Friday, January 7, 2011
Pushing outside my comfort zone
The picture above was taken at sunset in Richardson, TX, about halfway to my house on the way home from work. About ten minutes after I took the picture the sun was behind the horizon,and I was riding in the dark. I will preface this post by saying that I'm no stranger to riding in the dark and quite often if I am awake at midnight (or later) I can be found riding around my neighborhod, just enjoying the silence. When I was riding my fixed gear to get my fitness level up last year, that happened almost exclusively in the dark at 4am. Those rides, while physically intense, were also very peaceful.
That being said, once the sun went down on my commute, it was nothing like those peaceful moonlit rides. I still had a few miles on the bike path after I took this picture, and they were just fine. More work and a lot slower than I would have liked, but that was because of all of the garbage I have hanging off of the steel mountain bike I was riding, and my very low fitness level after my long break.
On my ride home, there are two places where I have to contend with traffic; at one point I have to ride about a block on Spring Valley road in Richardson, and on the home stretch, my route runs about a mile along N. Plano Road. Other than those two spots, my entire route consits of either small residential streets or protected trails or lanes. Unfortunately, after the sun went down, I had to contend with N. Plano Rd. The part that I ride is 3 lanes in either direction, and while it is busy, it's not terrible - though I had never ridden it after dark.
Getting on was no problem, I got into my turn lane, and when the light went green I shot across the intersection and into the far right lane. I didn't hug the curb, because I wanted to make sure that I had the entire lane, and no one would try to share the lane with me. I had plenty of lights on the bike (2 blinkies in back, 2 large high power lights in front) and my reflective jacket and vest on. I was visible, I have no doubt. Apparently after I made my turn, the lights changed, because there was a lot of traffic around me very suddenly, and in fact, someone who passed me revving his engine and swerving into my lane - only to swerve back out as soon as he got past me. I pedaled my little heart out after that, and made pretty good time, depsite the slowness of my bicycle. As I passed under George Bush, I had a second jackass in a large black truck also swerve into my lane. He honked as he swerved, then sped away honking some more. My rage fueled me to the light, where I ended up next to him at the interesection. Because he was still in the middle lane, I knew that the whole honking/swerving show was purely for my benefit. I gave him my coldest stare, but as it was dark I'm afraid it might have been wasted.
After the intersection, I part ways with traffic and ride through a commercial development and to my house. The final part of the ride was quiet, and gave me a chance to reflect on assholes, and why people are so angry with cyclists. Truly, I can't fathom why someone would see a much smaller vehicle on the road and decide that it's a good idea to try and intimidate it, or maybe even cause him to have an accident. These weren't my first encounters with people like this, and I'm sure they won't be the last. This was my first commute after dark, and I think I'm going to have to look at altering my route a little. It may take longer, but I don't like mixing it up with that many cars after the sun goes down. This is the second time I have had a "first" this year; riding in the early morning cold was the other. My mother in law has assesed me as someone that likes to do hard things, and I think that is a pretty good way to describe me. I like to push myself outside of my comfort zone, and I think it's good for me (and everyone else) to do just that every once in a while. I will ride more often this year, as I have said, and in order to do so, I will need to ride at night, and when it is cold, and so on, and so on. I have never reallly ridden very far in the rain, so you can look for a post on that at some point I'm sure. Theoretically there will be snow on the ground Monday, so I might push myself to ride Monday morning. We will see.
Since riding (and writing) this post, I have stripped some of the extra stuff off the bike I was riding, and changed the gearing to a more road friendly setup, as opposed to the mountain gearing that was on it. I'm hoping that the now lighter better geared bike is a better rider than it was. I finally have a good saddle, and now I can really ride this bike and figure out what I need to do to make it what I want it to be.