Sunday, September 19, 2010

My emotional state

is directly linked to the mechanical condition of my bicycle. It's funny how it could possibly be this way, but I have clear evidence (at least in my head) of that now.

For the last couple of months, I've been a little off in my confidence, in my ability to stay focused and just feeling a little run down. It seems like it started when I crashed my bike the week before the French Broad Classic road race. I didn't know it at that time, but in that crash, I picked up a few gremlins - mechanical and emotional.

The mechanical gremlins are the easiest to describe, because they affected every ride I did since that crash. Shifting problems in the French Broad classic wore on me a little, and those same shifting problems followed me for nearly two months until I finally broke down and ordered a new crankset.

I spent plenty of time trying to diagnose the problem whose symptom was the chain coming off the pedal side of the crank when I shifted from the small ring to the big ring. In fact, it even happened several times where the chain came off when I shifted the rear derailer while riding in the big ring. On one particular ride, I nearly threw the bike into the bushes along the side of the road.

During this time, I still felt that funk. Although I was riding well, I was feeling exhausted at the end of the weekly C-1 ride at SCTAC (the ride which I have been leading most of the summer) . Not just physically exhausted, but a kind of mental exhaustion that really wore on my confidence in my ability to ride. I found that it also extended to other parts of my life - affecting my personal relationships as well as work.

I finally put my engineering head and my dial indicator to the issue. Even with new chainrings, the problem was occurring. Obviously, it wasn't just about the chainrings. When I measured the lateral run-out of the big ring, I found it to be 0.035" at the gear teeth, and about 0.020" at the bolts. This didn't seem like much, but I had another crankset I was borrowing (standard gearing - 39/53) that wasn't having any shifting problems. Thus, I knew this runout was an indicator that the spider arms on the crank were bent. The only solution was to buy a new crankset, so I went over to Sunshine Cycle and picked one up.

The next couple of rides worked out pretty well. I no longer had the problem with the chain coming off the big ring, but I just didn't seem to have that same precise shifting that I had grown so accustomed to. I played with the rear derailer to improve that, but still, no real improvement - in the precision of the shifting or my mood / emotional state.

Normally, I have a little stand upon which I put my bike during maintenance. This stand is nice, but it is home-made and only lifts the bike off the ground by about a foot. Even when sitting on my little workstool, the rear derailer is still well below my line of vision.

Then, last weekend, I needed to do some maintenance on my bike, and decided to put the bike on the Jeep's bike rack to work on it. With 35" tires and 5 inches of suspension lift, the arms of the Yakima rack that hold the bike are above my head. Of course, this puts the rear derailer just below my eye-line while I am standing.

With the bike in this position, I could clearly see that the rear derailer hanger had also gotten bent during that crash two months ago. I wasn't able to get to the bike shop to pick up a derailer hanger until Wednesday or Thursday of this week, so when I finally installed it, the only chance to ride before Saturday's State Road Race Championships was Friday evening.

WOW! What a difference! The precision shifting was back! as I rolled around Cleveland park, I had such a big smile on my face. Strangely enough, it was during this easy roll around the park that my belief in my riding abilities came back to me. As I said, I had been riding strong these past couple of months, but I didn't feel it mentally. That feeling came back to me as I pushed myself up the small hill near the baseball fields. Good timing for sure - the very next day I would be contending for the Cat 5, 35+ State Road race Championship.

As I rode and flashed my smile at every passing pedestrian, runner, biker and dog walker it really felt as if the black cloud that I had been under for the late part of the summer was lifting. Not only was my belief in my riding abilities coming back to me, but a sense of clarity about some personal stuff began to come to me. It was an incredible relief.

I would never have really thought my emotional well-being would be so closely tied to my bicycle. These past couple of months seem to indicate she is part of me - a very integral part. When she is hurting, it is reflected in all I do. I better make sure to take good care of her. Not only does she heal my body and make it strong, she also heals my mind.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post. I can't say I am as connected to my bike but she had two owners before me, both of whom were even more serious riders than me. I don't think she respects me yet.


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