When every stroke of the pedals created another raw burning abrasion to my bum, I was sure wishing for a softer place to perch my patoot! Mile after hot sweaty mile, I got closer and closer to home, but I couldn’t get there fast enough! Muscles were aching and I felt beat, what had I gotten myself into!
I decided to take a bike ride on Tuesday. I had a rare day off mid-week, and I wanted to do something fun outdoors. Recently Lindsay and I had ridden our bikes to Ottawa and back, and after a flat tire ruined the end of that fun, I was wanting to get back on the steel (pedal) horse again soon.
Several years ago, in my later twenties I took up cycling as a way to get more fit. Back then I rode a lot. I bought some sweet gear and spun many miles on my bikes. Now, I rarely ride, but when I do, I have nice equipment to play with.
Tuesday I wanted to ride the Flint Hills Trail, East from Ottawa to Rantoul. So I set out northbound from Princeton around 10:45 in the morning. I made it Ottawa with a steady pace, and proceeded down 7th street to embark on a new, but very local adventure. I was thinking to myself about my early days of riding bikes. I was noticing the clean shifting and smooth ride of my Jamis Nova, Cyclocross bike. It is just perfect for these chip-gravel trails. I was commenting to myself about learning to appreciate these human-powered machines.
I have never ridden a very high-end expensive bike. I have an older Schwinn road bike, that is classic and cool. I have a scratched-up, but trusty Trek mountain bike too. I remembered how I had started out on a Wal-Mart-Special mountain bike. It was heavy, it had psuedo-sloppy-suspension and I wore out the crank assembly after only 500 miles… It was a gift to help me get in better shape, and it did 🙂 It also was a great way to start my adult bicycling hobby.
These bikes I have now, are a step up. The components are higher quality, they perform much better, they will last a long time. For as much as I ride now, they may last forever 🙂
I remember getting that first bike, and something I wanted was a ‘nicer’ cushion-y seat. I probably bought one and installed it. Along with any other gadgets I could find on those back shelves in the corner of the Wal-Mart store. It seems that being a beginner biker, a lot of people want to have a more comfortable seat on the bike.
Funny thing about my current bikes, even though they are more advanced bikes, meant for real riding, and lots of time in the saddle, the seats are not very well cushioned. In fact, they are slender and smallish. The seats on my ‘nice’ bikes, just aren’t really that… well… nice.
Years ago, I began to see that most of the ‘real’ bike riders didn’t have big cushion-y seats on their bikes either. The more ‘serious’ the cyclist, it seemed, the more slight the seat. Along with a smaller frame, the lighter wheels, the condensed gearing components, and a much bigger price tag too. The more you pay, the less you get, weight wise that is.
Once a person has more experience with riding a bicycle longer distances, you start to learn the more proper ways to mount the thing. You learn about the ‘sit-bones’. You learn that there are these two very tough, very hard bone ends that you use, instead your flabby butt, to sit on. With regular and enthusiastic time in the saddle, you learn that a small seat is actually comfortable, and it doesn’t need a bunch of padding to be so.
So, toward the end of my 36ish mile round-trip ride on Tuesday, I was whining and wishing again for that big padded couch sized pillow, that I had bought long ago. I was wanting the comfort instead of the performance version. I was hurting, and so I took breaks.
See, as an amateur pedal biker, and as a now, out-of-shape rider, I look to the seat to solve my problems. I look to the options I could go and buy to make my experience more comfortable. I want to think of ways to instantly transform a painful situation into a soothing one. I think the problem is the seat itself. My butt hurts, it is on the seat; must be a bad seat…
Actually the problem isn’t out there, on some object or situation to do with the bike. The problem is in here, it is with me, myself and I. The problem is that my ass, is out of practice. It has gotten tender from lack of use. If I don’t exercise on my bicycle regularly, I lose the stamina, the strength and toughness of tush, it takes to ride comfortably 36ish miles through Franklin County.
As much as I wish I could blame something outside of myself for causing my discomfort, the spikes of pain originate within my being, not within the seat of the bike. My discomfort is coming from within, and the ability to extinguish the pain is within me too. When I decide that I want to improve myself, and I want to master this thing, I will again spend several days a week, astride the bike. I will invest more energy, doing the thing that creates the pain, and through that process will toughen up and enjoy it more again.
I have never been a big fan of exercise, or routine, or being some fitness freak. My personal relationship with my body’s health is one of complacent avoidance until a streakish stretch of focus gets me closer to where I want to be. Then I let it go again.
I have the answers to making this all easier. I have the equipment to do it. Within myself is the only place worth investing my energy pointing fingers of blame. That is a painful notion in and of itself. Calling the seat the problem, is soo much easier. Then I get to rest on my excuses about the cost of the seat, or not having extra money, or why didn’t they install a more comfortable seat in the first place. I could talk all day about the reasons I am experiencing a pain in my butt. I could expend all those words and never speak the truth that the problem is me.
Something else I considered on my dusty Tuesday ride, is about other bikers. (Mistakenly, I do compare myself others too often.) I wondered about those guys out there, who are in wonderful health. Like two studs we met on the Rail Trail last week. They were riding from Garnett to Topeka, wow. Also there are some local guys who pedal every day from Ottawa to Garnett and back. More than I can easily do. To me, they are masters of this cycling thing… I am not.
I wonder about Happiness. I tend to connect Mastery with Happiness. If only I could be in optimal health, then I could be Happy. Or if I could create a super abundant income, that would do it. Or even, if my spiritual connection to God, was crystal clear, surely I would then, finally, be as Happy as possible…
I’m back again to the ‘ol seat analogy… If something I’m connected to would change, then I could be more comfortable…
Nope. I think that between the steel-legged stud cyclist, or the flabby amateur, the one who is Happy, is truly: The one who decides to be…
And I am the only one who can make that decision for me.
Although I found it hard to smile after my Tuesday ride, I do recommend our local Prairie Spirt Trail (north-south) and also the Flint Hills Trail (east-west), we are really lucky to have such quick access to safe and scenic pedaling.
Also, just FYI, I do own some padded shorts, and am aware of the benefits of Monkey Butt creme. There are ways to ease some comfort of bike riding, I chose to leave them out of this analogy, to keep it more concise 🙂