Friday, August 26, 2011

Hills and metaphors and single speeds

Every day on my ride to work I encounter a hill. I have yet to find a way around this hill. I have approached from several different routes and the hill is always there. My office is more or less on top of the hill—less on top, more just on the other side, but close enough. Part of riding to work is convincing myself at that bright AM hour that this hill is going to be okay. I don't always succeed.

Admittedly, the hill doesn't look all that bad. Actually, the picture is kind of embarrassing. I think it's one of those things that's more painful in retrospect than it is in real life. But this hill always feels like a demon. It's a very gradual pickup, and it's not so much the incline as the distance (and the single speed I ride). What looks like the top up there isn't the top, it's where the road curves and the hill keeps going up.

Okay, that looks a little meaner and now I feel like I have some of my dignity back. When you reach what looks like the crest of the hill from the first photo, the road curves and you're faced with this. Instead of being done, things go metaphorically downhill and literally uphill. I don't stand up on my pedals because I'm terrified they'll snap off under my weight, but this is where I start cursing the day.

And this is where my eyes get to play a fun little joke on me because after staring that bastard in the face, this looks like and flat. It ain't. It's a minimal uphill, but after the last two battles my legs are starting to beg for a little relief and even this is just taunting me. Like, c'mon, pretty please? Just a bit? Cause really, at the very end of my ride, this is what you're giving me? This is a guarantee that I'm going to show up at the office smelling like the underside of a foot. Continues more or less like this for another half mile before I arrive at the top of the highway.

Yeah. Top of the motherloving highway. I took this picture from the middle of the bridge over 121 (George Bush Tollway, I believe?) Because I work in the middle of suburb nowheresville, where all there is is highway. I do get to coast down this, though, because that tall(ish) building on the right is my office and the road does smile at me for about 400 feet. And yeah, that is how early I get to work.

So now maybe I've embarrassed myself into riding this more often, because it definitely doesn't look as bad in photos as it does in my head. But there's a storm drain and a signpost and a fire hydrant that I use as markers along the way because if I can make it to those, I can make it up the rest of the way. And if I can make it up the hill, I can handle anything the day can throw at me.

I guess that was the whole point of this. Once I make it up the hill, the worst part of my day is over (well, that, or once I make it out of bed ... waking up is awful). And if the worst part of your day is over first thing, the whole day looks brighter because of it. Plus, I conquered something awesome, got my blood pumping and showed up to the office with a smile on my face instead of the frown and high blood pressure traffic gives me so ... win-win. Win-win-win. Not sure how many wins, but it's enough.

Critical Mass tonight! Last month devolved pretty quickly into a cycling pub crawl, and that was a heckuva lot of fun.

And the hill makes for an awesome end to the day. Mile-long coast ...


  1. Sounds to me like a SA Kickshift might be perfect for handling that hill.

  2. Also, as you keep riding it day after day, it will get easier as you get stronger, and then you'll look back at this post and smile.

  3. Thanks, John. I do feel kind of silly with the pictures but that's my daily obstacle, and I have definitely gotten stronger. Just gotta keep at it!

    Steve, I'll look into the kickshift. Thanks for the advice!

  4. Not only will you're legs get stronger, but you may start preferring a faster cadence (faster pedalling). Try a new back gear for a couple of days and see how it feels.