I love morning bike rides. Right before the sun comes up, preferably, but really, any time in the morning as long as it’s not too hot. That’s why I love Arizona winters. It’s cold for desert rats like myself, but when it comes to riding, it’s actually ideal. It’s cold enough that you feel it for about three minutes or so, but if you warm up beforehand, you can get your pedaling up to speed enough to work up some heat and get past it.
I usually wake up and then try my best not to get on social media or my phone. Lately, I usually spend like fifteen minutes reading from my Kindle, because it has a backlight and I can just open it and start where I was the night before. There’s also this site called Instapaper where they send me the news that I saved the night before doom scrolling and I can read them with a fresh pair of eyes rather than an exhausted and anxiety-ridden body.
The first thing I do is brush my teeth and relieve myself. Then, I will pour some water and take my allergy meds. I try to do a quart first thing because it really sucks when you are on the road and you get dehydrated. I would say it’s one of the worst feelings in the world. Every hill feels like a huge labor, so to battle this I have just started downing a quart of water first thing in the morning. Then, I throw some electrolytes into my travel bottle, shake it up with some ice and water, and there is my mid-ride treat right there. It’s a trick I learned years ago. A small reward for a hard ride.
Before I get my shoes on, I try to do some stretches and some body weight shit. Not too much but enough to warm my body up so that I don’t have to spend that time warming up on the road. Then the shoes go on and I typically scramble for my keys because I don’t have a key ring or a little bowl; none of that shit. Nine out of ten times it’s in the pocket of the pants I took off before getting into bed.
I’ll open the door, stick my body partially out, and see how bad it is, and that will usually determine if it’s a hoodie or the fleece. The fleece is for low temps, but if you have that on when it’s in the fifties you feel too hot riding. The fleece is usually for the forties and below and some mornings if it’s around forty-seven, I don’t mind just the hoodie, especially if it’s a long ride.
I have a white, Giant Escape that I use to get around as well as hit the trail or the road in the morning. I love it. I sometimes will put in an earbud but I have been trying to get used to no music or noise on the rides because I have felt like I may be putting myself more at risk not hearing shit buzzing past me. If I see a ton of traffic I will take the bud out and lately I feel like eliminating it completely but True Crime and Pro Wrestling podcasts to start your day have been a staple.
I get on the road and keep track of shit using a bike computer that the previous owner had installed. Sometimes I go north and sometimes I head east but I always try to ride on The Loop, which is a shared trail that we have here in Tucson. The Loop is great because you get the entire mix of the population right there along those miles and miles of paved road. I’ve seen joggers with dogs, old ladies on rollerblades, gray-haired men with long beards and ponytails on beach cruisers, roadies racing as fast as they can, and of course the homeless people who make fires along the trail when it gets super cold out. Rich, poor, old, young, we all just want to start our day off right. You end up seeing the same people too. There is one older gentleman who I have seen for years and we don’t know each other’s names or anything else about each other, other than we get on the trail around the same time. Over the years the hellos have gotten warmer. The madman wears these shorts up around his thighs no matter how cold it is, and that’s how I usually know who is walking even from far away.
Things are so peaceful right then. You don’t hear the clutter that comes from work. The fears and the anxieties slowly give way to the bike, at least for a bit. I hate when people try to sell you that exercise will solve all of your issues. Don’t get me wrong. It takes away a huge amount of work. But there’s so much more to life than looking good or treating your body well. You have to treat your soul great as well. That’s what the bike rides in the morning have taught me more than anything.
But there is a zen to it. I won’t lie. You stretch and keep your diet right so you don’t tank mid-ride. You know when to drink during the day so the next morning’s ride won’t suck. You look forward to those moments when you put your head down at night. I try to get out four times a week because if I don’t, I feel this strange fog that doesn’t lift no matter how much bodyweight stuff I do at home. I can’t help it. I have changed the way that I sleep just to accommodate this new thing in my life. It’s weird. I started doing this during the pandemic and it’s only grown. I find myself looking at bikes online, occupying my time with what it would be like to try a fixie again, or maybe get a cargo bike for taking Cisco out on rides. I feel like I found a part of me that’s more comfortable on a bike than anything else. I feel clumsy as fuck just walking sometimes, but I am pretty graceful when it comes to my rides.
The last stretch comes and I will sometimes feel sad. For some reason, those moments are when the PTSD comes in full force and I will think of stuff that has been bugging me. It could be anything. But I have been trying my best to do some planning during those times as well. Finding out what my next best course of action can be. Sometimes I’m wrong but I still like those moments of plotting and reflecting. It’s rough because it’s uphill for a good portion and I’ve learned to just accept that as the hardest part of the ride. It’s what I have to go through to get home safely, with a nice hot cup of coffee and maybe some TV on the DVR from the night before. Sometimes I’ll see the most interesting shit during this part. There’s a church that was abandoned and one day there were two cars just left right in front of it. I guess the people who owned them figured if they were going to be cleaning out the church, they would probably get rid of the cars and they did end up taking them away that day.
The other morning I was pulling into my apartment and this guy rolled beside me. He was old, with a black hoodie on and long hair that went past his collar. He had tattoos covering his hands and neck. He asked if I had a pump, and I said sure. I have mine attached to the frame because I used to deal with flats on my cheap Roadmaster years ago and I hate pushing a bike home. So I gave it to him and after about thirty seconds of watching him fuck around with his tubes, I offered to help with the tires myself.
“You gotta unscrew the cap more,” I said. “These ones are a pain, especially if you are used to Schraders.”
“Shit man,” the man said. “Thanks. I would have never gotten that myself.”
“No worries my man. Trust me. I didn’t know anything about these until I had to deal with them myself. Trial and error, right?”
“Yeah brother, trial and error.”
I got his tires up to about 40 and he said that was perfect. Then he hopped on and rolled a bit to try them out. He thanked me and we bumped fists and I watched him ride off. I snapped off my helmet, took a deep breath, and then went inside and put the coffee on.