is the perfect training road, not just a discovery of mine but of every other cyclist on the Westside. We turn out in droves, decked out in our finest polyester kits, and attack the road, which rises steadily at a 3 to 4 percent grade—what we like to call a “false flat.” There are only two lights, at 7th and 26th, then a loop around the golf course with a short 12% grade at the end, and back down San Vicente to do it all again two more times for a nice 30-mile workout.