OK, admit it - you think I'm about to write a blog post about freezing my tookus off at 26 degrees Farenheit. Or if you're reading from foreign soil, you might think that I'm about to brag about my winter training camp in Palm Springs.
In fact - neither is true. I had a very nice ride today in 45 degree weather. Mainly dry with occasional showers.
Between now and RAAM, though, my life will exist mainly at 26 degrees - seat incline angle.
My bike seat angle is fixed at - you guessed it! - 26 degrees relative to the ground. This is a key feature of the Carbent HPV - the seat is bonded directly to the rigid rear stays and the main tube, providing a very stiff, light, efficient power platform.
Life at 26 degrees wasn't always quite as plush as it is now. It's more recline than most recumbent riders use - though not radically so - and I had the, um, advantage of not really knowing the difference (though the bike that I learned on initially was set quite a bit more upright for me).
Still - there's a learning curve. At first, all of the things that I took for granted on my diamond frame bike were seemingly impossible - especially eating and drinking. It really felt like food was not going to make it down the right hole. Grabbing a waterbottle was nerve-wracking. I couldn't see behind me. And cold starts were miserable.
After a couple months of faking it - sneaking drinks when I was stopped, and scooting around Fred-Flintstone style to get enough momentum to clip in - I had an epiphany: I'd gone through the exact same learning curve on my diamond frame. I agonized about my "drinking problem" - never thought I'd have enough muscle memory to reach down and grab the bottle off my downtube. But I did.
And it's really not any different at 26 degrees. I've adapted. Swallowing food has become second-nature. Guys with more experience (and possibly more zest for things both intestinal and gassy) tell me that I may find a need to sit up to release intestinal gas at some point - not necessarily something I'm looking forward to, but I'm sure that when the time comes everything will fall into place.
With the Bent Up Cycles team race bag, I've got my water bottles in easy reach, and I'm mastering the art of the no-look, first-try snatch and replacement.
I got a mirror. Found a great one at Coventry Cycle Works.
I've also learned a few tricks and tips that help me with starting. The first is, quite simply, confidence. I *know* that I can pedal the Carbent one-legged if I need to, so there's no doubt that I can pull my pedal off BDC and clip in.
Core strength helps, too, both with the physical ability and with the confidence. I've been inspired in this regard by Larry Graham, who is a serious recumbent rider in the heartland. He's been working on his core by - among other things - doing planks. I can't hold the position nearly as long as he can, but for the past week or so I've been hitting it hard. 2 minutes, 3 reps - the third rep wipes me out at this point, but I think I'm starting to see results.
I had a significant challenge to my core strength this morning. Between one thing and another, I ended up with a mouthful of very gritty mucous, and I needed to spit it out. At 26 degrees. Into the wind. True, I could've stopped, or coasted, or sat up; until now, that's exactly what I would have done. But I was in a "goferit" mood, so I mustered up all of my courage; failure was NOT an option. Success! A happy landing, well away from the bike. Add "spitting with great prejudice" to the things that I can do at 26 degrees. Thanks, Larry!
Riding at 26 degrees was very sweet today. I rode from home all the way to Corvallis for the club ride. The first 15 miles are flat, with a sprint (for 'no-one's-keeping- track-and-the-points-don't-matter' points) at the "stop sign ahead" sign, right before the town of Shedd. Since recumbents can't sprint, I took an early lead-out. OK- five miles was probably more than I needed, by why take chances?
We regrouped in Shedd. I mellowed out and chatted with Betty and Dan until the ride took off further east, and I headed south for Brownsville.
I stopped for some health food in Brownsville. By convention, anything with "oatmeal" in its name is health food. The fact that the second word is "fudge" is irrelevant. Although I did not specifically ask the barista to dish up the bar with the most heavily skewed fudge/oats ratio, that's exactly what she did. I can only imagine that I looked desperate.
I rode home on one of my favorite roads - Marcola. Longer and hillier than the straight and flat route, but a lot less wind and very pretty, even in the middle of a gray, misty Oregon winter.