Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Change of Season

Some years, the snow and cross-country skiing hang on into cycling season, making the transition harder.

The snow itself doesn't make the riding difficult. The skiing does.

Cross-country skiing uses the whole body for propulsion. Cycling uses half to two-thirds. Maybe five-eighths. Or is it five ninths?

Who cares? Basically, in cycling the arms are along for the ride.

Skiing uses the legs through a smaller range of motion than cycling, but supporting body weight. But the arms do a surprising amount, especially climbing hills.

Coming off of a good ski season, I not only have a bit more weight up top in the form of triceps, lats and other supporting structures, I'm also accustomed to charging up the hills with all muscles firing. The winter quadriceps have a different mass and shape from the summer quadriceps.

On the bike, all power comes from the lower body. I have to get used to moving my body mass with only my leg muscles. The power stroke starts with my legs much more bent than in skiing, and uses muscles on the back of the leg to pull up for part of the pedal stroke.

The effect is not the same as if I had taken the winter off, but it requries care. I'm used to hurting a certain amount, breathing at a certain intensity. Going that hard on the bike right out of the gate can damage aging knees, and strain other connective tissue.

Then there's the ass.

How soon and how gladly it forgets the iron discipline of the racing saddle, or any saddle, for that matter. The pain does not just come from sitting astride the saddle, but from the exertion of large muscles in that space between your femur and your bike's seat. Tighten your upper arm and have someone punch you over and over, driving a knuckle into that hard muscle.

Very soon, though never soon enough, the body remembers. Muscle gets redistributed. Saddle toughness returns. But I have a deadline.

Commuting begins with Daylight Saving Time. At that point I have enough daylight to complete the ride bracketing the workday, and I can put the car up on blocks. But this year I will be working up north, a 70-mile round trip, past the beginning of Daylight Saving Time. Not only does that delay the start of full bike transportation, it robs me of daylight for riding base miles. And it keeps me right beside an irresistible cross-country trail network.

Jackson's roads don't favor early rides. There's a flat mile loop around the village and then a selection of ugly walls leading up a couple of valley roads and the Col du Thorn Hill, also known as Thorn Hill Road. Not much to offer for low intensity reconditioning.

It will sort itself out. It always does.

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