Saturday, November 22, 2008

Last September, when I was in what may have been the best shape of my life for bike riding, I managed to nearly fall off my bike riding up a steep hill in a fairly high gear. I biked back to Green Oak Avenue this afternoon, to take my measure of the hill again. The sun hung low in the sky this late November day, and light clouds darkened the landscape a bit, yet it was curiously warm in what should have been the chill air - it's an almost unending Indian Summer this year in Los Angeles.

To reach my nemesis of an incline, I rode west of Griffith Park again, up a tangle of absurdly steep streets. They are steep enough that almost every time I meet someone out walking - rare in Los Angeles on residential streets, particularly these, which are narrow enough not to sport sidewalks - I get a reaction: sometimes a look of shock, followed by a big smile, a thumbs up sign, a "way to go!" First, no expects to see someone on a bike riding up a 20% grade. Secondly, I think people are surprised to see someone with a white beard and a deeply lines face managing to enter their rarified world - old people sit in rocking chairs, or stare into the monitors of their computers.

So after my warm-up hills, I put my bike into my 39/24 combo, and began my climb up Green Oak Avenue. This time I kept the rpm's up; not keeping them high enough was my downfall last time up. I also discovered that it's still difficult to power myself up at 20%+ grade in that gear - I could feel the skin stretched across my face as I grimaced with the effort.

I'm amazed that, after weeks off the bike due to illness and travel, and only a few back on, that I'm as strong, or stronger now as I was then. The mind and body never fail to amaze me, even mine.

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