I've been dying to try out Wilma's new seat, which I featured on this blog last month. It came in a couple of weeks ago and I had it installed last Saturday. Basically, not to be vulgar, but it's a "crotchless" seat, which I hope will solve the biggest problem of long bike rides: bike seat pain.
I've been both excited and filled with dread. On one hand, the seat comes highly recommended by someone on a Chicago bike list I follow who has ridden "more than 10,000 miles" on one. She swears by it. On the other hand, I've read more than one review that says that nose of the seat between one's legs is necessary for balance, and that some people fall over when they try to ride without that.
I'm not a fan of falling over.
So I was slightly sick to my stomach this morning as I got ready to go. The day was gorgeous and my body was begging for the chance to get out and moving. I was excited. But I was also picturing how unlovely falling down might be, and reminding myself that I STILL HAVE my old seat, should I need to have it put back on.
Good news: the seat was a total success for me. Maybe people with no butt might have trouble, I don't know. But to paraphrase a terrible song, baby, I got back. My posterior is big enough and sufficiently muscled to hold onto the seat (WHY do you read this blog?!) No balance issues AT ALL...once I worked up the courage to try. Trying was hard. If anyone here was watching out their windows, they had to be wondering why I was standing there straddling my bike in the parking lot and not moving for so very long.
I only rode about 12 miles today, so I can't speak to whether the seat might make my butt hurt when I ride it a long way. But even if it does...I'll take sore buns any day over screaming when I pee and not being able to tolerate the seam of my jeans between my legs for days after a ride.
Okay, okay, I'll move on from the TMI part and you can smack me the next time you see me.
My major objective today, other than seat testing, was checking out the 2 bridges between my workplace, where I currently live, and downtown Davenport, where I will live after March 1. You see, I REALLY LOVE the idea of biking to work. Starting the mornings outdoors would be good, the exercise would be good, and the ride home would be a great way to change gears, especially after the higher-stress days.
According to google maps, it would take me 20 minutes by bike to get to work if I cross the Centennial bridge, or 30 minutes if I cross by the Rock Island Arsenal. Neither of those numbers looks bad as compared to 10 minutes estimated drive time in a car. But I have my doubts about the accuracy of the timing listed for the Centennial bridge for this simple reason: I wouldn't be crossing on the road portion of the bridge, with traffic. I don't think in this climate of people who aren't used to watching out for bikes that crossing with the cars would be a wise or safe thing to do. So I'd be crossing on the pedestrian portion along the side, which has a heavy, safe, steel barrier protecting me from inattentive drivers.
The Centennial is three quarters of a mile long, and you're going either uphill or downhill for the large majority of that distance. The pedestrian portion is narrow...check this out (I stood at the little wide spot near the beginning and shot this):
While there was no one else walking or biking that portion of the bridge with me today, I DO see walkers and runners and bikers and such on it often when I am driving over it. So that means I'll need to scootch over and let people pass me on what is already not a very wide space. Add that to the incline question (hard to go up, and scary potential to go too fast in that narrow space on the way down) and I'm thinking I might always cross it the way I did today: walking, pushing Wilma (I walked today to scout it out and because I wanted to see how hard the wind blows up there, but I just don't know that I can summon the courage to ride it). A 3/4 mile walk amidst my commute is not probably something I have time for in the mornings.
Nonetheless, it was a beautiful walk. It's basically amazing that I could find it beautiful, if you recall my general fear of heights. I have shared before on this blog that as I've learned to discipline my body, I am finding it works not only where food and exercise are concerned, but also where fear comes in. Despite the physical cues that were making my stomach lurch, I was able to tell myself we are not going to respond to the fear - we are just fine and actually follow through, despite being 60 feet in the air over open water with cars making the bridge vibrate as they passed. Ahhh gifts from the journey. Here's a great shot of the river and downtown Davenport from the beginning of my crossing.
Here is a cool instagram I like from when I reached the other side (though I wish Wilma wasn't so hidden in shadow - I can't see the darn iphone screen very well when I'm out in bright sunlight):
I spent a little time exploring the Davenport riverfront bike path. I have been south of the Centennial on that, but never north. It's a nice path. Eventually I came across a "bike path detour" sign that apparently wanted me to climb one of the terrifying Davenport hills (epic...they are epic!) so I turned around and headed back to try the Arsenal bridge.
Here's the thing about that one: I don't even like crossing it in a car. Is metal mesh or grating or whatever, and car tires feel slightly not in control on it, to me at least. I have crossed the bridge once on Lulu, after dark, with a bunch of other Rafiki riders. I was terrified at the time, but the peer pressure helped and then there was the simple matter that I couldn't see what I was driving on. I was concerned about trying Wilma out on it, because her tires are narrower by quite a bit than Lulu's, and that can translate to a less safe feeling for me on non-standard surfaces. Okay, I say "concerned" but I mean so scared I was about to pee my pants. I pushed Wilma up the ramp to get on the bridge, and stopped to take this shot (which came out really well, eh?)
...but I was doing that mostly to stall for time, cuz I was so sure I was gonna fall and hurt myself on those hard steel edges that are absolutely everywhere (and yes, again I am in the pedestrian lane as I don't find it safe or wise to drive THIS bridge with the traffic, either).
But the definition of "courage" isn't about not being afraid...it's about moving forward through fear. So I gathered up my courage and...after standing there unable move for so long that Arsenal security was probably about to come out after me, I did it. Rode the whole long length (it's only about 1/3 of a mile long) in Absolutely Clenched Mode. I didn't get less afraid as I rode...it got worse, especially as a couple of brisk winds buffeted me along the way. By the last 20 feet I was actually praying aloud. Still, I DID IT! And didn't fall down. And cheered and yelled when I came off of it, not caring what passing cars might think.
Actually, if I'm going to bike to work, that's probably the one I'm taking (which I'll regret the first time they open the span for a barge and I have to wait and be late for work, but such is life, eh?) Hopefully with practice I will get less fearful on it. I think it would be a faster route for me, due to the issues I mentioned about the Centennial.
After all of that, and still high on the fumes of my marked shrinkage this week and the bouncing up the stairs thing, I chose to have a green smoothie for supper instead of regular food. It wasn't what I WANTED, but dude, you gotta grab momentum when you find it, eh? And it didn't seem as nasty to me as the first one, so that's a nice development.
Hope you had a great Saturday!